Anyone can agree that the Island needs more affordable housing.
Too many people live on the streets. For some, getting safe, long-term shelter is an insurmountable obstacle.
But caring people are trying to help fix the systemic and individual problems that leave too many unhoused.
Tiny Villages are one of them.
The idea of having groups of mini homes is to provide community and consistent help for people to slowly transition towards independent living arrangements.
Tiny Villages are catching on in more areas. But even once built, some are getting blocked.
A 30-unit tiny-home community in Victoria will close soon. Currently located on a portion of the Royal Athletic Park parking lot, the Victoria city council is ending its permit in September.
Francis Mayers, who has lived at the housing site for the past two years, has nothing but good things to say about the village.
“(It) downright saved my life,” he told CTV News. “Even the thought of removing something as fine as this is a disturbing thought to me.”
Council has said they’ve extended their license for the last time. The permit will expire at the end of the summer, then everyone will be forced to move out, and the units will be taken down.
Citizens and local businesses raised more than $500,000 to fund the capital expenses for Tiny Town.
Mayers said it feels wasteful not to continue the project
The primary reason for the push to shut down the Victoria Tiny Town is that some neighbours have complained it’s a “disturbance.”
Citing complaints about noise, trespassing, vandalism and threats, Coun. Stephen Hammond said, “These are real dangers to people that are going on…We can’t dismiss this.”
A business located just a block away from Tiny Town disagreed. Christian Stewart, Manager of the HarbourCats, told CHEK news that while there are some problems in the neighbourhood, it’s usually from those visiting people in the tiny home village, not from residents themselves.
“The initial fear was that it was going to cause mayhem and lots of things happening from a safety and security point of view, but largely it became a non-issue for us,” Stewart said.
As Victoria Coun. Dave Thompson said, “Our job in this motion is to not just consider the problems, which have much bigger solutions than the date that Tiny Town closes down, but whether our actions on this motion are going to make the problems better or worse.”
While the Victoria housing project is shutting down, another is poised to open in Port Alberni.
The Walyaqil Tiny Home Village is just coming to fruition up Island. It will function similarly to Victoria’s Tiny Town – but with a few key differences.
First, it’s not a “temporary” project meant to help thirty people short term.
Second, according to the province, services at the village will include three meals a day, life-skills training, health and wellness support, and culturally appropriate services for Indigenous residents.
The goal is to create a thriving community supporting residents’ growth and movement to become independent. And still be there to help people once they’ve moved on.
Complaining neighbours will always haunt any housing project focused on housing people in transition. Our political leaders must find creative ways to balance neighbours’ concerns with the need for accessible housing.
Port Alberni’s leaders are succeeding, whereas Victoria’s have failed.