Monday afternoon, the Seattle City Council is set to approve the legislative underpinning to Mayor Jenny Durkan’s “bridge housing” plan creating a $9.5 million a year program for shelter and “tiny house” encampments. So-called bridge housing is the rare cog in Seattle City Hall’s engine that still seems spinning forward for solutions to the city’s intertwined homelessness and affordability crisis. And, despite pushback from within and from beyond the neighborhood, a new tiny house village planned for the Central District might be the most solid effort at this point to build something new to help put more people in shelter.
CHS reported earlier on plans for the encampment and a set of community meetings about the project. The vision has withstood the process. True Hope Village is being constructed at 18th Ave and E Yesler Way.
The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI), which is leading the project, has learned from past skepticism and opposition to the village projects, organizing community meetings earlier in the process to give a space for nearby residents to voice their concerns and create transparency, Josh Castle, director of advocacy and community engagement for LIHI, said.
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There is a code of conduct that every resident who lives in a Tiny House Village must read and sign. It includes provisions saying that drug and alcohol use are unacceptable. Failure to comply with its long list of rules, could lead to being barred from the village. Additionally, there will be staffing and security 24 hours a day to maintain tranquility.
The Yesler Tiny House Village is the ninth initiated in the Seattle area since January 2016, including a cluster of small houses at 22nd and Union. Members of these communities meet with a project manager to help them find their footing in their new lives. Over 300 residents of these communities have transitioned into long-term housing, including 143 in the last year, the city says.
Due to this success, the City of Seattle has pointed to this short-term sheltering as a form of bridge housing to help those in need find more affordable and stable lodging.
LIHI “will operate the village and help people obtain long-term housing and employment” while its church partners in the project New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and Truevine of Holiness Missionary Baptist Church “provide services, clothing, blankets, donations, and meals.” Employees from Seattle’s Vulcan gathered for a day of community service to build the homes.
To get a sense of what possible opposition such a project can face in 2018 Seattle, take a look at a letter being left on doors around the neighborhood. It lists seven grievances, including a lack of “decent sanitary conditions,” little way to keep the village drug and alcohol-free, and no “realistic plan” to move these residents into more stable housing. The letter says that it has the support of “30 families residing near the planned village.”
— Eric Wright (@e_rite) June 10, 2018
Another major concern stated in the letter is that the community was not consulted on this quickly laid plan that is “circumventing city laws for zoning and permitting.”
Castle said that this village is moving forward as quickly as possible but only because of its unique status as a church-sponsored property, which means it is not restricted by city ordinances, unlike the many city-sanctioned village.
On Tuesday, June 12, a community meeting was held with more than 100 members of the community and a dialogue on the project was held. The room was filled with supporters of the proposal and many members of the neighborhood held signs saying “we welcome our new neighbors.”
The village will create a Community Advisory Committee that will provide input on operations, according to the City of Seattle. The Committee will include seven members of the community, including businesses and neighbors, and will meet monthly.
A FAQ on the project sums up many of the details community members might be asking about the project:
“We believe, based on our experience with villages in Ballard, West Seattle, Othello and others, that this will be a project that creates safe spaces for unsheltered people and one that the community as a whole can support,” a representative from the City of Seattle’s Human Services Department said in an email about the new village.
Want to know what it’s like to apply to live in a tiny house village? True Hope Village’s resident application is below.