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Six locations to be considered for village of tiny homes

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Six sites have been identified as candidates for the location of a village of tiny homes to provide transitional housing for homeless people.

All but one of the sites are south of Interstate 40 and east of Louisiana. One is on Central near Unser NW.

The sites were pared down from 30 locations suggested by neighborhood associations, individuals and city and county officials.

The project, a collaboration between Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque, was detailed Thursday during a news conference on Civic Plaza led by Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley and Albuquerque City Councilor Diane Gibson.

As envisioned, the tiny home village will be on one acre and consist of 25 to 35 homes. Residents will be selected through a referral system used by agencies that provide homeless services and will be expected to pay a nominal rent.

The homes are estimated to cost $17,000 to $20,000 per unit, and the money to build them, along with the infrastructure, will come from a $2 million general bond county voters approved in November 2016, O’Malley said. She estimated yearly operational costs at $150,000 to $200,000.

Each unit will be 116 square feet and constructed on a chassis to save money and make it portable. The homes will be insulated, have heating and cooling, contain a bed, a desk, a chair and storage space and will be wired for electricity.

They will not, however, have plumbing. Restrooms, showers, laundry and a kitchen will be in communal buildings.

The village itself will be gated, self-contained, self-governed and actively managed with oversight from Bernalillo County, O’Malley said.

Self-governance fosters unity and pride within the village, which “feeds a sense of protection and well-being of the village itself,” Gibson said. It further “encourages a relationship with surrounding business owners, neighborhood associations and homeowners.”

Tiny home villages have been operated successfully in other states around the country and have a good track record for being cost-effective, empowering to the people who live there, and a positive asset in the neighborhoods where they’ve been located, O’Malley said.

By removing homeless people from the streets, said Gibson, the tiny home village will result in “an actual savings to taxpayers by significantly decreasing the number of calls for service to police, fire, rescue, ambulance, emergency room visits, as well as reducing the overall costs for health care for this population.”

The structure of the proposed tiny home village, the first in New Mexico, is geared for individuals who “are on the path to self sufficiency,” Gibson said.

The village will provide life and skills training, support for employment and possibly a microenterprise.

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Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley speaks during a Thursday news conference on Civic Plaza about possible locations for a village of tiny homes to provide transitional housing for the homeless. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

“The village will require residents to agree to follow rules and regularly engage in village meetings,” Gibson said. “Their obligations will include maintenance and security and ensuring the village is a good neighbor and an asset to the community.”

Residency will be open only to adults, individual or couples. Children will not be allowed to live there.

While there is no time limit for how long residents can live there, it is expected that they will stay for about two years before moving into permanent affordable housing as it becomes available.

One reason that there are so many homeless, noted O’Malley, is “wages have not kept up with the cost of housing.” People in Albuquerque are paying 50 to 80 percent of their monthly income for housing.

“There’s not a lot of margin for error,” she said.

Another advantage to housing the homeless, said O’Malley, is by giving them a safe place to live and an address, it makes it easier for case workers and service providers to more easily locate them.

“And if you’re next to transportation and if you’re paying $50 a month for housing you can get a part time job and still make a living instead of just surviving,” she said.

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