When homelessness surged during the pandemic, cities were left scrambling for solutions. And the problem was exacerbated in Bozeman, Montana, USA, as newly mobile, remote-working urbanites poured in looking to be closer to nature. As in other locales, the influx drove up housing costs. With prices jumping more than 50 percent, residents had fewer affordable options— leaving some with no place to live.
During the first phase of the US$3.8 million project, the team delivered 12 small homes, each between 100 and 300 square feet (9.3 to 32.5 square meters). But the size belies the huge impact the homes could have on the lives of the people living in them.
To ensure the homes met the needs of potential residents, the team used a data-driven model to identify the residents most likely to benefit from the project. From there, team members conducted face-to-face conversations with them, which helped to secure authentic responses and made future tenants feel more invested in the design, says Lila Fleishman, project manager, HRDC District IX.
One issue? “Many of our customers expressed challenges with living in dense apartments with shared walls,” she says.
So the team broke with the typical look and feel of low-income housing. Instead, it relied on a trauma-informed design framework meant to create spaces where “all users feel a sense of safety (both real and perceived), respect, connection and community, control, dignity and joy.”
To design some of the prototypes, architecture students from Montana State University tapped into the user feedback and visited similar developments in other U.S. states to capture and apply lessons learned from those projects. Other home plans were purchased from a peer organization in Oregon.