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West Siders debate proposal for tiny homes

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

A meeting on a proposal to build a village of tiny homes drew mixed opinions.

Some supported the proposal, others denounced it and people also said they were in favor of the concept, as long as it’s not built near their home.

“The people who are in favor of it, why don’t they put a couple of the tiny homes in their backyard,” said Andrew Chavez, who lives on Albuquerque’s West Side.

Bernalillo County is proposing the creation of a village of tiny homes that are about 116 square feet for about 30 to 45 of the city’s homeless people. The idea is that the site, which will be about one to three acres, will serve as a launching pad for people struggling to find housing. The goal would be for tenants to eventually make their way to a more traditional living situation.

The county has proposed six sites for the project. Most are in Southeast Albuquerque, but one possible site is near Central and Unser on the West Side. Officials held a meeting about the idea at the Patrick J. Baca Library, not far from the potential West Side location, on Saturday morning.

About 150 people turned out and voiced their opinions.

Many people who live in the area said the community has long struggled with economic development compared to other parts of the city. They fear the village would only make it harder for businesses to develop there.

“We already have low-income housing. That’s already bringing in drugs and homeless people, so why exacerbate the issue,” said Michelle Massie, who has lived in the area for about three years.

But about half the people at the meeting spoke in favor of the idea. Similar projects have been launched in Eugene and Portland, Ore.; Madison Wis.; and Olympia, Wash.

Jesse Crawford, who is in favor of the homes, previously lived in Portland and would volunteer at the tiny home village in the city. He said the environment there was positive and it created a sense of community for the population.

He noticed that many speakers at Saturday’s meeting were in favor of the project but didn’t want it near their homes.

“I felt there were a lot of people who straight up said they supported the effort, but they didn’t support a location that is in their neighborhood,” he said. “And I found that disappointing.”

Sharon Hamilton, who lives in Southeast Albuquerque, has attended two of the public meetings on the tiny homes project. She said she has lived in her community for 39 years and is worried that it will be tapped for the project because so many of her neighbors rent instead of own their property.

“We’re scared. Our neighborhood, it’s so many single women,” she said. “I want to live the rest of my life there, but not if it’s going to be an awful area.”

Several people at the meeting said they would be in favor of the project, but think that the village should cater only to homeless women and not men.

Others were more adamant in their support.

“I think they are afraid because the picture of homeless is a man out there who is looking bad … but that’s not all that homelessness is,” said Judy Gallegos. “There’s women coming out of domestic violence, and there’s young people who were thrown out because there families don’t tolerate their sexual orientation. But people just think of the guy who is dirty and strung out.”

Saturday’s meeting was the last of three scheduled meetings county officials have held this month. An earlier meeting drew a crowd of people who were maddened by the idea, going so far as to boo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley, a proponent of the project, when she tried to speak.

O’Malley received a round of applause from the entire crowd on Saturday.

“It’s not enough to feel sorry for people,” she said. “You have to act.”

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