Tiny Home Village Creates Giant NIMBY Problem

NIMBY stands for “Not In My Back Yard” relating to proposed projects opposed by home owners, property owners, and business owners.

Two of the biggest issues that generate public outcry are the location of methadone clinics and homeless shelters.

It was announced by the County and City that 6 sites out of 30 suggested have been identified to locate a village of tiny homes to provide transitional housing for the homeless.

The full story can be read here:

https://www.abqjournal.com/1204367/proposed-sites-for-tiny-homes-narrowed-to-six.html

The 6 locations identified as possible sites are:

8207 Central Avenue, NW
202 – 230 Louisiana, BLV, NE
7600 Southern Ave., NE
540 Paisano St., NE
12900 Central Ave., SE
12910 Central Avenue, SE

Five of the sites are south of Interstate 40 and east of Louisiana, Blvd.

One location is on the far west side on Central off of Unser boulevard.

Three of the locations are South of Central and Tramway as you travel west in proximity to established businesses and homes.

Two of the locations are on or just off of Louisiana and South of Central.

The initial list of 30 locations were suggested by neighborhood associations, individuals and city and county officials.

The project is a collaboration between Bernalillo County Government and the City of Albuquerque.

WHEN THEY SAY TINY, THEY MEAN TINY

The tiny home village will be on one acre.

The village will have 25 to 35 homes in a gated community design.

The cost will be $17,000 to $20,000 for each tiny home.

The money to build them, along with the infrastructure, will come from a $2 million general bond county voters approved in November 2016.

Each tiny home will be a mere 116 square feet, constructed on a chassis to save money and make it portable.

The homes will be insulated, have heating and cooling, contain a bed, a desk, a chair and storage space.

Each tiny home will be wired for electricity but the structures will not have plumbing and no running water.

Restrooms, showers, laundry and a kitchen will be in communal buildings that will be built on the site.

Residents will be tenants, not owners, who will be selected through a referral system used by city and county agencies that provide homeless services.

Tenants will pay a nominal rent of about $50 a month which will be applied to the yearly operational costs estimated to be $150,000 to $200,000 a year.

Residency will be open only to adults, individual or couple and children will not be allowed to live there.

One goal will be for village residents to be provided with life and skills training and support for employment.

While there is no time limit for how long residents will be allowed live in the village, it was reported that it was expected that tenants will stay for about two years before moving into permanent affordable housing when available.

SELF GOVERNANCE FOR A GOVERNMENT OWNED FACILITY

As proposed, the village will be self-governed by the residents and actively managed with oversight from Bernalillo County.

Albuquerque City Councilor Diane Gibson who is a strong proponent of the village, self-governance will foster unity and pride of the tenants saying:

“[Self-governance] feeds a sense of protection and well-being of the village itself … [and] encourages a relationship with surrounding business owners, neighborhood associations and homeowners. … The village will require residents to agree to follow rules and regularly engage in village meetings … Their obligations will include maintenance and security and ensuring the village is a good neighbor and an asset to the community.”

According to Gibson, the tiny home village will result in “an actual savings to taxpayers by significantly decreasing the number of calls for service to police, fire, rescue, ambulance, emergency room visits, as well as reducing the overall costs for health care for this population. …”

County Commissioner Debra O’Malley who is a strong proponent of the project says that one reason that there are so many homeless is “wages have not kept up with the cost of housing. … [and] if you’re next to transportation and if you’re paying $50 a month for housing you can get a part time job and still make a living instead of just surviving”

According to Commissioner O’Malley, by giving the homeless a safe place to live and an address, it makes it easier for case workers and service providers to more easily locate them.

According to news accounts, tiny home villages have been operated successfully in other states around the country and have a good track record for being cost-effective

COMMENTARY

For lack of a better description, measuring at 116 square feet, the tiny homes are akin to large, single room “tuff shed” storage units with electricity.

The major reason or advantage for “portable” units built on a chassis is that building and construction codes for fixed residential homes do not apply.

The tiny home units can be constructed off site and easily moved or relocated at any time.

There were 30+ sector development plans that provided protections to neighborhoods but have been pretty much gutted with the enactment of the new city compressive zoning code that makes development such as the tiny homes village a lot easier.

The fact that this is city council backed initiative also means that any special use zoning if required will be very easy to secure. (Holding office has its privileges).

What is surprising is that it is expected that tenants will stay for about 2 years before moving into permanent affordable housing when available.

Two years is a very long time to expect someone to live in a 116 square foot room, especially if it’s a couple living there which will be allowed.

A six-month period at the most is what should be allowed as a motivating factor for a transition into more permanent living accommodations.

A troubling aspect of the “tiny home” project is the “self-governance” proposal of a government owned facility.

“Self-governance” usually applies to homeowners’ associations for developments where people live and actually own and have title to the structure or properties.

Homeowner associations usually have authority over an entire development and deal with covenant’s that limit property usage to an extent and mandating care, maintenance and even security measures at times.

Tenants who pay rent to reside on residential properties are not owners and it is the property owner with title that has the authority to dictate terms and conditions of residency.

“Self-governance” normally does not exist in large rental residential complexes like apartment complexes with security provided by the property owner, not the tenants.

Paying rent, no matter how much, creates a binding “landlord-tenant” relationship under New Mexico law.

New Mexico has enacted the Owner-Resident Relations Act (47-8-1 through 47-8-52).

The Owner-Resident relations act governs the rental of dwelling units and the rights and obligations of owner and renter.

Under the state law, the obligations of an owner include:

“(1) Substantially comply with requirements of the applicable minimum housing codes materially affecting health and safety;
(2) Make repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a safe condition as provided by applicable law and rules and regulations …
(3) Keep common areas of the premises in a safe condition;
(4) Maintain in good and safe working order and condition electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and other facilities and appliances, … , if any, supplied or required to be supplied … .”

According to news reports, the tiny homes will have “self-governance” authority which will include maintenance and security and ensuring the village is a good neighbor and an asset to the community.

A “Self-Governance” provision will in all likely increase the city’s liability to individual tenants and surrounding property owners for any negligence relating to the failure to maintain the property and provide adequate security, an obligation required under New Mexico law of owners, not renters.

Councilor Diane Gibson’s comments that the tenants “obligations will include maintenance and security and ensuring the village is a good neighbor and an asset to the community” reflects a sad ignorance on her part of the very population that will be occupying the tiny homes.

Gibson no doubt expects or wants residents to provide some degree of armed security or patrols during the day or night to protect a very vulnerable population.

The biggest challenge is that the tenants themselves may not be able to govern and provide maintenance and security for each other if they are suffering themselves from drug addiction or mental illness which is very common among the homeless population.

Gibson presumably believes the homeless will be up to the challenge after living on the streets, perhaps drug addicted or suffering from mental illness, to assume maintenance and security responsibilities and ensuring the village is a good neighbor.

Gibson’s assertion that the village will result in an “actual savings to taxpayers by significantly decreasing the number of calls for service to police, fire, rescue, ambulance, emergency room visits” is pathetic and laughable given the nature of the community population you are dealing with.

The tiny home village is akin to a multi dwelling unit area such as an apartment complex, and apartment complexes are notorious for having hundreds of calls for service to police and fire.

The fact that restrooms, showers, laundry and a kitchen will be in communal buildings suggests that safeguards must be taken to prevent crime, especially violent crime and illicit drugs.

Recently, the city attempted to shut down the Sierra Motel alleging it was nuisance when it needed repairs and had hundreds if not thousands of call for service to police and fire.

It is likely the only difference with the tiny homes village is that the calls for service will be concentrated to one area, the village itself.

Another consequence from the tiny home development will be reduced property values to nearby residential homes and businesses.

Locating the tiny home village in an area visible from the freeway after coming or going through Tijeras Canyon does not appear to be a very bright idea nor the type of image the city needs to portray to the visiting tourist.

A financial “impact study”, environmental impact study and traffic study should be a minimum requirement to determine how property values and the surrounding area will be affected with the construction of the tiny homes project.

I have no doubt this is one project that will get considerable public attention.

Make no mistake, the tiny homes project is noble with intent.

It is a project that should be seriously considered as a viable solution to the city’s homeless situation and helping the approximately 1,500 homeless in the Albuquerque area.

However, any location and the chances of success at that location must be looked upon with great skepticism and strongly justified.

The fact that the 6 locations were among 30 locations suggested by neighborhood associations, individuals and city and county officials is very encouraging.

Notwithstanding, the effects on what the village will have on where it is located must be examined with a critical eye.

This is one project that will get considerable public attention.

The public hearings should not be rushed, more public hearings than 3 need to be done, and it is a project that should not be rammed down people’s throats like the ART Bus project.

The tiny homes project has the potential of ending the political careers of a city councilor or a county commissioner.

But then again, all the City Councilor’s, especially Diane Gibson, supported the ART Bus project and were reelected last October, 2017.

For more see July 7, 2018 blog article “Out of Sight, Out of Mind Solution To Homelessness Proposed”:

http://www.petedinelli.com/2018/07/27/out-of-sight-out-of-mind-solution-to-homelessness-proposed/

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POST SCRIPT: PUBLIC HEARINGS TO BE HELD

Property owners within 1,000 feet of the various sites have been sent letters inviting them to attend and a series of public meetings.

The scheduled hearing are open to the public are as follows:

• August 9 @ 6 p.m., Manzano Mesa Multgenerational Center, 501 Elizabeth SE

• August 16 @ 6 p.m., African American Performing Arts Center, 310 San Pedro NE (on the grounds of Expo New Mexico)

• August 18 @ 10 a.m., Patrick J. Baca Library, 8081 Central NW.

A website, www.tinyhomes4bc.com, will be launched August 8 to provide updated information and allow people to offer comments on each of the 6 proposed sites.

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About

Pete Dinelli was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is of Italian and Hispanic descent. He is a 1970 graduate of Del Norte High School, a 1974 graduate of Eastern New Mexico University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and a 1977 graduate of St. Mary's School of Law, San Antonio, Texas. Pete has a 40 year history of community involvement and service as an elected and appointed official and as a practicing attorney in Albuquerque. Pete and his wife Betty Case Dinelli have been married since 1984 and they have two adult sons, Mark, who is an attorney and George, who is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). Pete has been a licensed New Mexico attorney since 1978. Pete has over 27 years of municipal and state government service. Pete’s service to Albuquerque has been extensive. He has been an elected Albuquerque City Councilor, serving as Vice President. He has served as a Worker’s Compensation Judge with Statewide jurisdiction. Pete has been a prosecutor for 15 years and has served as a Bernalillo County Chief Deputy District Attorney, as an Assistant Attorney General and Assistant District Attorney and as a Deputy City Attorney. For eight years, Pete was employed with the City of Albuquerque both as a Deputy City Attorney and Chief Public Safety Officer overseeing the city departments of police, fire, 911 emergency call center and the emergency operations center. While with the City of Albuquerque Legal Department, Pete served as Director of the Safe City Strike Force and Interim Director of the 911 Emergency Operations Center. Pete’s community involvement includes being a past President of the Albuquerque Kiwanis Club, past President of the Our Lady of Fatima School Board, and Board of Directors of the Albuquerque Museum Foundation.