Across the state, Coloradans are taking steps to seek out and create housing options for themselves and others in need.
By Katelyn Skye Bennett
Photo by David Tauchen
Tiny houses are trending from Colorado to Cologne for their affordability and environmental sustainability. Some tiny house communities, like Beloved Community Village in Denver, are used as transitional housing until people can find affordable housing. The priciest ones, like the WeeCasa Tiny House Resort in Lyons, Colorado, make bank by charging upwards of $185 per night as part of a plan to rejuvenate the town after floods destroyed it in 2013. While not as trendy, mobile homes also provide reasonably priced housing for Coloradans.
Alternative communities with shared facilities, mobile home parks, and tents can provide affordable, safe shelter for low income Coloradans. Just as new communities open up to provide houses for those in need, others are being closed down and causing concern.
Here’s a snapshot of what’s happening around the state:
1. BELOVED COMMUNITY VILLAGE (open):
Eleven tiny houses grace a lot on Walnut Street in RiNo. They form a self-governing transitional housing community wherein residents all live for free and take care of the maintenance and governance of the community.
“We specifically are trying to make room for people who don’t fit into the shelter system. So, that means couples without children, transgender folks, folks living with disabilities, folks with pets, people who don’t like sleeping six inches away from 300 other people, et cetera,” said Marcus Hyde of Denver Homeless Out Loud (DHOL).
DHOL was one of the main advocates of this endeavor. Its attempts to start such a community began four years ago, but it was not until December 2016 that the city of Denver granted its support. Beloved Community Village, named for a local church inspired by a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, opened in July.
2. ST. ANDREW’S TINY HOUSE VILLAGE (in process):
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church is in the process of constructing a tiny house village consisting of eight single-person houses. The village, currently scheduled to open in January or February 2018, will provideself-governed housing for vulnerable cis- and transgender women. The only cost for residents will be a utility fee.
“The primary purpose of this village is to provide temporary, safe shelter for women while they look for work and more permanent housing. Our goal is that other churches and institutions who can accommodate a village like this will consider hosting so we can increase the number of units dispersed across the city,” Allyson Dodge, church spokesperson, said in an email.
“Our hope is that we can provide a temporary solution until the city and others are able to provide more affordable housing. The tiny homes will offer people experiencing homelessness a safe, dignified space to live, with the support of a community,” Dodge added.
Alternative Solutions Advocacy Project has played a key role in getting the two tiny home villages built in Denver, working with the city regarding zoning and building codes.
3. DURANGO TENT CITY (being considered):
Durango is considering setting aside a location for people experiencing homelessness to camp in safety, although no plans are set in place. The potential camping area would have regulated grounds.
“The goal is to have a spot where people can come into the community and camp, not necessarily in the forests around town,” La Plata County Commissioner Brad Blake said. “Our hope is, in working with the city, that the city would provide a place for them to come out of the forest.”
The La Plata county sheriff oversees the current, self-policed camp on the outskirts of town outside the business park in a “sage and juniper kind of landscape,” according to Kevin Hall, assistant city director for Durango. While the camp residents are not in danger of being evicted from this site, the location comes with other dangers, such as increased risk of fire.
At the end of June, the city of Durango held a meeting to discuss the idea of a permanent campsite, but every suggested location was shot down. Bodo Park, located three and a half miles from the heart of the city, was seen as too distant, and the dog park was considered too visible.
Hall claimed a neutral stance on the idea of the camp, saying, “My role is more to evaluate the pros and cons of doing something like this.”
No site or service provider is currently identified, and the idea is still in a research phase. The city council will meet again this month for another study session. At that point, it could begin to discuss funding and management, and there is potential for a decision to be made in late summer.
“It’s a political decision on if they want to do this,” Hall said.
4. SKICO TINY HOMES IN ASPEN (open/ in progress):
While the new tiny homes at the Aspen Basalt Campground are not officially affordable housing and are not meant to be an intentional community in the same way as the Beloved and St. Andrew’s villages, the new community near Aspen provides less expensive housing for ski resort employees.
Six tiny mobile homes, 500-square-foot “trailer coaches,” built for the Aspen Ski Resort by Sprout Tiny Homes for $100,000 each, were installed at the turn of the year to help alleviate a shortage of 600 beds, according to the Aspen Times. Thirty-four more, slightly larger tiny mobile homes are being added in time for the coming ski season—space for 102 people, or three per house.
The two-person houses are available at $600 per person, and the new three-person ones cost each renter $425 to $500. The new housing targets seasonal workers and will be available to others during the off season.
This change will displace long-term campers, according to the Aspen Times, but Aspen Skiing Co. paid the former campers up to $3,000 to move in order to make space for these workers’ homes. Campers have known this could be coming since 2015. The final cutoff is Labor Day to prepare for the incoming renters this November.
“I think they’re great, personally. They’re built in Colorado, which is good,” Philip Jeffreys, a project manager in the SkiCo planning group, said. “They’re also very energy efficient and green.”
5. DENVER MEADOWS RV PARK (closing):
Shawn Lustigman, owner of the 20-acre RV park on Potomac St. in Aurora, is closing the park down, claiming he wants to retire. The area is prime for development.
Last year, with the help of Thistle Communities and ROC USA, the 120 families living in Denver Meadows attempted to buy out the lot themselves for up to $18 million so they could keep their homes, but according to Colorado Public Radio, Lustigman was firm on closing the park down. Residents must move by July 1, 2018.
Denver Meadows declined to answer any questions.
This leaves the residents in a predicament. Moving mobile homes can cost thousands of dollars. Colorado does not have many vacancies at this point, and according to CPR, older homes built before 1976 may have even more difficulties finding a place because they are coded differently. If residents cannot resettle their homes, buy land, or find another affordable option, they may face homelessness.
THE VILLAGE COLLABORATIVE (thevillagecollaborative.net)
The Village Collaborative is a tiny home collective that describes itself on its website as “an effort to network, inform, and encourage collaboration amongst the various groups working towards a common vision of implementing the Village Model.”
Working across the United States, it promotes a self-governing model. Individuals interested in beginning a tiny home project to eliminate homelessness or provide affordable housing can comment on a map and network with others.
The Village Collaborative promotes three village models: the sanctuary camp, the transitional village, and the affordable village. The positioning of houses and facilities differs in each model to serve the purpose of each. For example, the affordable village model provides individual houses and a shared kitchen, fully-equipped restrooms, laundry facilities, gardens, and meeting space. Dumpsters, parking, and bus stop access are also prioritized. ■