Tiny Homes May Not be the Answer for Some

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These tiny homes in the San Fernando Valley, are about half the size of those in New Mexico. There is no landscaping or central meeting room. Meals are offered at picnic tables.

Circling the News was tipped off by a reader about the Tiny Home Village in Albuquerque. He thought that since they are being built and proposed throughout Los Angeles, there might be some “take-aways.”

The New Mexico Village was funded by a $2 million-bond in 2016, approved by voters, and site selection was determined with specific requirements: 3/8 mile from a public transportation; services accessible; water, sewer, and electricity available; and at least 1-3 acres (estimate 25-30 homes per acre).

Additionally, a leading national expert on tiny homes, Andrew Heben, who founded Square One Villages (nonprofit) in Eugene, Oregon, was consulted. The projected final cost of the project that can house 40 individuals is $4.34 million.

In February 2021, the Albuquerque Tiny Home Village, which is considered transitional housing, opened.

Then, local county commissioner Debbie O’Malley said, “I hope that people see this story and they see what’s happening, and they say we can support something like this in our community.”

At the Village, residents would be expected to pay $30 a month. Requirements included a person be 18 or older and currently unhoused. Couples were welcome. Those who were accepted had to be sober/clean for a minimum of 10 days and be willing to participate in the maintenance and running of the village.

Residents had to agree to work with the support team on personal growth and self-care and to abide by a community agreement.

No registered sex offenders are allowed: no illegal substance nor alcohol use permitted on site and no guns or lethal weapons allowed.

Unlike the pallet shelters in L.A. (64 sq.ft.), these homes were 120 sq.ft. furnished and included a porch. There were eight single-occupancy, well-lit and visible, lockable bathrooms. There was a communal village house with high-quality grade kitchen, dining and recreational spaces, full laundry facilities, library, computer pod, office for private meetings, and private individual lockers.

The tiny homes were on a landscaped site with trees and gardens, and it was expected the Village would be full by the end of June.

“Tiny Homes Village Still Has Tiny Occupancy” was a July 21, Albuquerque Journal story. “Closing in on six months after the Tiny Homes Village opened its doors to its first homeless residents, the village as of Monday had a mere eight occupants.”

Why?

The paper called it a nearly $5 million project, and with 1,567 homeless in Albuquerque, noted that filling homes would seem to be an easy task.

“It is not,” said Resource Manager Ilse Biel, who explained the screening process was time consuming, and possibly too restrictive for many members of this difficult population.

“Housing is just one of the components of the program,” she said.

In New Mexico, those accepted into the program are expected to participate in governing the village, help screen new applicants, do communal chores, security and maintenance, and work on personal growth with case managers.

Maybe Los Angeles Tiny Home villages will fill faster, because there is no screening for registered sex offenders and no drug tests are administered. There does not appear to be a Los Angeles residency requirement.

In Los Angeles, drugs, alcohol, guns and lethal weapons are supposed to be left in lockers by the front gate.

Additionally, LA Tiny Home residents aren’t required to help with maintenance. At one tiny home site in the Valley, CTN was told that there is a maintenance worker stationed by the five individual bathrooms and as soon as a “client” comes out, the worker goes and cleans that bathroom.

According to the New Mexico story, more than 150 applicants had been screened, but Biel said that many were rejected “‘because they were just looking for housing and not interested in participating in the program.’

“Some were disallowed because drugs, other than medical cannabis, were found in their urine screenings. Others were declined after an evaluation by a medical professional determined that behavioral or mental health issues would require ‘intensive care that was beyond what could be provided’ in the setting of the Tiny Home Village, Biel said.”

Commissioner O’Malley said she understood the challenges, but “It’s particularly difficult, she said, “among homeless people with a dual diagnosis of a mental health illness and an addiction.”

CTN contacted Biel for more information on July 22. She responded on July 26. “Good Evening Sue. We aren’t close to capacity yet. Housing is just one of the components of the program. Our main emphasis is on growing a strong community so that those bonds can stand the villagers in good stead in the long run. This means that we can’t bring in too many people at once as that would disrupt the burgeoning community building process. This tends to be a bit of a difficult concept to get across—especially as there is such a dire need for housing. We are simply trying to effect a deliberate intervention in the cycle some folks fall into. I would be happy to have a chat if you have more questions. Thank you so much for reaching out.”

This is a model of the Tiny Home Village in Albuquerque.

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1 Response to Tiny Homes May Not be the Answer for Some

  1. cindy Simon says:

    This is all a very good exercise in housing options. But sooner rather than later the county must admit that institutional housing with attached services must happen. The population is too large to built tiny houses.

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