Construction for a homeless shelter set to be located near New York City’s Billionaires’ Row can move forward, a New York State appeals court ruled on Thursday.
The judge dismissed a 2018 lawsuit by the The West 58th Street Coalition, a group of residents and business owners from the wealthy neighborhood who have been seeking to block construction of the shelter.
The men’s shelter is set to be developed in the closed Park Savoy Hotel, and the lawsuit levied by the coalition alleged that the facility would become a safety hazard because the former hotel was structurally unsound.
The lawsuit was dismissed in Manhattan courts in April 2019, with a judge arguing that the building was in compliance with local laws, but a Manhattan appeals court reinstated the suit months later, calling for further hearings.
“Upon concluding that an authorized agency has reviewed a matter applying the proper legal standard and that its determination has a rational basis, a court cannot second guess that determination by granting a hearing to find additional facts or consider evidence not before the agency when it made its determination,” the state’s highest court said.
Expensive tiny homes have been in high demand since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, a tiny home maker specializing in personal units for the homeless has also seen a surge in interest.
“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.
The company’s main customer base is municipalities, although it’s received orders from nonprofits, religious organizations, and people who own plots of land.
According to King, while the tiny home community concept has been present for some time now, it’s definitely become more of a trend as of late.
Like other tiny home makers, Pallet first started seeing an uptick in interest in March 2020. However, when early October hit, municipalities started realizing they would need individual shelters for people without homes during COVID-19-plagued wintertime.
This realization then created a second wave of Pallet interest in the same year.
The units were initially designed to serve as shelters for people who had lost their homes due to natural disasters, such as fires.
However, the company started opening its scope of potential occupants when homelessness began reaching a similar “disaster emergency level,” according to King.
Despite the potential to capitalize off of the tiny home boom, Pallet currently does not sell any of its units to one-off costumers looking for a backyard tiny home.
“Right now, we are heavily focused on the humanitarian crisis in front of us,” King said. “We will not stop until homelessness has ended in this country, so that’s where we’re focusing our attention for the time being.”
Last year, Pallet built over 1,500 new beds across the US. There are now Pallets in states like California, Minnesota, Texas, and Hawaii.
It took Pallet five or six different iterations before it settled on this final design.
Pallet offers two shelter sizes: the 64-square-foot Pallet 64, and the 100-square-foot Pallet 100. Prices start at $4,900 and $7,000, respectively.
The sleeping cabins consist of an aluminum frame and fiber-reinforced plastic composite walls.
These walls are insulated, but the home also comes with a heater and an air conditioner.
Like any home, the shelters are equipped with safety elements like a lockable door, a smoke detector, and a carbon monoxide monitor.
The shelters can accommodate up to four beds with a folding bunk bed system, although the beds can optionally be replaced with desks.
In terms of storage, the tiny home has shelves and room for under-bed storage.
The structure can withstand up to 100 mile-per-hour winds and manage up to 25 pounds per square-foot of snow.
If that’s not enough, Pallet also has an “extreme weather” version originally developed for a Hood River, Oregon location.
However, none of the homes have bathrooms. This was intentional: the company wants its units to serve as “temporary stabilizing shelters” while its occupants wait for a more permanent option.
Also, plumbing is expensive and more difficult to maintain, which would have driven the tiny home’s price up.
With that being said, Pallet is currently prototyping a bathroom and has previously trialed a community room. Looking forward, Pallet might test a kitchen facility as well.
The units have a lifespan of more than 10 years, but many people only reside in these tiny homes for months at a time.
The units are also easy to clean and sanitize in between occupants, which is key given the homelessness emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike permanent “congregate” shelter options that could take years to build, Pallet’s prefabricated tiny homes can be setup in under 30 minutes, and a full village can be created within 10 days.
This allows Pallet to quickly and inexpensively address the homelessness crisis in the US.
While Pallet specializes in making individual shelters, the company recognizes the need for community shelters as well.
“Unfortunately, the homelessness crisis in this country has escalated to a point that we need all products,” King said. “Each person needs something different, and we need to have a diversified opportunity for people to get their needs met.”
Homelessness isn’t the only issue Pallet is tackling.
The Washington-based company’s “social purpose” title means it serves as a combination between a for-profit and a non-profit organization.
As a result, profits made are put back into the company’s two main missions: stopping “unsheltered homelessness,” and creating a “nontraditional workforce.”
To the latter point, 90% of Pallet’s employees have once faced addiction, incarceration, or homelessness.
Pallet offers these employees workforce and “life skills” training, which includes teaching them how to start a bank account or get an ID.