The first tiny homes have been placed at Walyaqil Tiny Home Village in Port Alberni. They won’t see residents until early next year though, says project spokesperson Cyndi Stevens.
The first two houses were placed on Saturday, Dec. 10. “It was exciting,” Stevens said. “It was cold and snowy but when you’re excited you don’t care.” Finishing work on the first homes was completed last week; each home will have electricity and a heat source in winter, and possibly air conditioning in the summer, she said.
Surrey-based Zen Denz built the eight-foot-by-12-foot “pods” and brought them over almost completely assembled. Only the roofs needed to be attached, which Zen Denz staff completed. More tiny homes are due to arrive in the coming weeks, but Stevens said their funding arrangement with BC Housing means they won’t be able to staff the site and house people until they have a minimum of 20 units on site.
The provincial government, through BC Housing, is providing approximately $726,000 for the project, including $75,000 in start-up costs, and will also provide around $850,000 in annual operating funding.
“BC Housing won’t release our funding until we have 20 in place. That’s not going to be until the end of January, so mid-February is when we will hopefully start putting people in homes.”
Walyaqil will have a total of 30 tiny homes, an office for 24-hour support workers and two bathroom facilities with toilets and showers. The bathrooms have been plumbed but won’t be used until staff is in place to supervise. There will be bicycle parking and two outdoor gathering areas as well.
Costs skyrocketed earlier in the fall when Stevens and the rest of the team working on the village were told the units weren’t the right size, and they had to be rebuilt. Constructions costs rose and there were unexpected permitting issues that arose.
“We recognize the urgent need for safe and secure homes for vulnerable people in Port Alberni, especially for Indigenous people, who are heavily over-represented among British Columbians experiencing homelessness,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. She said the tiny home village will help move people from unsafe living conditions or off the street and into safe homes with support “so they can better begin to stabilize their lives.”
“We’re working to ensure people everywhere in the province have housing options no matter where they live,” said Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon. He said the tiny home village in Port Alberni is one example of how the B.C. government is “exploring new and creative ways” to bring vulnerable people indoors, in places where they can access supports.
The City of Port Alberni provided land for Walyaqil as well as ongoing municipal utility operating expenses as well as a $165,000 grant.
Stevens hopes that by the end of March all 30 units will be in place.
(EDITED: The name of the tiny home village was spelled incorrectly in previous versions of this story)
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