Homes for Sonoma
In October 2017, the North Bay Fires that swept across Sonoma County destroyed 7,500 structures and 110,720 acres leaving 15,000 people without a home. Just days after the fire, a team of architects, builders and community leaders convened to find a way to help their community. The team jumped into action to create an innovative solution to the housing crisis through architectural design. Thus, Homes for Sonoma was launched with the goal to build attractive, dynamic, flexible and sustainable modular homes with a community-centric design for fire victims.
Before the fires, the housing crisis in Sonoma County was already dire due to rising home prices and a tightening housing market. The loss of housing to the fires merely exacerbated the problem, which the design team understood as being part of the systemic housing problem. “We all are very committed to helping the fire victims, but there’s a longer-range vision of helping solve the affordable housing problem in the county,” the architect told The Press Democrat in a story published last January. With this in mind, longevity and quality of the home design was essential. While the components of each cottage can be moved and rebuilt in other settings, the durability of the materials promises permanency of the structure. The location may change, but the building will continue to live on.
The team approached this project with an eye towards the increasingly popular Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) with two sizes of cottages—a one-bedroom 480 square foot home and a three-bedroom 768 square foot home. With an attractive, minimalist design, these homes bring up images of the high-end tiny home movement that has become popular across the U.S. The project team believes that people experiencing homelessness should live in a setting that is attractive and, ultimately, feels like a home. Each home will be equipped with full size bedrooms and bathrooms, efficient modern kitchens, and covered porches and decks. Homes for Sonoma also hopes to fully furnish each cottage for maximum ease for the residents with the understanding that the most vulnerable populations in the community lost everything. The organization has achieved funding for 20 homes, the first of which could go up as early as September 2018.
While Homes for Sonoma is still learning and discovering the nuances of launching an innovative project such as this, the goal is to eventually deploy the design to have a wider reach. The mobility and flexibility of the design can help other regions experiencing housing crises or natural disasters to replicate the design and the program model elsewhere.