Unexpected costs have delayed construction of a tiny home village on Fourth Avenue in Port Alberni and threatened the number of homes operators will be able to build.
The project is supposed to provide operation of a low barrier transitional housing development. The intent is to move people from the illegal trailer park on the adjacent property into tiny homes, then close the trailer park. The city will force the property owner, using legal action, to remove the trailers.
The Port Alberni Friendship Center, which agreed to run the Walyaquil Tiny Home Village on city-owned land, wasn’t expecting to have to hire an architect and create a site plan. “The additional costs for the project that we weren’t expecting is upwards of $190,000, and that’s not including the pods,” said Cyndi Stevens, executive director for the Friendship Center.
“It’s a lot for us as a non-profit organization.”
The original plan was to put 30 tiny homes or pods on the land. “That will have to happen to make the project viable,” Stevens said. Their agreement with BC Housing for 24-hour support is based on 30 pods.
Right now they can only afford 15 pods; they hope to add another 15 later, then amend their temporary use permit to add six more if the need arises.
The housing is not meant to be permanent. “The goal will be that there will be supportive housing for them to transition into,” Stevens said. “The support needs to be where they’re at so they can access it when they’re ready.”
Zen Den from Surrey will build the pods and provide assistance when the pods are assembled in Port Alberni. “They’ve been amazing; they’ve been so flexible,” she said, especially with the recent changes. Because of changes to the site plan, the pods Stevens initially looked at are no longer suitable, and new pods have to be built. The original pods cost $13,500 each but the cost has risen by $4,000 per pod for an increase of $75,000.
The city has fenced the property and it has been serviced and leveled.
An electrician has been lined up to hook up the office trailer and pods as soon as the pods are available.
The Friendship Center has started a GoFundMe fundraiser (search Port Alberni Tiny Home Village) to try and make up the extra funds. “Anything we can manage to muster up some funding, we’re trying,” Stevens said.
The fund had only raised $610 of a $450,000 ask as of Thanksgiving Monday.
City council at their Sept. 26 meeting fast tracked a temporary use permit for the site. They also authorized a letter of intent between the city, Port Alberni Friendship Center and BC Housing and execution of a two-year lease agreement with the Friendship Center for operation of the centre.
Stevens said they hadn’t signed a lease with the city by the end of September. The lease is separate to the temporary use permit. The Friendship Center and other stakeholders started the project in January 2022.
“Originally we had hoped to start building back in September with an opening date of the end of October. Now we’re looking at assembling at the end of October.”
Now she is expecting a potential opening date somewhere between Nov. 15 and Dec. 1.
“We would really like this to happen before it gets really cold and even more challenging for our vulnerable population,” Stevens said.