How do you help the homeless?
If English satirist Jonathan Swift were alive today he’s have the answer: Build more mini-storage complexes.
Most mini-storages have between 300 and 600 units of various sizes. Instead of calling them storage units, the city could refer to them as sleeping cubicles. The smallest units might seem a bit cramped but by Tokyo standards they’re virtually mansions.
Mini-storage projects turned into affordable housing would need to have a few modifications. Communal bathrooms would have to be added every so often and they’d need to be communal kitchens throughout the complex. But other than, what more do they need?
Developers could be required to build an equivalent number of storage units converted into sleeping cubicles as they do single family homes. This would bring developers into the solution and ease the collective conscious of those civic leaders who keep telling folks the city is working on an affordable housing solution.
Making it illegal to be poor and unable to afford shelter - which is what we have done in the country - isn’t enough. That’s why using mini storages as sleeping cubicles is pure genius.
A small unit rents for about $60 a month to store stuff. Given that you need to build and maintain communal bathrooms and kitchens you may have to add a $20 per person surcharge for those who live in mini-storage complexes. The surcharge, of course wouldn’t cover food, utensils, cooking implements or toiletries including toilet paper.
Assuming 1,000 people could reside in a typical 500-unit mini-storage complex - a maximum of two to a small unit and six to the larger units - this would produce $480,000 a year to cover costs of building, maintaining and cleaning the communal facilities.
An $80 charge a month is definitely affordable. That’s almost the price of a rundown motel room for two nights. That would leave those struggling with money for food and clothes.
The zoning where mini-storages are allowed would also address another touchy municipal problem - NIMBYism. The “not-in-my-backyard” constituents pose thorny threats to politicians since homeowners tend to vote more often in elections than other segments of the population. Since mini-storages aren’t allowed in residential zones, problem solved.
By addressing Manteca’s affordable housing problems by using mini-storage complexes, the city no longer has to worry about putting affordable apartments or other such housing near cookie cutter homes.
Crime would be less of a problem with mini-storage housing units since they would be living in a gated community. And if they are worried about their stuff being stolen, they could always rent an extra unit for it since storage companies like to brag how secure their facilities are in their advertising.
Sleeping cubicles, of course, would have special roll down doors with breathing vents.
Some folks might be aghast at such living conditions but consider the fact complexes are designed to keep water out of storage units. The simplistic sleeping cubicle approach would mean tenants wouldn’t have to worry about how they would pay their PG&E bill since there would be no electricity or natural gas. On those hot Manteca nights, they can sleep with the doors rolled up. On cold, foggy winter nights they can stuff rags against the bottom of the doors.
Sleeping cubical tenants would also be much safer. Compare the block and metal construction with concrete floors of mini-storage complexes to some of the dilapidated structures that people pay went on for $500 or more a month. It certainly is better than a second floor efficiency apartment where the air is stifling. And it beats braving the elements on the streets.
Of course, the market could dictate some upscale units such as climate controlled units be built and rented.
Then there are bonus advantages. Government would be able to concentrate public services such as transit stops and school bus routes more efficiently by locating them near mini-storage housing complexes.
Unsightly affordable housing could be hidden from view behind block walls which, by the way, are often landscaped nicer than sound walls built in single family neighborhoods.
It is unfortunate if such “A Modest Proposal” as using mini-storage complexes to house the poor invokes outrage.
But it definitely isn’t as outrageous as doing little or nothing to address a serious problem.