A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Group wants Hazelwood Park for tiny houses

Written February 10th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The entrance to Hazelwood Park in June 2017.

Creating Housing Coalition has been looking for land to build a village of tiny houses in Albany, and they think they have found just the spot: Hazelwood Park.

Rich Catlin, the nonprofit’s land search chair, wrote to the city council asking to enter into negotiations with the city to acquire the 3-acre park at 1999 Queen Ave. S.W. That’s just before Queen turns into Oakville Road.

Only the council would have known about the letter, but at the conclusion of Wednesday’s virtual online meeting, new Councilor Stacey Bartholomew asked that letters submitted from the public, including Catlin’s, be read aloud. (The other letters were about other issues.)

Bartholomew is the president of Creating Housing Coalition. The group hopes to build a community of about 25 little houses, from 250 to 400 square feet, and rent them to people who otherwise might be homeless. The place would be called Hub City Village and would feature various support systems for its residents.

Until this year Catlin, a former city land use planner, was chairman of the CARA urban renewal advisory board. But this has no connection to CARA, as Hazewood Park is outside the urban renewal district.

According to its master plans, one adopted in 2006 and the update adopted last month, the parks department wants to get rid Hazelwood Park, which has no facilities to speak of. Years ago it had picnic tables, but I didn’t see any when I checked the place out on a bike ride in 2017 and wrote about it here.

The council didn’t act after Catlin’s letter was read. There was only one comment, from one of the three men on the council, something to the effect of this being a worthwhile project. (In these virtual meetings, sometimes you can’t tell which frame bunched together on your screen has made an impromptu remark.)

According to Catlin’s letter, turning Hazelwood Park into Hub City Village would require a zone change from single-family to multiple-family. That’s the zone that allows apartments.

You can be sure the Hub City Village group will follow up. So in one form or another, this request will be before the council again. (hh)

The oak grove on the right is part of Hazelwood Park. In the background, a BPA substation.

Posted in: Commentary, News

32 responses to “Group wants Hazelwood Park for tiny houses”

  1. Traci Hunter says:

    You should request a conditional use permit rather than a zone change…. It’s easier to obtain. Look up the local Albany city land development codes or linn county codes if its county area there. It’ll tell you what the definition and conditions are for that permit.

  2. Sidney Cooper says:

    I have been taking dogs there for twenty years. The referenced picnic tables were removed to discourage late night forms of entertainment, such as emptying alcohol containers and smashing them thereabouts. It’s been a haven for dog owners, drug abusers and the occasional tired old caravan using it as a temporary refuge, I was told years ago that it was kept unimproved because it was next to the electrical substation – not sure about that. Lots of oaks and at least one bald faced hornets nest every year, territorial critters who live to target bald heads bending over to pick up frisbees. Wear a hat in late summer if you visit there!

    • GregB says:

      Ah yes, Sidney. You mentioned Bald Faced Hornets nests in the oak trees at the park. A number of years ago, I was working on a power pole behind the substation next door to the park. One of those hornets came out of a crack in the pole and got me on the end of the nose. It put me into anaphylactic shock and I had a fast trip over to the hospital. After all these years, I now know where the little devil nested.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Is the basic objective to reduce homelessness, or increase the supply of affordable housing? It seems the challenges will be different for a transitional community versus a permanent community.

    Will this development target single individuals and couples, or families? Again, the challenges will be different.

    Will the village be self-governed? Or will the village have rules which are enforced by a full-time manager who lives on site?

    What metrics of success will be tracked and publicized? Reduction of the homeless count in Albany? Reduction in Albany’s poverty rate? Reduction in drug use and crime? Increased employment?

    How will community support be measured in terms of acceptance?

    How much capital funding is anticipated (both public and private)? How much operations funding is anticipated (both public and private)?

    Are “tiny house” villages a passing craze, soon to be replaced by a new craze several years down the road? Or, is this model of housing for the homeless sustainable over time?

    Hopefully, the city council will have more questions that will be adequately answered before making a decision on Hazelwood Park.

    We can safely assume that the siting decision will only be the first of many this council will be asked to make on behalf of Albany taxpayers and residents.

    • Tai Stith says:

      These are all excellent points that I hope will be addressed. The group making the proposal really needs to “read the room” in terms of what the neighborhood has already been through the past decade. A flop house at the end of 17th made for nightmare conditions for many years, and residents of this area are fed up with police activity.

    • Caleb .lived here for 40yrs says:

      If it means cut down thoes trees .To put in housing for people with troubled life styles. Not a good Idea. That’s right next to the calapooia stream. Where there have been numerous homeless camps in the past in that area.
      I think it will just cost more money for the tax payers.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      If your questions are real and not just rhetorical, you can find answers to many of them here (scroll halfway down to the FAQ):

      Irrelevant side note: I wish their website was a little better organized and faster loading (slow in part due to very large “scaled down” images), and maybe a little less “creative.” The same problems as 90% of the internet. Excuse me as an old crank.

  4. Margaret says:

    Interesting idea, but what about access to services needed to really live, such as a grocery store? The nearest place for supplies other than beer, cigarettes and candy bars is miles away. I guess there’s biscuits and gravy at Dairy Mart…The 25 folks (who would otherwise be homeless) in the 25 tiny homes will need 25 cars, or they’ll need to walk, bundled against the cold and rain, as they’ve always done. Guess they’ll at least have a tiny house.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Please, 25 bicycles with baskets. Forget the cars.

      I often wished I could live in a place like that if no cars on-site. Willing to pay more than full cost (depending on the location).

    • sonamata says:

      I’m not sure why being housed creates a need for a car. How are they accessing those services now? We have a transit system and Call-A-Ride, which the project could coordinate with to ensure people have some options.

  5. Albany YIMBY says:

    I don’t think this is the way. There is plenty of empty, unused land in Albany to build apartments without having the dedicate a public part to do it.

  6. Chris Hanson says:

    The city should not trade open space and parks for this fad. Open space and parks help make Albany a nice place to live and they attract other high wage, tax paying, families to locate here. “tiny homes” are a poor use of space for a transition housing program. A better solution would be to acquire one of the run down hotels and convert it for this use. Tiny homes, as compared to 3 story apartments or a converted hotel, use a lot of land per person housed. I also think that tiny homes should be classified as either mobile homes or RV’s and they should have to comply with the appropriate zoning.

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      Well said, Chris. I have toured Eugene and Portland’s homeless villages. There is more room and amenities in an RV, than these tiny homes. Eugene’s Square One Village did not reduce their homeless population, they are building more and more camps.

    • Bill Higby says:

      And they are not inexpensive. Would each one require a sewer hook up and water meter?

      • HowlingCicada says:

        Sewer hook up? Presumably yes, they each have a bathroom.
        Water meter? I don’t see why that’s necessary. My apartment complex with hundreds of units doesn’t have separate water meters (at least in my part which is old; regulations might have changed).

        Lots more questions and answers including cost — see my link above under Gordon’s comment.

  7. Bobby Roberts says:

    Does anyone actually believe this action will improve our city’s homeless issue?
    Ultimately, the more the city does to provide support for homeless people, the more the homeless population will grow.
    Gordon’s list of questions are all valid, and most are likely to go unanswered.

  8. James Engel says:

    I wonder how many of those life sustaining oaks will have to be cut to make room? There will be a need for sewer, water, garbage service, a parking area, etc, etc. Doesn’t seem like an inexpensive proposition to me. It might help with transportation if the bus service came out that far?

  9. Brad says:

    This idea seems way less efficient than the existing homeless shelter. What’s wrong with buildings and halfway houses? They sleep more people. Didn’t they try this in the 90’s with trailers and it just caused more homeless people to flock to Albany? And why don’t they just put a bunch of trailers in a parking lot somewhere instead of building tiny homes? Their money would go further that way. Do homeless people really care about having a cute trendy tiny home as a temporary solution, or are they more concerned about just having any kind of shelter? Why not make an official tent community so they don’t have to trash the woods all over town?

  10. Amy Siddon says:

    By reading the Creating Housing Coalition website (creatinghousing.org), I discovered their goal is to offer these homes as a permanent housing, not transitional. This would offer residents the opportunities that home ownership affords in stability, security. and a community. Community is another important goal for this group. We have a homeless crises in our country, especially in the west. This group is trying to address this crises in a productive and responsible way. I look forward to hearing more about their plans.

  11. Rick Staggenborg says:

    Thanks Amy for pointing out that they have a website. It answers a lot of other questions as well.

    I hope that those who took the time to offer feedback will contact the Coalition to make sure they know about your ideas and concerns if they are not addressed here.

    I’m rather surprised that our former mayor didn’t understand the point of the project despite having visited similar villages. Reducing homelessness will indeed take more than tiny homes, but it is part of a continuum of options and the best one available for those who have lost housing through no fault of their own and can’t afford to have a home in any other way. The idea is that they will be self-governed communities whose residents will pay rent until they are paid for.

    If the goal is to give people the opportunity to get permanent housing that they pay for themselves in the end, I don’t know of a better option at minimal cost to taxpayers. Isn’t that a goal we all share?

    • Brad says:

      Okay, why not a homeless apartment building then? Maximize that space. Some of us non-homeless people live in apartments and are happy enough with it. I bet the homeless could make an apartment work too. And if its permanent, why not build a giant tiny home community for anyone to move into? Maybe people wouldn’t become homeless in the first place if they had these incredibly cheap homes they’re going to build.

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      Rick, I agree with Brad below your comment. Yes I have visited the Portland and Eugene villages. The same goal can be achieved in more sustainable, higher standard of housing with an apartment complex. Also, if the federal HUD voucher program was modified then many folks homeless today would qualify for housing. That needs to be an effort here.
      With fair housing laws you can not deny a tenant with children to live in this village. I would prefer a child being dropped off from a school bus to be at an apartment complex with a playground then a homeless village. I have been involved with Albany’s low income housing provider for over 20 years, so I have some hands on experience with rental housing. I strive to have tenants enjoy and hold some pride in their housing and mostly the kids we serve.

  12. Larry Eby says:

    I am on the board of the Creating Housing Coalition. I can’t speak for all the rest of the people on the board but as for myself I don’t see that we are trying to solve the problem of homelessness in Albany as much as simply providing affordable housing to the lower income people of our community. Some people may like living in big apartment houses and hotels. But there are many including probably some of you who have been writing about this who live in large houses with big yards. In this case we would have many people living in the space that you and I take up but with the advantage of having their own space. The community will be a true community with rules and the services that make living enjoyable. I have been involved in the issues of poverty and homelessness in Albany since the first homeless summit and this is one of the innovative approaches to help make life enjoyable for people who otherwise are relegated to the homeless shelters or the streets. I invite you to join us in this endeavor.

  13. Bertrand Guptill says:

    The term is UNHOUSED, not Homeless. The stereotyped, stigma of homeless, druggy street people, does not apply to the Creating Housing Coalition’s “Hub City Village” project. “What does a single human being do if they lose their job and cannot afford housing?” Parents of minor children have some help available, but singles, do not!

    A conversation at the First Christian Church led to the formation of the nonsectarian Creative Housing Coalition. ( CHC) Habitat for Humanity provided meeting space and valuable counsel. We researched all the tiny homes alternatives and came up with the “Hub City Village” project. Property acquisition is our next step, We have substantial funds thanks to enlightened donors. We of course will need more donations. The Hazel Wood Park location is virtually perfect given its size and close in location and the fact that the City has no desire to keep it. It is bordered by a gravel pit, roads, a small parking lot and 6 or 7 tidy, relativity small, well maintained private homes.

    Please see the following loose description of Hub City Village. About 30-35 tiny homes.
    Upon entering the gate there will be a common use building for residents to use. It will
    serve as a sheltered meeting room with a full kitchen for the preparation of larger meals, as each tiny home will have its own small stove sink, refrigerator and bathroom. There will be a Village laundry area and each tiny home will have an assigned small storage unit. All people have a need for personal “stuff”. Perhaps the tiny homes will be built in pods of 5. There may be different styles and designs and landscaping by residents, who will have THE PRIDE of OWNERSHIP! We are not reinventing the wheel. Been done before! There is a great southern exposure area for gardening!.

    Concerns Addressed
    Screening Process: (Extensive) Applicants are initially screened and referred by various social services agencies based upon our guidelines and there will be a closely MONITORED resident council for handling day-to-day events.

    Pride of Ownership: A percentage of the monthly payment will be set aside to fund a resident’s departure, ideally the 1st, last and security deposit in a larger residence after the person(s) back on their feet. The monthly cost will be on some kind of sliding scale. We are Creating Homes for the Un-Housed. Homes for good people who have had some tough luck. In a pod of 6 homes, we might find a 55 year old widow whose husband died and she cannot get SS widow benefits until age 60. She makes some money cleaning homes. The next unit might house a parentless LBCC student age 21 who works part time and goes to school. Next home might have a 35 year old single male with special needs, whose group home folded and would benefit from the community environment. The next might be a 60 year old couple who work some but have medical needs that takes most of their money and the last unit is for YOU if you should fall on hard times.
    Metrics of Success?
    There is no way that this project will lower the total number of un-housed or the total number of street people in Albany! It will decrease the number of newly un-housed or about to be un-housed as more and more human beings are becoming un-housed every day in this great country. Much land would be available if citizens cared more.

    This “Hub City Village” will be a shining example of what a community, a community called Albany, can do to make a difference for their unfortunate, un-housed neighbors.
    Your moral support is most needed at this time.

    The above views, quickly written are mine alone, although many others probably feel the same way…perhaps you? I apologize for any errors. We are all becoming……

    Bert Guptill, North Albany Resident and Creating Housing Coalition Member

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      How is CHC different from the Albany Partnership for Housing & Community Development (APHCD) and Linn-Benton Housing Authority (LBHA)?

      Will CHC be asking the Albany City Council for city taxpayer support?

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      Hello Bert, I know the new name for people experiencing homelessness is houseless. As it has changed many times over my lifetime in Albany. In my opinion, I want everyone to have a place they can call ‘home’ and not just a ‘house’. I will continue to say homeless.

  14. Becky says:

    The majority of homeless people are not homeless because we lack affordable housing. We have a huge meth problem in this country and until we get a handle on that, the homeless population will continue to grow. You can build all the housing you want, tiny or big, and it will not solve the problem. If we want to feel good about ourselves, we focus on projects like tiny houses in a park like setting. If we want to feel good about others and truly address the issue, then we focus on the addiction problem.

  15. James Engel says:

    Well then Becky, make a central point…say by the P.D. building, where an addict can sign up, be given a daily dose and go on their merry way. No black market, they get their fix and go “home” to their tiny house to crash. Wouldn’t have to go car prowling, burglarize our homes, shop lift , etc to supply their habit. I won’t make any apology…I’m not carrying their sorry, lazy derrière. Easy peezy.

  16. Larry Eby says:

    Sharon Konopa I would really like to see you join us in this project. We have been around this homeless issue for many years, you longer than I but for me going back to the first homeless summit. We may not all have the same vision of how we want Albany to look, but I don’t see how you could disagree that this is a positive step forward in terms of being one of the ways of providing houses and homes for people who can’t afford them in the conventional real estate situations here in Albany. Again you would be a big asset if you joined this.

    • Sharon Konopa says:

      Larry Eby, I love you dearly, but we are going to have to agree that we disagree. I look at this from both sides of the problem: one side- housing for people who can not afford a place to live or need to get back on the right path forward in life— to—the other side over property values, livability, neighborhoods, substandard housing, sustainable housing and the demands on city services and more.
      There also is the property management piece, which the supporters of this village do not have experience in the management of rental properties.
      We can all achieve the same goal of wanting housing for the homeless and making it affordable, by putting the efforts into acquiring an existing apartment complex or build a complex with more sustainable larger units of housing.
      Your group can provide the same supportive services in an apartment complex, so wouldn’t you feel better to have folks housed in a complex that is warmer and more space where the tenants can be proud to live in, and their children?
      If you would like to chat more over this topic, we can meet sometime soon.


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