Could the tiny house phenomenon solve America’s homeless epidemic? Andrew Heben, urban planner and professional tiny house builder, says it can. His new book Tent City Urbanism: From Self-Organized Camps to Tiny House Villages explores the growing trend of American tent cities and how micro housing villages could transition people out of homelessness for good.

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The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently announced that we are experiencing “the worst rental affordability crisis this country has ever known.” As a result, many of our nation’s homeless have organized self-governed campgrounds, called Tent Cities, to protect and shelter themselves within a community of shared resources. While many of the encampments offer safety and kinship, very few are sanctioned and many run the risk of shutdown.

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Andrew Heben has studied dozens of tent cities throughout the country, lived in one Michigan-based dwelling, and is now working to develop the model into a more permanent solution. His new book delivers practical and affordable advice for transitioning tent city encampments into full-fledged micro-housing villages. The new concept enhances the naturally sustainable model of tent cities, in which dwellers effectively share and reuse a limited amount of resources.

Related: Housestrike Bike Camper Empowers the Homeless with a Tiny Shelter on Wheels

Heben co-founded Opportunity Village in Eugene, Oregon. The non-profit-run transitional community for the homeless consists of 30 tiny houses (60 – 80 sq. ft.), a common kitchen, a main office, a gathering area, and restroom facilities. Inhabitants of Opportunity Village live in a drug-free and violence-free safe haven that is meant to transition them to more permanent housing. The same non-profit, Opportunity Village Eugene (OVE), is now planning a permanent housing development known as Emerald Village, with slightly “larger” (120-150 sq. ft) tiny houses and a surrounding communal support system.

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According to Heben, tiny house villages could also offer a sustainable housing model for the masses. Heben says, “It is opening the door to sustainable, human-scale housing options for other demographics as well—including those currently devoting an unsustainably high percentage of their income toward rent and those looking to simplify their lives and downsize their environmental footprint.” Thinking of starting your own tiny village? His new book is available for purchase here.

+ Tent City Urbanism