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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Creating great communities for all

Bay Area churches build tiny homes for their homeless neighbors

By Marisa Kendall,, June 15, 2022

“Firm Foundation Community Housing … walks churches — and some secular land owners — through the … [planning, permitting, and building of tiny homes on their parking lots, backyards, and other unused land]. So far, the organization has helped open tiny home villages on parking lots and extra land owned by churches in Livermore and Castro Valley, and on an Alameda County medical campus in unincorporated San Leandro. Another 14 projects are in the works in Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, and San Joaquin counties, and the Firm Foundation hopes to spread its reach even further, potentially down the Peninsula and to the South Bay.

“A 2020 report by UC Berkeley’s Terner Center for Housing Innovation found that roughly 38,800 acres of religious land in California — about the size of the city of Stockton — has the potential to be turned into housing. But churches face ‘significant challenges’ in developing homes, including limited financing options, regulatory barriers, and limited real estate knowledge, according to the report.

“Legislation such as Senate Bill 9, which lets developers subdivide small lots, SB 35, which streamlines permitting for certain projects, and Assembly Bill 2162, which expedites some affordable housing projects, are all part of the puzzle, [Taryn Sandulyak, who co-founded Firm Foundation] said.

“As payment for its services, Firm Foundation charges between 8 to 12 percent of a project’s total cost.

“The nonprofit has plans … for nearly 200 tiny homes across 14 different projects … now in various stages. Most are on land owned by churches, but not all. In Vallejo, Firm Foundation is working with private landowners Richard and Emily Fisher to built 48 modular units. The Fishers, who launched a homeless aid organization called 4th Second, refinanced their home to purchase the land. Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom awarded the city of Vallejo $12.1 million in Homekey funds to help finance the project.”

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