Seattle’s Tiny House Villages
T.C. Spirit Village, Interbay Village, & Beyond
T.C. Spirit is one of eight tiny house villages within the City of Seattle, funded by the City and developed and managed by the Low Income Housing Institute (“LIHI”), in partnership with many other community members and philanthropic partners throughout Seattle.
In response to Seattle Mayor Durkan’s Proclamation of Civil Emergency in the fight against COVID-19, LIHI opened T. C. Spirit Village – a 24-tiny home village – in collaboration with The Christ Spirit Church and the Seattle Human Services Department.
- The new units, which were built in roughly a month, opened following Mayor Jenny Durkan’s March 3 proclamation of a Civil Emergency due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
- Due to the coronavirus and Mayor Durkan’s proclamation of a Civil Emergency, the process of providing the new units was fast-tracked in regards to bureaucratic barriers and permitting, among other things.
- The village specifically serves Native American, Alaskan Native and African American residents.
- The City of Seattle has a department in their City of Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) tasked with tiny home villages – known as the Homeless Strategy and Investment Division.
Mission: Provide an alternative to encampments to help move people off the streets, through bridge housing facilities, and into long-term housing.
Owner: Built on land owned by the Christ Spirit Church. Members of the Christ Spirit Church are providing donations, services, food and other support. In addition, the village receives operational support from the Seattle Human Services Department.
It should be noted that part of the site is a right of way owned by the City of Seattle that is leased to LIHI for one year at the cost of permits (under $1k/year).
Previous Use: Vacant grass lot in residential neighborhood. The site was previously the site of an encampment that had been removed.
Use Arrangement: A revocable license agreement between LIHI and the Church, for one year (with option to renew), to be used temporary encampment in accordance with Seattle Land Use Code. Includes a 90 day termination notice without cause.
Site Selection Criteria Considerations: Church offered the site to the City under the City’s emergency declaration. LIHI, who was in ongoing conversations with the Church for housing options on-site, worked with the Church’s pastor and church trustees, who presented the tiny home villlage proposal to their congregation for review and approval.
- LIHI is met with little to no community resistance in developing tiny home villages. To the contrary, neighbors adopt the villages, volunteering in their construction (Community Build Parties, which are oversubscribed) and donating furniture, food, and other resources to the residents of the projects.
- Having licensed staff on-site at all times helps manage village resident relations with the surrounding community.
- Many of the sites have been able to expand (such as LUV village expanded from 22 tiny homes to 44 units) when the site next door become available for this interim use.
- Deep community engagement by LIHI and expertise in the typology and management of village allowed the organization to move quickly in developing tiny home villages in response to the COVID 19 pandemic.
- Many affordable housing operators and developers with permanent housing projects in the pipeline have explored LIHI’s model of interim shelters.
- LIHI will set up a community advisory committee for each village, taking applications at the first community meeting. Committees meet monthly will provide written reports and updates on the project. Meetings will have participation by the city, usually with someone from HSD’s Homeless Strategy and Investment Division.
- State – The recently passed state bill, WAC 458-16-320, incentives private property owners in the state to offer up land for shelter: “property tax exemption available under the provisions of RCW 84.36.043 to real and personal property used by a nonprofit organization, association, or corporation to provide emergency or transitional housing to low income persons or victims of domestic violence who are homeless for personal safety reasons.”
- Many property owners will elect to host shelters during their pre-development phase, paying for the remediation and permitting costs to allow shelter to safely exist on their premise.
- City – In 2020, Seattle City Council voted to amend the City’s original permitted encampment ordinance (link here) that allows for three city-sanctioned encampments, imposes various time regulations and zoning restrictions, to allow the continuation of the existing tiny house villages that would have otherwise sunset in March, and permit up to 40 tiny house villages, encampments, and safe parking sites to be authorized throughout the city. The language also mitigates zoning restrictions, allows annual renewals, and removes a sunset provision.
|Upfront Development*||$350k||$150k for the shelters – see notes about donated labor and materials.
$200k for site costs/utilities, paid from city’s general fund – see notes below.
|Cost Per Bed*||$15k/shelter||24 beds in total|
|Operating Costs*||$464k/year||$416k provided by Seattle’s Department of Health Services (HSD – funded by a variety of revenue sources, including federal, state and inter-local grants, and City’s General Fund), in addition to $47k in private donations (per LIHI)|
|Cost Per Bed*||$19k/bed/year||$52/bed/night|
Upfront Budget Detail:
- $150k – Shelters – While many tiny homes were donated, the typical cost of units is $5-6k, including $2,700 materials and $2,500-3,000 for labor = $6k x 30 = $150k
- $200k – City paid for utilities (sewer, water, and power), fixed the sidewalk, and installed bathrooms, and office. Paid from city’s general fund.
|Lead Deal Coordinators||
|The Low Income Housing Institute, in partnership with the City of Seattle|
|Community Engagement||Low Income Housing Institute|
|Construction Management||Low Income Housing Institute|
|Shelter Vendor / Manufacturer||Variety|
|On-Site Assembly||Multiple parties||Tiny homes constructed by local apprenticeships and neighborhood volunteers (“build parties”) – see below|
- The new site includes 24 tiny houses, a community kitchen, hygiene building, laundry, staff and counseling office and security.
- Each individual house is 8 by 12 feet, and has insulation, electricity, heat, windows, a lockable door — and costs roughly $2,700 per unit to build in materials and about $5-6,000/shelter with labor included.
- Each village as a whole includes plumbed on-site facilities with showers, toilets, laundry, and a community kitchen. The on-site utility hook ups are provided and paid for by the City of Seattle.
- The creation of the new housing units in both villages was made possible by help from many individuals such as the pre-apprenticeship students in the Tulalip Tribes TERO Program, who constructed 13 of the 28 tiny houses at the T.C. Spirit Village. Source.
- Each shelter is placed on skids and pier blocks for easy portability.
- Site plans are completed in-house and reviewed by fire department, etc.
- Josh Castle, the advocacy and community engagement director with LIHI, said a process that would normally take three to four months came together in less than a month. Article.
- LIHI has started building a more permanent version of the tiny home model with a Cottage design – called Sand Point Cottage Community – see rendering.
|Operator||The Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) develops, owns and operates housing for the benefit of low–income, homeless and formerly homeless people in Washington State.|
|Land Agreement||A revocable license agreement between LIHI and the Church, for one year (with option to renew). LIHI responsible for security, maintenance, utilities, shared responsibility with Church for meal prep.|
|Staffing||It will be staffed 24/7 to help the 24 residents with housing, employment, health care, education and other services.|
|Services Provided/ Management||Village management and day-to day oversight of operations of the site is done by a team of LIHI Staff. This includes a Special Project Manager (SPM), 2 Case Managers, and Village Organizers. Staff will be on duty at all times and will assure the village and its members are safe, accountable, and responsive. See below for more detail.|
- Local preference policy at shelters
- Referrals to the village will be coordinated by the city’s Navigation Team, in collaboration with the Chief Seattle Club and Seattle Indian Health Center.
- The Church is allocated 2-3 set-aside tiny homes for their choice of qualified resident.
- Residents are subject to a sex offender check.
- Some residents prefer tiny home villages to having a permanent apartment. Many residents have lived on-site for 5-6 months, others only a few nights.
- One hot meal is served per day, provided by Operation Sack Lunch.
- Village Organizers: 24/7 staff presence will be maintained in the Village. Village Organizers will be present during evenings, overnight and on weekends when the Special Project Manager and Case Manager are not working. This includes 7 staff working full and part-time. They will be responsible for ensuring the peace, controlling the entrance to keep the residents safe and prevent outside visitors, keeping the village organized, respond to emergencies, serve as point for community contact during their shifts, and other duties. They will do perimeter checks and patrol the area on an established schedule.
- Special Projects Manager: One FTE Special Projects Manager will be assigned to the site. The Special Projects Manager shares information, provide technical assistance, assures the community is following procedures and policies, and works with residents and staff to maintain the site in a clean and organized state. The Special Projects Manager will also conduct inventory, order supplies, inspect the site, establish relationships with the community, and assist in hiring, training, and supervising staff of the Village. The Special Projects Manager will be trained and supervised by LIHI Management.
- Case Manager: The full-time Case Manager is responsible for establishing relationships with community referral agencies and their case managers, provide informal counseling, provide information and referral assistance to residents, and coordinate community-building activities. The Case Manager will be working and problem-solving with the residents of the Village on a daily basis. The focus will be moving the clients into permanent housing and providing supportive services. See True Hope Tiny House Village Supportive Services Plan.
- LIHI Resources Center: https://lihi.org/tiny-houses/
- Success Story: https://komonews.com/news/local/tacoma-man-battling-homelessness-gets-second-chance-thanks-to-tiny-home-village-project
LIHI operates 12 villages in the Seattle region. In additional to church-owned property, tiny home villages are located on city-owned land (leased to LIHI) and properties owned by LIHI intended for longer-term development projects (and used in the interim as temporary shelter sites).
City-Owned Site Project Example
There is a two-year contract to use the city-owned property (to reduce impact to neighborhood). The City released an RFP for the first of the tiny home village sites to become available.
LIHI-Pre-Development Site Example
Site to be developed into permanent affordable housing project.