Abby Matanis and Destiny Munoz / News Port
Bernalillo County and the City of Albuquerque have partnered to create a housing project that will be the first of its kind in New Mexico. The Tiny Home Village project, for which construction will begin in January 2020, is aimed at helping people experiencing homelessness.
Construction companies were able to bid on the proposed construction project starting in September. The Albuquerque company, Epic Mountain Construction, won the bid to build the $3.5 million project.
Project coordinator Bernadette Miera said the group would break ground on the facility in the second week of January.
The county and city proposed a single-site community that would provide a neighborhood of tiny houses in August 2016. The idea was to help the homeless population be reintegrated into society. In November 2016, voters approved a $2 million obligation bond that funded the tiny home project.
Miera said the county went through a lengthy process to arrive at the plan. More than 40 properties were scouted as potential sites for the housing community, but they were narrowed down to six which were presented to the public who then helped determine the building site.
“We knew it was going to be tough starting out, but then we started educating people on what a tiny home village is about and what it could do for the community,” Miera said.
For the final design, the county and city have partnered with the Albuquerque Indian Center, a non-profit organization that has advocated against poverty for 19 years. The Albuquerque Indian Center offered the property next to their original property to the county and in turn brought in other organizations, such as S.A.F.E House, whose goal is to shelter survivors of domestic violence, to support the project.
The capital project has a $3.5 million budget which includes renovations to the Albuquerque Indian Center.
With construction set to begin in January, an operating budget has been set for the village once it is built. The county is funding the Indian Center $250,000 a year for five years to ensure that there is adequate resources for maintaining the village during its start up.
The construction of the Tiny Home Village is based on a similar community in Eugene, Oregon and is being used as a model for understanding the process.
Bernalillo County District One Commissioner Debbie O’Malley said the partnership is currently working on developing policies for the village. The Indian Center will run the village, but so will the residents.
“It will be a self governed village so everyone living in village will be involved in day to day activities and any issues that arise while living in the village,” O’Malley said.
Applicants can vary from adult singles, partners or veteran who are struggling to manage stable housing. Non-profit insurance providers, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, will assess homeless individuals and make referrals for housing. From there, the referral will be sent to the residents of the Tiny Home Village who will look at all applicants.
“If selected for residency, individuals will have a 30 day probabtion period to make sure they can live in a community and follow the rules,” O’Malley said.
When it opens the village will house a group of 10 to 15 residents.
One of the goals of the Tiny Home Village project is to provide shelter for the homeless community. The village is being created in a way that will help residents readjust back to society.
“Our motto is to reintegrate them into a normal community, whether that’s socializing, creating friendships, or working together,” she said.
O’Malley said many resources will be offered to all residents of the village, including job training, occupation therapists, counselors, and a micro enterprise component.
“Our thought is to offer as many wrap around services so that when they are ready to be out on their own, that they are ready to go and capable to transition from being on the streets to permanent housing,” O’Malley said.
Both Miera and O’Malley hope that being in the center of a neighborhood will not only positively impact the villagers, but the neighborhood. The village will be located next to the Trumbull Village neighborhood on Zuni Road and Texas Street. There is access to the city bus line, which will ensure easy access to jobs, grocery stores, or any other amenities that residents need.
The City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County continue to make progress on the project and say they have around 90% of the design done. The construction phase of the Tiny Home Village is expected to be done in late summer of 2020.
Abby Matanis is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @abbymatanis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Destiny Munoz is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port. She can be reached on Twitter @DestinyAMunoz12 or at email@example.com.