To expand its reach, Nestron is now in the process of preparing its debut in Northampton, UK, a little over 65 miles from London.
Toh says Nestron will close about 10 deals before the homes actually debut in Europe …
… but estimates that by the end of the year, it’ll sell over 100 units in the UK.
“We believe with the increase in marketing activities upon our debut, there are nearly 100,000 potential users in the UK, which will bring explosive and continuous growth to our local distributors,” Toh told Insider in an email statement.
Like other companies that ship products internationally, Nestron has struggled to move its tiny homes in the face of jammed ports and shipping delays.
But before we dive into how the company is overcoming these issues, let’s take a look at the two futuristic tiny homes that will debut in the UK: the $34,000 to $52,000 Cube One and the $59,000 to $77,000 Cube Two.
These prices vary widely due to a list of possible extra add-ons, such as solar panels, heated floors, and additional smart appliances.
The Cube One is more popular with solo occupants, while the larger Cube Two has been a hit with families, couples, and as a backyard unit.
Nestron debuted both units well before its UK plans but has since made sizing changes ahead of its overseas delivery: the Cube One’s size was boosted about 16.2 square-feet, while the Cube Two was expanded by about 25 square-feet.
Let’s take a closer look at the Cube One, which stands at about 156 square feet.
This square footage holds the living room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen space (which comes with cabinets, a sink, and a stovetop, according to renderings of the unit).
Like any typical home, the living room has a dining table and sofa, while the bedroom has a side table, closet, and of course, a bed.
Moving towards the bathroom, the tiny Cube One comes with a shower, towel rack, and sink, all in one enclosed space.
The little living unit also has built-in necessary amenities like lights, storage units, electric blinds, and a speaker.
There’s even room for a modern-day must-have: air conditioning units.
Now, let’s take a look at the larger Cube Two, which can accommodate three to four people with its two beds, both of which sit on opposite ends of the tiny home.
Like its smaller sibling, the almost 280-square-foot Cube Two has a living room, two beds, a kitchen, and a bathroom, all with the same furnishings as the Cube One.
However, the dining table in the Cube Two is noticeably larger, and there’s a skylight for added natural light and stargazing.
Both models come insulated and have smart home capabilities using Nestron’s “Canny,” an artificial intelligence system.
Canny can complete tasks like brewing your morning coffee or automatically adjusting your seat heights.
Everything is “smart” these days, which means the Cube One and Two can also come with motion-sensing lights and smart mirrors and toilets.
You might be wondering how Nestron plans to move its Cube One and Two tiny homes overseas in one piece. Well, let’s move on to everyone’s favorite topic: logistics, and how the company managed to ship its tiny homes despite global delays.
According to Toh, Nestron has had a “solid foundation built in the industry … allowing it to have a good relationship with experienced and professional forwarding partners.”
Despite this foundation, like other companies, Nestron has experienced delays related to the global supply chain jam, specifically congested ports in the UK.
As a result, the company’s forwarding charges were tripled what it initially expected, according to Toh.
But instead of charging its clients extra money for immediate shipping, Nestron decided it would pause shipping until costs were lowered.
To bypass these congestion issues, Nestron also decided to reroute its original plan to ship straight to the UK.
“In the end, [we] decided to travel over to Antwerp, Belgium, and then land in the UK,” Toh said. “This way, by the time we reach the UK port, the congestion would’ve been clear.”
Despite this detour, shipping costs were still higher than expected, in part because the company and its distributors still wanted to make the debut timeline.
“Since the demands are growing and people want to experience touch and feel with Nestron, we took the chance and sent the units off earlier this month, expecting them to arrive late July [or] early August,” Toh said.
To aid in the transportation process, the tiny homes have built-in retractable hooks to help make it compatible with cranes.
The homes’ structures are also stable enough to withstand the stress of moving, according to Toh.
And all the little living units are also packaged in waterproof fabric to both avoid rusting and to allow for easy inspection.
Being in the UK will allow potential consumers to “engage with Nestron units directly,” Toh said. “The experience will definitely influence the market interest and purchase power.”
City officials first scouted the teardrop-shaped infill lot when they were looking for a place to build “bridge” homes, or shelters meant to aid in finding unhoused residents a permanent home.
Now, 43 residents call the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village their (temporary) home, just a few months after the community’s February grand opening.
Lehrer Architects, which designed the tiny home community with the city’s Bureau of Engineering, had a $3.49 million budget for the project. But foundational work – including street leveling and sewer lines – became the most expensive component of the project.
Despite this cost, the beta project’s shelters “add real value” to the once vacant lot, according to Lehrer Architects.
After being temperature checked by a guard at the entrance of the community, I walked past a series of lockers into the fenced village.
The lockers are meant to secure the residents’ items that aren’t allowed inside of the village, whether it be drugs or personal defense weapons, Vansleve told me while we toured the Alexandria Park location.
An outdoor smoking area and the restroom facilities with showers sit right across from the entrance.
From there, I turned the corner and was immediately greeted by the line-up of tiny homes, an outdoor seating area, and shipping container-like buildings.
The shipping container-like buildings make up the communal facilities, which include a laundry room. It’s also where the case workers are located.
The village also offers its residents three meals a day here.
The outdoor communal tables are located right next to these facilities and in front of the small dog park, which sits at the center of the village.
Surrounding these public amenities are the tiny homes.
Several of these tiny homes have already been personalized with flowers, flags, and posters.
Each tiny home has an entry door that can be locked, a luxury some of the residents might not have had prior.
“Achieving this level of privacy and security is not possible in a traditional shelter,” Michael Lehrer and Nerin Kadribegovic, Lehrer Architects’ founding partner and partner, respectively, told Insider in an email interview in February. “The evocation of a child’s drawing of a ‘house’ and even Monopoly’s homes reinforces the idea of ‘home.'”
The interior has all of the basic amenities needed to live in a tiny home in Los Angeles, including a bed, a heater …
… an air conditioning unit, windows, shelves, and a desk.
The units were all created by Washington-based Pallet, which specializes in creating prefab tiny homes that can be quickly assembled to create homes for people who may have been unhoused due to natural or personal disasters.
“What we felt was really missing from the housing spectrum was a dignified shelter option that honored their individuality and allowed them to have autonomy in their rehabilitation process,” Amy King, founder and CEO of Pallet, told Insider in January.
However, it wasn’t the community’s bright colors that caught my attention. It was the people.
The village’s residents were friendlier than my own neighbors: almost every person I walked by smiled and said “hello.”
And before I left, I had a chat with someone in the village who told me about their daughter, son in college, and interest in other cultures.
The conversation reminded me of something Vansleve told me during our chat at the new Alexandria Park location: “I look at people on the street [in their late 60s, early 70s] and some of them could be my mum. They’ve experienced incredible amounts of trauma and they’re left on the street. I think it’s a moral issue.”
Think of Chandler Street Tiny Home Village as a transitioning place for its residents.
The goal of the village, and Hope of the Valley’s upcoming sites, is to provide its residents with stability and a temporary home while helping them eventually transition into more permanent housing.
When a new resident arrives, the community’s employees, which include case workers, will help the new individual with a list of personal needs.
“Here it’s more supportive, more in-depth,” Priscilla Rodriguez, a case manager at the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village, told Insider. “When somebody comes in, they could be at the very beginning.”
From there, case workers will help the residents receive necessary paperwork like an ID, a social security card, or a birth certificate.
The team will also help its residents find income. This could be unemployment benefits at first, but will hopefully lead to a job or Supplemental Security Income.
The case workers even help with life skills, which could include teaching them how to keep their tiny homes clean or encouraging them to bathe everyday.
Workers will also connect the residents to doctors and physicians for both mental and physical healthcare.
“Some of them wanted to bring their tents into their home because they’re not used to coming out of that setting and transitioning back into permanent housing,” Rodriguez said.
This is the “transition” case workers like Rodriguez are trying to help with.
“They are going to be housed on their own one day, and we want to help support them in every way so that way when they get there, they feel confident to be there and to keep that house on their own,” Rodriguez said.
The program lasts for 90 days, but can be extended for an additional 90 days if they find the resident is making good headway and improvements, and is “actively working” with the case managers to meet goals.
“All we need from them is just to connect with us,” Rodriguez said. “Just tell us what you need.”
Every resident in this current batch has already received an extension because the village and program is so new. But moving forward, the goal is for residents to meet the 90-day timeline.
Each resident gets to dictate the pace at which they move, and right now, many of them are showing “tremendous progress.”
The majority of the 43 residents currently being housed at the Chandler site are on track to be housed independently, which is the ultimate goal of the program.
“We really are showing that the program is working,” Rodriguez said.
In order to qualify for a bed at the village, an outreach worker, often from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, has to verify that the potential resident is homeless and resides within a few miles of the village.
The Chandler site has been so popular there’s already a waitlist for the beds.
The team will accept anyone into the village, even if they have substance abuse or mental health issues, physical disabilities, or legal problems.
“We’re just people who were trying to help these participants better their life,” Rodriguez said. “They’re not trying to harm the community in any way, they’re trying to get themselves back into that community.”
And despite the ongoing pandemic, the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village hasn’t had any COVID-19 outbreaks.
The tiny homes each typically shelter up to two people, but due to the virus, only couples are allowed to share a unit.
And every one to two weeks, the village offers COVID-19 testing on-site.
Several residents have already received their first round of vaccines as well.
Many of the residents have also been complying with face mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitizing protocols, according to Rodriguez.
Despite the work Chandler Street is doing for the homeless community, the program has experienced some protests and hecklers.
The hecklers “just want to cause a scene saying we’ve got drug addicts and criminals in here,” according to Rodriguez.
“It’s sad to see the pushback because any one of us could be here at any point,” Rodriguez said. “You never know what it’s gonna take to make you homeless, especially during a covid year.”
Despite this, the village and its program has so far been a success, and has already attracted international attention.
As a “test case” for future tiny home communities, and since most residents are on track to be permanently housed, the concept has served as an inspiration for people around the world.
The Chandler site has even seen out-of-country visitors who have been interested in incorporating a similar idea in their own city or state.
“It’s making a big impact,” Rodriguez said. “They see that we have had a lot of success with this program, so I definitely see it expanding … hopefully all over the country and in other nations as well.”
Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis has been quietly brewing for several years now.
To address this issue, nonprofit Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission has opened two colorful tiny home villages in the city this year: Chandler Street and the newer Alexandria Park.
The villages aren’t meant to house millennial tourists or trendy minimalists interested in tiny living.
Instead, the two communities were built to temporarily house Los Angeles’ unhoused residents.
This serves as an alternative to “congregate” shelters that can often be more expensive and less time-efficient to construct.
The goal of Hope of the Valley’s tiny house program is to help its residents find a permanent home by the end of their stay.
The program starts at 90 days with the option to extend for an additional three months depending on the progress of the resident, Priscilla Rodriguez, a caseworker at the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village, told Insider.
The two villages are about two miles away from each other and were opened only two months apart.
The first tiny home village on Chandler Blvd. (pictured below), opened in February as a “test case” for Los Angeles, Rowan Vansleve, CFO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, told Insider.
The North Hollywood-based community has 40 tiny homes and 75 beds, but as of now, only couples are allowed to share a unit due to COVID-19 protocols.
So far, the program has been a success, according to Rodriguez.
The village’s on-site caseworkers help the residents with a variety of tasks, from obtaining a social security card, to finding income, to teaching them life skills, such as how to keep their tiny homes clean.
“Some people come here and they’re used to being in a tent and not having their own space,” Rodriguez said. “They’re going to be housed one day on their own, and we want to support them in every way so when they get there, they feel confident to be there and to keep that house on their own.”
Many of the residents at this first site have already made “huge progress,” and the majority of the community’s 43 occupants are already on track to be housed independently, according to Rodriguez.
Now, Hope of the Valley is looking to continue this success with its latest tiny home community just a short drive away from the original Chandler site.
The new Alexandria Park Tiny Home Village is the largest tiny home community in California, according to the nonprofit.
The new site, which is also located in North Hollywood, is over double the size of the original Chandler location with 103 tiny homes and 200 beds.
The new community will begin welcoming its first round of residents this week.
The Alexandria Park and Chandler Street sites are both filled with 64-square-foot shelters made by Washington-based Pallet, which specializes in building tiny homes for people who have been unhoused due to natural or personal disasters.
Like any typical home, the shelters have a lockable entry door.
A locking door may seem like a no-brainer for most people, but many of the communities’ residents may not have previously had this security measure.
This sense of privacy and security isn’t possible in a “traditional” congregate shelter, Michael Lehrer and Nerin Kadribegovic, Lehrer Architects’ founding partner and partner, respectively, told Insider in an email interview in February. Lehrer Architects designed the Chandler site with the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering.
“Ethically and morally for people who’ve experienced trauma, having a locking door can sometimes become the difference between accepting help getting off the street and making a step towards permanent supportive housing,” Rowan Vansleve, CFO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, told Insider.
A 64-square-foot space may seem small, but it has enough room to accommodate all of the unit’s amenities, which include temperature controls like an air conditioner and heater …
… lights that can be used when the four windows don’t provide enough natural brightness …
… and outlets.
The beds are topped with a navy blue duvet, which is meant to invoke a calm feeling, according to Vansleve.
There’s also a small desk, a smoke detector for an added layer of security …
… and storage space underneath the bed frames.
The new Alexandria Park tiny homes also come with toiletries bags customized for men and women.
Several of the new shelters’ furnishings are sourced from Hope of the Valley’s five donation and thrift shops located throughout the greater Los Angeles region.
Several residents who have been living at the Chandler location have already made themselves at home with plants, posters, and artwork.
The tiny homes either come with one or two beds, and some of the single-bed units have enough space to accommodate a wheelchair.
The shelters don’t have room for a private restroom, but both communities have shared individual bathrooms that each come with a sink, toilet, and shower.
Same goes for laundry, which can be done at the sites’ communal laundry facilities.
Pallet’s shelters typically have a lifespan of over 10 years, and the units can be easily disassembled and reassembled, according to Pallet.
But external costs such as sewage, electricity, and internet bumped the cost of each bed at the Alexandria Park location up to about $43,000.
“It doesn’t feel like a homeless shelter, it feels like a launching pad,” Vansleve said about the Alexandria Park Tiny Home Village. “As you walk through, it almost has a college dorm sort of vibe to it, which is exciting.”