Four years after it debuted in the winter of 2016 and became one of the models for proponents of so-called bridge housing in Seattle, the 22nd and Union Tiny House Village has been given one month to find a new home.
In a letter sent two days after Christmas, the board of trustees at the Central District’s Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd notified village organizers that it is time to move on, saying the congregation plans to “continue our outreach to the homeless in our community” but will be “exploring new and possibly better ways to utilize our property.”
“We have had a four-year relationship at our Good Shepherd village that has worked well for us and has helped us fulfill our mission to reach out to the community and care for those in need,” the board writes. “We hope that it has been useful to the residents by providing a comfortable shelter while they strive to work their way back to more permanent housing.”
The village has until January 31st to vacate the premises and has already posted a notice letting neighbors know of its search for a new home. In its response to the church, the group has asked for more time:
We have reached out to the church and the board for more information on the decision. Nickelsville, the organization contracted to run the village, provided a copy of the church’s letter and responses to CHS.
The church’s decision comes after months of acrimony between the Low Income Housing Institute nonprofit that operates the city’s Tiny House Villages and the group it has contracted to run them. A December compromise over the Nickelsville Northlake location bought that village a few more months but may have only delayed continued disagreements between the city, LIHI, and Nickelsville over how the villages should be run.
It also comes as District 3 representative Kshama Sawant has made a major push for expansion of the program with a $12 million plan to expand the villages at 20 locations across the city. Sawant’s office has not yet responded to our inquiry about the situation at 22nd and Union. Sawant is also championing a ban on winter evictions in Seattle.
The four years at the Good Shepherd village at 22nd and Union have been mostly calm. CHS visited the 14 tiny homes when the village debuted in January of 2016 and returned later to find the community continuing to be a positive part of the neighborhood.
Several organizations including Seattle Central Wood Technology students built the two-person houses with their own funding.
Each house cost roughly $2,200 in materials and is wired for electricity. A bathroom pavilion, a kitchen tent, and showers were also part of the village plans. The community is self managed and residents hold meetings to work on the management of the camp. Alcohol and drugs are prohibited. Nickelsville camps accept single people, couples, families, and pets. Sex offenders are not accepted and a government issued photo ID is required. The village also helps tenants save money and eventually move into standard housing as residents only pay a small amount for utilities and rent can be paid by working security shifts and participation credits.
Volunteers told CHS at the time the model was working despite hiccups like an issue with hot water not making it to the kitchen tent. One additional requirement will also be helpful given the notice to move. The tiny houses are designed to be portable in case of a need to move the community or redeploy one of the units elsewhere.
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