A San Francisco real estate developer wants to house the homeless in towers of stackable 'micro-units'

Panoramic interests micropads 1120Melia Robinson/Business InsiderCharisse Trotter, who lives in a women’s shelter in San Francisco, tours a prototype MicroPad outside the offices of Panoramic Interests in November 2016.

As many as 1,200 people are living on the streets of Berkeley, California, and the city has long run out of beds to keep them.

Panoramic Interests, a San Francisco real estate developer, wants to help end the street-living epidemic by converting shipping container-like modules into new micro-apartments where the homeless can live.

The developer envisions a 100-unit residence that looks like a traditional apartment building, inside and out. It’s made up of 160-square-foot, move-in-ready containers called MicroPads that are stacked on top of each other.

In February, the Berkeley City Council passed an initiative to install
100 micro-units on city-owned land that would serve as housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and Berkeley natives who have become homeless. The city has yet to select a developer or design, but Panoramic Interests wants in.

Panoramic interests micropads 1173Melia Robinson/Business InsiderThe MicroPAD stretches eight feet wide and 20 feet deep.

Business Insider toured a prototype MicroPad in 2016. The module was small, but it contained all the basic necessities.

Panoramic Interests housing homeless MicroPadPanoramic InterestsThe MicroPad arrives in the Port of Oakland almost completely move-in-ready.

The kitchen includes a food prep area, fridge, stovetop, and microwave oven. A storage bed and an armoire provide plenty of space for stashing belongings during the day, while the desk has shelves for personal goods.

The Bay Area is home to dozens of shelters, but most of them lack private bathrooms. Patrick Kennedy, owner of Panoramic Interests, tells Business Insider that the close quarters found in the average homeless shelter creates tension between residents. The micro-apartments, in contrast, may prevent conflict by offering a modicum of privacy (including private bathrooms).

Panoramic interests micropads 1160Melia Robinson/Business InsiderPrivate bathrooms are a luxury most shelters cannot afford.

Kennedy says that the apartments aren’t actual shipping containers, though they arrive in the Port of Oakland atop a container ship. The MicroPads are taller, include steel reinforcements around the openings, and have a sealing that prevents pests and water from getting in.

Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett toured a MicroPad months before submitting the Step Up Housing Initiative for a vote, Kennedy says. Kennedy hopes the MicroPad helped inspired Bartlett.

The Berkeley City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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