1,000 new tiny homes could soon be built in Seattle – at possible $10M cost

By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 News digital producer

Updated:

With Jenny Durkan elected as Seattle mayor, she’s expected to start fulfilling her campaign promises: one aspiring to build 1,000 more tiny homes for the homeless at an estimated $10 million cost.

>> Read how KIRO 7 News crunched numbers to call the mayor’s race here

The concept is not new, but here’s where Seattle is now and how Durkan wants to evolve it.

A look at the tiny-home villages currently in Seattle

Hundreds of community members – from colleges to the Tulalip Tribe – have built tiny homes for years to scatter throughout sanctioned tent cities.

Seattle made national headlines when it opened that village in January 2016, opening 14 spaces to homeless residents. Donors funded the 8-by-12-foot spaces – costing about $2,200.

Each adult living in the Central District village pays $90 per month to cover the utilities.

Scroll down to keep reading. 


Related headlines to homelessness 


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With the goal of moving people from tents to secure housing, Sharon Lee executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute – the organization that oversees the village – calls it a good crisis response. Tiny houses can help hundreds of people with short-term housing as they find jobs and feel safe in their space,

"We must stop the public health crisis of deaths, illness and misery caused by the lack of sufficient shelter," Lee told KIRO 7.

So in under two years’ time, LIHI opened three more villages, housing between 40 to 60 people per site. 

Some tiny home villages – like the one in the Central District – include plumbed toilets, rather than portable ones, and the spaces are insulated.


Three tiny house villages and three sites (which includes tiny homes and tents) operate in Seattle under LIHI. The below interactive is based on a public list of locations published on The Low Income Housing Institute website. Scroll down under interactive to keep reading this article. 


The City of Seattle does not cover the cost of building tiny homes, but it does pay for some operation and staffing. Funding and the creation of the spaces came largely from LIHI, private donors and volunteers.

As LIHI is responsible for the villages, they are managed by Nickelsville, a self-managed community of homeless people. Workers monitor for criminal activity and clean up debris in the village.

Nickelsville was the longtime operator of many – now-moved – camps around Seattle, including one on Dearborn Street, which also consisted of a tiny-house community along with tents.

Lee told KIRO 7 News that she's eager to collaborate with Durkan's team on rapidly building 1,000 more tiny homes. 

What Durkan envisions for more tiny homes

Durkan promised in one her mayoral debates that voters could hold her accountable for building 1,000 more tiny homes. She wants to create them within her first year in office, which starts after election results are confirmed later in the month.

In her “Affordable Seattle Agenda” during her campaign, Durkan outlined a plan expanding micro-housing similar to tiny homes.

While crediting organizations like LIHI for its villages, Durkan acknowledged that the city has not embraced these tiny homes as an alternative to unsanctioned camps.

“Micro-housing is not a long-term solution,” Durkan wrote. “But experience has shown that this sort of approach will provide safer, healthier alternatives to unauthorized tent encampments, and they are most effective if developed through a process of meaningful community engagement.”

Durkan wants to create an advisory committee – with churches, mosques, synagogues, labor and neighborhood groups – to guide a tiny house strategy and implementation.

According to her city budget plan, also laid out during the campaign, Durkan outlined a potential $10 million for the construction of 1,000 micro-homes, an estimated $10,000 each. The budget also outlines $1 million for maintenance.

See Durkan talk about housing affordability in the video below; scroll down to keep reading. 

She writes in her plan that she would use a “combination of volunteer power and contracts with companies” to produce the houses. 

Durkan doesn’t want to bring new taxes to the city, with the exception of possibly creating one for funding mental health treatment and services; rather, Durkan says she’s committed to scrubbing the budget for her proposals.

KIRO 7 News reached out to Durkan's team about why volunteers were able to build the homes in the $2000 range, while the campaign proposed $10,000 a home. We also asked about possible locations. The team did not give answers to those questions as of Wednesday afternoon. 

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