Berkeley, CA – Today, Berkeley is two different cities. The first City enjoys unprecedented prosperity. The second City is in a state of crisis. As many as 1,200 people live on the streets in Berkeley – nearly 10% of the population. In recent weeks, two un-housed people died of exposure – a direct symptom of the housing crisis and growing inequality in the State of California. This is deeply tragic and fundamentally unacceptable.

California’s swelling homeless population is expected to dramatically increase due to budgetary cuts from the Trump administration. Cities need new models for providing homeless housing and services – innovative construction and financing approaches to achieve positive outcomes quickly and economically.

The City of Berkeley is pioneering a new approach to supportive housing development. On February 14, the Berkeley City Council voted unanimously to pass “Step Up Housing” – an initiative to house up to 100 members of the homeless population in prefabricated micro-units with onsite healthcare, social services, and assisted living services. This is “Step Up Housing,” introduced by newly elected Councilmember Ben Bartlett.

The Step Up Housing initiative has triggered a demand signal for non-traditional, cutting-edge housing solutions, including boxcar housing, micro-units, prefabricated units, public-private partnerships and more. The benefits of this new market will also accrue to the labor community. Andreas Cluver of the Alameda County Building Trades Council commented, “The Building Trades welcomes the opportunity to partner with the City of Berkeley to help with addressing homelessness. We appreciate the City’s commitment to tackle the housing crisis, while maintaining high labor standards in the construction of housing for homeless and low income residents.”

Step Up Housing calls for a comprehensive development team, consisting of a housing developer overseeing construction and renovation, a non-profit manager handling operations and maintenance, and a supportive services provider administering the various assisted living benefits. It envisions a cooperative model in which tenants take an active role in caring for their neighbors and themselves. In addition to housing homeless persons, Step Up Housing may serve as a model for other forms of supportive care, including seniors and people with disabilities.

Councilmember Ben Bartlett commented, “Local governments have a duty to ensure the welfare of all their people. Berkeley’s Step Up Housing will provide a road map for future supportive housing developments that can be replicated in other affected communities. Municipalities and States must be vigilant to ensure that public funds are being spent effectively, efficiently, and in a manner that best serves the community.”