Drive by Woodland and you’ll notice five houses circled together in the parking lot. You’ll also notice that these houses are a little different: they’re tiny and … they’re on wheels!
That’s because this is a model version of a Sacred Settlement: a community of tiny homes on wheels with shared facilities on religious property. Settled, a WH partner organization, uses this approach to activate and equip faith communities to create community with neighbors experiencing homelessness. (Learn more background on our partnership here.)
This solution offers an imaginative way to address homelessness, but precisely because of its uniqueness, Settled must now help cities make new “boxes” to understand such an out-of-the-box idea. After all, a tiny home community on religious property built around shared facilities is a brand new category of housing that the building code never saw coming!
Settled has been working with Joint Religious Legislative Coalition to lobby the Minnesota legislature to update the building code. The update would create a new category to classify “Moveable Tiny Homes” as permanent year-round housing in the context of a Sacred Settlement. To do so, Settled has modeled their proposed standards on building codes that have succeeded in other states like Florida (although adapted for the slightly chillier weather of Minnesota, of course!)
Currently, housing on wheels is regulated by local city councils and Settled has been working closely with the St. Paul city council to create the first Sacred Settlement at Mosaic Christian Community.
However, because it’s a lot of work to go to each city council individually for approval, the work Settled is doing with the state legislature could allow for the possibility for Sacred Settlements across all of Minnesota. This type of policy would also make a big difference far outside of the Twin Cities metro. For example, Faith Lutheran Church in Forest Lake has already demonstrated the need for Sacred Settlements in greater Minnesota.
In the 2021 legislative session, their proposed bills made a lot of progress with policymakers—bipartisan support in the house and tripartisan support in the senate! Their proposal also passed unanimously through two committees, but negotiations are ongoing. While the bill remains active, Settled is hard at work preparing and getting the word out for the 2022 legislative session.
The model Sacred Settlement hosted by Woodland is making a big difference. As policymakers come and visit the model, it helps them envision a new “box” for such out-of-the-box ingenuity.
If you would like to help advocate for the legislation, or support Settled in other ways, you can visit their website here.