So, I have an idea to end homelessness in my state at 0 net cost to taxpayers.
This sounds ridiculous I know, but if you follow along, I think it turns out to be actually doable. You can stop fake laughing now.
I will need help to go from “idea” to “plan” (right now it’s like 12% of a plan).
Here’s the basic outline:
Recent estimates put the homeless total for New York State at roughly 77,000. Of these, there are maybe 17,000 outside of New York City – we should start with them, since NYC gets complicated. The state has statistics on all of these folks and whether they live alone or as part of family, their estimated ages etc. It’s reasonable to assume that if you are homeless you qualify for financial assistance from the state (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare), food stamps, etc). Let’s ballpark that assistance at $800 per month.
There is a recent trend among hipster minimalists towards “tiny homes.” These are basically solar powered single person units that can be built on trailers. Here is an Example of a Tiny Home in Upstate NY. Homes like this cost (for a high end model) about $40,000 from stem to stern.
Also, the nice people at Tesla have come up with a game changer: a solar battery cell for homes. This can allow a solar home to run even after sunset without being hooked into the town grid.
Given that this is New York, and we can expect some rough winters, we also need to account for that, and one dual purpose option is the Solar Roadway being developed right now. The basic concept is, these suckers generate heat, melting the snow, and also generating power the development.
Then, let’s look at transportation challenges faced by the extremely poor. There is a new concept car scheduled to roll out in early 2016 called the Elio. This car is an 84mpg trike, that costs $6,800.
We also have to consider the cost of hooking up the community to water and sewer, as well as having a fully functional health home on site [think primary care doctor, emergency services, mental health center and substance abuse treatment co-located in a single building].
Lastly, there would be the extra benefits of a planned community: community gardens scaled to the size of population, shared solar powered laundry facilities, a free for residents wi-fi hub.
I would have to do the square footage math to get an idea of how much land such an endeavor would take. But let’s assume that you can get 83 acres for $250,000 (in Sullivan County). That’s about $3,000 per acre, which seems reasonable. Assume a home needs about an acre to be comfortable.
All together, we are talking at most, $60,000 per unit for land, vehicle, home and extras. $60,000 per unit X 17,000 units is roughly one billion dollars. Now, I know that seems like a lot of money. But, think about what you get for that: 17,000 people in safe, energy efficient, easy to maintain housing, living in a community that has all the supports they might need.
But it gets better. We do not do this program as a grant, out of the goodness of our hearts. We do it as a loan. So, as each unit fills up, the occupant signs off $200 per month (plus inflation) of their welfare benefits towards the cost of the property (or if they get work, $200 of their wages). At that rate, in 25 years, the entire community is paid for lock stock and barrel.
Admittedly, this still leaves all the NYC nut to crack. But, if it works, maybe those city homeless consider becoming rural New York residents.
Also, there may be education needs: 17,000 people is a big size, enough to anticipate some school age residents – but if that is the case, we can lease a space to a charter school – I have to imagine there are already some incredible education grants for schools whose entire population is below the poverty line.
So send me your thoughts. If you want to help me with the formal planning, volunteer some time. I think we can do this.