A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Hub City Village: To house Albany ‘unhoused’

Written July 31st, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Stacey Bartholomew, Carol Davies and Dan Easdale talked about creating permanent housing for some of Albany’s homeless.

How about this: A community of small cottages, each with room for one or two people, clustered on maybe an acre or so, with rents low enough that some of Albany’s residents with very small incomes could live there without fear of being thrown out on the street?

An Albany group has a plan to make this happen, and on Wednesday, at the Little Wuesten Cafe downtown, I had a chance to talk to three of its leaders.

They are Stacey Bartholomew, a caregiver in private business who is president of the Creating Housing Coalition; coalition vice president Carol Davies, retired from business and now substituting as an educational assistant; and Dan Easdale, former manager of a homeless shelter elsewhere in Oregon and now in charge of outreach for the group.

The main point I took away from our chat is that theirs is not some half-baked dream of a bunch of starry-eyes do-gooders. No, they have a concrete, detailed plan that has worked elsewhere. They realize they can’t cure homelessness in Albany, but they intend to do something, something that will actually work for at least a few people whose main problem is that they haven’t been able to afford a place to live and face all kinds of issues as a result.

What they have in mind is not some collection of temporary shelters, not some tent city of the kind we have seen on the news elsewhere. Instead they aim to emulate Emerald Village in Eugene, whose evident success this video reports.

They’ve picked a name for the development: Hub City Village. It would have 20 to 25 small houses, of between 200 and 300 square feet each, big enough for one or two persons to live in as a permanent home.  Contractors would build the houses, but would-be residents would be expected to help in the construction. Residents would have to have some income, and the rents would range from $250 to $350 a month.

The place would be self-supporting without direct subdidies from taxpayers. Rents would have to be high enough to  cover maintenance and other items. Tenants would be charged a monthly amount that would become their savings account. To be selected, tenants would be vetted by a committee that includes a representative of the surrounding neighborhood.

The coalition — organized as a nonprofit corporation with about 15  members — is raising money.  They are looking at potential sites that are properly zoned. They hope to secure the land and complete other preliminaries, such as developing a site plan and getting it approved, in 2020. Then they expect construction of the little houses to start in 2021.

If you want more, such as updates on how the plans progress, the coalition’s website, creatinghousing.org, may help. (hh)

18 responses to “Hub City Village: To house Albany ‘unhoused’”

  1. Bob Stalick says:

    It sounds a lot like “Habitat for Humanity” with smaller houses. The model is currently working well in Albany and other locales.

    • Rod Porsche says:

      Yes, Bob, pretty similar to what we do here at Albany Habitat for Humanity, that’s why we are partners in this effort to bring more affordable housing to Albany. We will likely become more involved in the Tiny House Village once organizers start building as we have volunteers who might be interested in helping build a few of the tiny houses. The big difference between what we do at Albany Habitat and the proposed Tiny House village is that Habitat families are actual homeowners through their “Sweat Equity” and small monthly mortgage payments based on their ability to pay. Future residents of the Tiny House Village won’t actually own the tiny homes where they live, though they will own a share of the co-op based on the organizational structure that is being set up. We have toured what they have done at Emerald Village in Eugene and it is very impressive. –Rod Porsche, Executive Director, Albany Area Habitat for Humanity

  2. Jim Engel says:

    Noble & very “Christian”” idea. BUT…don’t site them in my neighborhood! The idea that people with “troubles” now could really live in 300 sq feet seems a bit far fetched. And just where is there room for all the junk that comes with those “house-less” people? And their dogs & cats?? Just around the corner from our place is a “toilet” of a standard house that is a big collection point for any number of peoples junk/recycling stuff!

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Jim, what it is more important for the community, the ability to house 20-25 people and making them productive members of society or that you wouldn’t have to bother with the sight of poor people?

      So sad you are not rich enough to live in a gated community so you don’t need to share spaces with anyone poorer than you (unless they are the maid and the gardener, of course)

  3. Carolee Gascoigne says:

    I do like this idea….it makes sense. BUT, will there be a provision in the rental agreement that they will be evicted for drug and excess alcohol use??? What if they let their friends move in with them? Will a background check be done?? I still like this idea, just have some questions.

    • Dan Easdale says:

      First of all, thank you Carolee for your interest in the project. I am part of the Creating Housing Coalition that spoke with Hasso Hering. We do appreciate the questions. We are excited the tiny home village is receiving attention. I am convinced it is one solution that will have profound impacts on those who are unhoused.
      To your questions, we will be working with Linn County Mental Health and the Adult Services Team (a multi-organizational group) on a referral process and vetting for the village. There will be a background check involved as certain individuals would not be appropriate. Part of the structure of the village will be rules that residents of the village assisted in designing and that all residents must agree to before entering the village. The residents will also be responsible for enforcing the community rules. This will include rules about no clutter, maintenance, etc. just like most housing requirements.
      One big difference is that we will be partnering to provide many additional supports, like addiction services. Not all residents will have an addiction. We plan to have a peer support person living on site. If behaviors or dangerous activity occurs it could result in eviction. Those concerns would first be raised within the village community through a process known as restorative justice to address violations or concerns. If the activity is illegal just as with any home or tenant there are laws for that behavior.
      Since the homes will be small, having additional people move in would be problematic and not allowed in most cases. We would welcome visitors but this will be highly controlled by the village community rules. It would be lovely if some residents could re-establish positive family and social ties. That will help build a stronger community.
      I hope this has be helpful. I welcome any questions you or any person might have about the project.

      • Carol Gascoigne says:

        Thank you for your answers to my questions. It seems as if you folks have a well, thought out plan. Nothing EVER goes as planned but you have prepared well. I look forward to seeing the project completed.

  4. CHEZZ says:

    Yes, we were ‘those people’ that went from living in a brand new home in a beautiful new neighborhood to a 700 sq foot hovel in a crime ridden area, where rent was affordable. No food banks existed, so we resourced through the local supermarket trash for fruits and vegetables. Why?? Because full time accountant Father had a massive stroke; Mother, an active cyclic bi-polar. We stuck together; at 19 I became the breadwinner. It took 9 years to get out of crime central, drive-bys, shots during the night, to be able to return to stable housing – purchased by us — ‘those people’. You could be ‘those people’ – it doesn’t take much to slip off the map. Signed, we three in North Albany on a half acre…….

    • Carolee Gascoigne says:

      FISH of Albany does a “food box” for those in need. Please check them out.

  5. CHEZZ says:

    Albany, please step up out of your comfort zones and step up and support this opportunity for our neighbors to have better lives. Yes, there will be guidelines for this community. It will probably be safer than some areas of our own city. Yes, they may use food banks; yes, they may wear thrift shop clothing. They will hold their heads high, grateful to be out of the elements, cooking and cleaning for their own welfare. Let us come together and reduce the stigma of those who have less than ‘us’. In this outreach, they will actually have much more – a better day.

  6. Gerald R Berndt says:

    300 sq.ft. housing is too temporary; hence the poor overall acceptance. Go back again to the example of Periwinkle Place-almost 30 years of clean viable housing.

    Homes that are larger-700+sq.ft-add more permanence & pride. Additionally, community as well as government sponsored housing through purchasing older manufactured communities with tax incentives to the former owners can be a viable answer.
    In the long run it can be an economical answer for low income housing particularly for our retirement families.

    It can work! Look at what Snohomish Housing Authority-Everett Washington-has done with older well managed over 55 adult communities.

  7. Dan Easdale says:

    Let me also take this opportunity to clear up my experience managing a homeless shelter since it is vague in the original piece. I was the shelter manager at St. Joseph Family Shelter in Mt. Angel. This was a transitional housing shelter for families with a capacity of 12 families. I resigned when the organization operating the facility (Catholic Community Services) closed the homeless shelter to operate a rehab and reunification program. This is a needed program too but not one where I felt my passion and experience were the best fit.
    Let me also say that I was born and raised in Albany. I graduated from South Albany High School. Much of my family still lives here and I care deeply for this community. I believe this project will have many positive results for Albany.

  8. HowlingCicada says:

    Keep barking dogs and anything audible from loudspeakers out and it might be livable. Keep out barbeques, outdoor smoking, and things others have mentioned here and it might be very livable. Of course, restrictions like these depend on clearly and willfully agreed commitments, not just the usual “you are responsible for everything and we are responsible for nothing” legalese. And credible enforcement.

    Keep cars out and I might want to move there.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Dogs need more than just being “interviewed.” They need to be tested on how they behave when left alone.

  9. CHEZZ says:

    Let’s see, barking dogs, yes. Loudspeakers , yes. Barbeques, yes. Outdoor smoking, yes. Cars not maintaining the posted speed, yes.These are my current neighbors. Huh?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      “These are my current neighbors.” Mine also, though certainly not as bad as yours. The “nice” neighborhoods in the northwest hills of Corvallis are plagued by some of the same problems (especially dogs). Maybe those factors become less tolerable as density increases.

      There’s an unmet need for smaller housing reserved exclusively for non-jerks, those who will obey strict rules under penalty of eviction. If this need can be met, it would show that big houses with big yards often accomplish little more than being a better defense against jerks (and the obvious status BS), at a price that can lead to insolvency and the need to downsize.
      And it’s not just for the poor. I’m not poor and I’d like to live there. Small doesn’t have to mean crappy, if it’s done right.

      Of course, jerks also need a place to live. That’s what industrial zones and next-to-the-freeway wastelands are for. That’s where the flunk-outs from the nicer place can move to.

      I don’t claim this can be done easily. But the goal of having dignified housing for everyone will go nowhere if we can’t get past the notion that big equals good, and that rich equals good.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      One more thing. I’ll bet that if non-jerk small housing can be made to work, you’ll see a big increase of interest in smaller housing among non-families (an ever-increasing part of the population) over a wide economic range, not just the unfortunate and those with “problems.” Catering to this interest would be a real silver bullet on many fronts.

  10. Jody Harmon says:

    Love that you are trying to solve problems in our community. Thank you for that Creating Housing folks. To those who think it would detract: the neighborhood where I live is very mixed, some rentals, an apartment complex towering over from another street, many single family homes, long time group home, although it recently closed, duplexes;. People behind me are loud, barking dogs, screaming kids, free roaming cats (which I get fixed), no place is perfect. I wouldn’t know what perfect means. Met an elderly lady living in her tiny pickup. She has a fifth wheel but can’t find a place to park it, so she can live in it, if anyone knows of somewhere. She lives on SS unable to pay high rents.


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