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Bellingham purchases $1.2M in land for future tiny home village for homeless

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(The Center Square) – The City of Bellingham approved the purchase of property in the Birchwood neighborhood that will serve as a site for a future tiny home village for homeless people.

The city purchased the property for $1.2 million with funds stemming from a combination of local housing funds. The property is intended to be used as the new location for a tiny home village to replace two existing villages, as current Bellingham city code does not allow tiny home villages to be located in one place permanently.

The city code currently only allows permitted tiny home villages to operate in the same location for two years, followed by up to three one-year extensions. The future village will be subject to this code as well.

Bellingham’s two current tiny home villages, Swift Haven and Unity Village, are facing deadlines in December 2024 and March 2025.

According to the city, construction of the tiny home village and initial set up is estimated to cost $900,000. Costs include the installation of utilities and amenities such as electrical, plumbing, kitchens, laundry and storage, plus replacement of houses and common areas that can’t be reused from previous villages.

City officials stated on a webpage that they are hopeful that the future village can accommodate between 40 and 50 tiny homes and as many residents.

The Bellingham-based nonprofit organization, HomesNOW!, will operate the new shelter when it is expected to be ready for tenants in the upcoming fall.

“Over the past several years, homelessness has continued to increase, and having more sheltering options for people experiencing homelessness is crucial at this time to alleviate the housing emergency,” HomesNOW! Chairman Doug Gustafson said in a statement.

Notably, the future tiny home village will be a half mile away from Shuksan Middle School. Bellingham Public Schools Assistant Director of Communications Dana Smith told The Center Square that the district is “not fearful of those who are experiencing homelessness” and added that the school district has over 500 students who are homeless.

“We support our community’s efforts to address this difficult societal challenge, and we work together with partners like the City of Bellingham as they work to serve our neighbors experiencing homelessness,” Smith said in an email to The Center Square. “Many people experiencing homelessness are seeking to fulfill basic needs like places to sleep, bathrooms and electricity, so we believe having access to planned-out, city-approved camps and resources in our community is positive.”

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