Unity Village Tiny Home Community Requests Permit Extension

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• In Bellingham, Planning,

The search for a permanent location for Unity Village, Bellingham’s first tiny home community for our homeless neighbors, is ongoing. Leased or owned land, a minimum of 1/4 acre (1/2 acre would be even better), will satisfy Unity Village’s continuation of services. HomesNOW.org is the non-profit developer and management organization for Unity Village. The Homes NOW Board, volunteers, and community residents hope the public will weigh in to support a permit extension for the 210 McKenzie Ave. site located in Fairhaven which is currently permitted for one year and expiring in April 2020. The permit allows for a one year extension, if sought and approved.

Homes NOW is seeking approval to extend the permit to August 2020 for the least stress to the community and best seasonal conditions for relocation. To support this effort, Homes NOW is circulating a PETITION to encourage community support.

Unity Village is a tiny home community that includes all necessities typically found in a home and cohousing-type community setting, but allotting for 20 individual homes. Moving the tiny home site involves hauling and resetting fencing, security system, shared kitchen and dining tents, furniture, outdoor grills and structures, portable toilet facilities, handwashing stations, welcome tent, shower truck, shipping container storage unit, supplies, and 20 tiny homes, tiny home occupants, and their belongings! Continuing to move all of this infrastructure from temporary site to temporary site is disruptive to the residents, expensive for Homes NOW and donors, and inefficient. I, and many others, feel that a permanent site should be found for the next location of Unity Village. It could be donated land, an affordable long lease, or an affordable sale price for land.

Unity Village operates from the mere budget of $1,200 a month (plus liability insurance at $1,900 for a six month term) serving these 20 homes. This cost-effective housing model has proven to be successful relief for what has become a citizen crisis of homelessness in our region. Supporting this effort challenges the status quo and the repercussions of inaction that can lead to oppressive conditions for our unhoused neighbors. For taxpaying residents and businesses in our area, choosing to

Whatcom County is in the midst of the U.S. coastal real estate bubble impacted by rising cost of living, steep housing rates, and shortage of affordable housing options in the low and moderate income and subsidized housing categories. Due to these and other factors contributing to distress, approximately 900 to 1,300 people who are experiencing homelessness are reported in recent point-in-time data for Bellingham and Whatcom County. There are simply not enough shared housing rooms, affordable low-income apartments, Section 8 apartments, and/or shelter beds to accommodate our homeless neighbors.

Housing solutions do exist and can serve our city with the support of the community, city and county citizens, and government. I often end my articles with “It takes a village” because it does. The Housing First model is proven to be an efficient and affordable solution. Homes NOW is a valuable asset to our township giving our city a tangible avenue for assisting friends, families, and neighbors with a positive network to rebuild their lives, one person and one tiny home at a time.

I completely support this petition effort and hope you will too! To sign the petition and, if you can, collect some signatures from your friends and neighbors, please follow the link above. Unity Village residents and volunteers are collecting petition signatures now.

For further assistance with petition signing effort or questions, please contact Homes NOW Board Chairman Douglas Gustafson at admin@homesnow.org or call Doug at: 360-224-3727. Petition forms must be returned to Unity Village at 210 McKenzie St. in Bellingham no later than January 10, 2020.

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Thank you to JC Mansfield for, essentially, co-authoring this article!

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About Lisa E. Papp

Posting Citizen Journalist • Member since Jan 22, 2018

Lisa is a long-time resident of Washington state and Whatcom County. She is a solar energy advisor helping homeowners in Washington and other U.S. states add solar power to [...]