With more than 1,500 homeless people living on the streets of Albuquerque, eight occupants of a $5 million Tiny Homes Village certainly is not enough.
Six months after opening its colorful doors on the grounds of the Albuquerque Indian Center, the results are disappointing. The village, largely funded by Bernalillo County taxpayers, has 30 small, stand-alone homes and communal buildings with an occupancy capacity of 40 people. It was expected to be fully occupied by July, but few are making it through the county’s vetting process, leaving the village at 105 Texas SE with a mere eight residents as of July 19.
Village Resource Manager Ilse Biel says the screening process was intended to be restrictive; it has also eliminated most of the 150-plus applicants. Two residents who made it through the vetting were removed for being disruptive.
The application process includes drug screenings, medical evaluations and the requirement residents stay clean and sober for at least 10 days. Once accepted, residents must agree to participate in governing the village, helping to screen new applicants, doing communal chores, and working with case managers and others.
Those are all commendable goals that can prevent the $5 million investment from turning into another Coronado Park. The village must first be a safe place to live and not become “a flop house,” as County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley told the Journal. But finding people who fit this housing niche is proving difficult.
The county needs to do a much better job of recruiting applicants for the village, given the crushing need. Officials also need to see what has worked in other Tiny Villages across the United States and replicate that success. Expecting taxpayers to shell out $5 million to house eight people is a cost-prohibitive monument to poor use of public money.
And officials need to do that homework and make Tiny Homes work before signing taxpayers up for more of the same in the form of a tent or container village. If the Tiny Homes Village has proved nothing else, it’s that if you build it, they don’t necessarily come.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.