Austin Community First! Village

Community First! Village


A Tiny Home Village Outside Austin, TX


The Community First Village is a 225-resident tiny home village and RV park located just outside Austin, Texas city limits that opened in 2015 to house formerly homeless residents.


  • The village is the brainchild of founder Alan Graham, who spent years serving the city’s homeless before pooling $18 million in privately donated funds to construct Community First in 2015 (source).
  • Over 7,000 individuals experienced homelessness in 2018. The 2019 Point in Time Count showed that there were 2,255 individuals experiencing homelessness in Travis County on a single day (source).

Mission: Provide a community-first approach — a spinoff of the housing-first term— to create a sense of community among formerly homeless residents.


Owner: The 27-acre site was purchased by Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

Previous Use: Vacant ranch land.

Use Arrangement: Fee simple ownership by the operating nonprofit. The homes are then leased to the residents at a rate of $225-$500/month.

Site Selection Criteria Considerations: Located on the outskirts of Austin, just beyond city limits but still accessible to municipal utilities – sewer, water, electrical.

Site Selection Notes


  • Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez is an advocate. “We’re very supportive of that community,” she said of the village in the county seat, Austin. “It’s just pretty darn positive, if you ask me.” (source).
  • MLF chose not to locate within Austin city limits, due to community pushback to modify zoning code to allow higher density of tiny homes in a village layout in a residential neighborhood.
  • In general, Austin city considers anything between 100 and 400 square feet to be a tiny home. Those homes can be placed on any parcel of land zoned for residential use. On a single-family lot, tiny homes have to meet many of the same standards as larger houses, things like minimum lot size and the number of units allowed on the property. Multiple tiny homes can be placed on land that’s zoned for a multifamily residence, and any tiny home that’s placed on a foundation has to meet the standards of the International Residential Code. Source.
  • Under the city’s current zoning code, tiny houses on wheels are treated like RVs. They can be inhabited in certain areas that allow campground use, but if they’re parked on residential property, you can’t actually live in them.



Upfront Development*$18 million 

(including land, site work, & housing units)

100% philanthropic donations, no government funding. Some of the tiny homes were donated.
Cost Per Bed*$80k225 beds in total
Operating Costs*$4.8 million/yearTo cover MLF management and operating expenses, 75% of funding comes from philanthropy, 25% comes from the on-site residents paying rent ($225-$500/home/month) 

Third-party case management services (detail in Operations) are not funded by MLF, outside scope of operating budget

Cost Per Bed*$21k/year$58/bed/night 


Funding Notes


  • Several millions of dollars in donations came from a handful of notable philanthropic families in the Austin Texas region


Lead Deal CoordinatorHousing Innovation CollaborativeMobile Loaves & Fishes
Community EngagementHousing Innovation CollaborativeMobile Loaves & Fishes
Construction ManagementHousing Innovation CollaborativeMobile Loaves & Fishes
Shelter Vendor / ManufacturerVariety, some notable shelters include: 

Housing Innovation Collaborative

On-Site Assembly Private ContractorsIncluding the construction of the road and utility work


Design Notes


  • Phase I of the Village covers 27 acres and, once at full capacity, will be home to more than 200 formerly homeless men and women.
    • 125 Micro-homes
    • 100 RV/Park homes
  • None of the micro-homes have bathrooms, all RVs have bathrooms with utility hookups
  • All micro-homes are built to ICC standards building code, however they do not need to be inspected
  • Features of Community First! Village Phase I:

    • 5 Laundry/Restroom/Shower Facilities
    • 5 Outdoor Kitchens
    • Capital Metro Bus Stop
    • Community Art House
    • Community Cinema
    • Community Concessions & Catering
    • Community First! Car Care
    • Community Forge
    • Community Inn
    • Community Market
    • Genesis Gardens Organic Farm
    • Goodness Press Screen Printing
    • Memorial Garden and Prayer Labyrinth
    • Topfer Family Health Resource Center
    • Walking Trails
    • Woodworking Shop
  • Phase II – In the fall of 2018, Mobile Loaves & Fishes took a significant step in its ongoing effort to mitigate homelessness in Austin with the first expansion of Community First! Village. Phase II of the Village is directly adjacent to the Phase I development and adds an additional 24 acres – bringing the entire property to 51 acres and more than 500 homes.


Lead Operator:

Housing Innovation Collaborative

OperatorMobile Loaves & Fishes (MLF), a Christian nonprofit organization, is a social outreach ministry that has been empowering communities into a lifestyle of service with the homeless since 1998.

AgreementMLF owns the land and operates all on-site facilities.
  • 60 full-time staff
  • Shelter Manager
  • Program Supervisor
  • Logistic Coordinators
  • Case Managers
  • Security
  • Janitorial
  • Back-end Admin
Services ProvidedMLF provides wraparound services, an outdoor movie theater, community garden and market, and a medical facility where health screenings are offered. The assistance here includes “micro-enterprise opportunities,” meaning jobs on site in gardening, woodworking, car care and more. 

County provides 10 care staff.

  • ~$58/bed/night operating costs
Operating Expenses
  • On-Site Personnel
  • Maintenance
  • Client Services, meals


Operation Notes


  • Residents pay rent and many work on-site in various small businesses, including a blacksmith shop, the community theater, and jewelry shop.

Relevant Materials