LIHI held a work party at Interbay Village on Saturday, March 30.
LIHI held a work party at Interbay Village on Saturday, March 30.

Editor's Note: More photos can be found here.

When Interbay Village opened on the Port of Seattle’s Tsubota property near the Magnolia Bridge in 2017, there were more residents than there were tiny houses, so a number of them moved into dormitory-style tents.

The Low Income Housing Institute began expanding the village on March 9, taking out its tents and putting 23 new tiny houses in their place.

“The goal of this expansion is to eliminate these dorms, so everybody in the village has their own tiny home,” said Luke Reynolds, LIHI’s essential needs coordinator for tiny house villages.

Two of the new tiny houses will be used for storage and a second case manager’s office.

Carlo Gnecchi’s tiny house was on the back of a truck part of Friday, and by Saturday he was putting up his belongings and planning a small garden on the shelves built into the exterior.

“This was my first pick, to be honest with you,” Gnecchi said of his tiny house.

That house was built by Dale Hoff, who is about to start his 20th tiny house. He started building them in December 2017, setting a goal of finishing one every month.

“Each one I try to do just a little different,” Hoff said, “to make them all unique.”

Hoff attends the University Temple United Methodist Church, where he cooks breakfast once a month for the youth shelter there. The retired builder said he was looking for other ways to help.

“It feels good to provide for someone like this with the skill set I have,” Hoff said.

The curtains in Gnecchi’s tiny house were made by a church member, Hoff said, as was the coat hanger where Gnecchi can hang his favorite hat.

More information about his Building Dreams program is available here.

Reynolds said LIHI strives for equity with the 100-square-foot tiny homes while still letting builders flex their creativity.

Gnecchi is an executive camper at Interbay Village, which is self-managed by the Tiny Cabins Safe Harbor residents (formerly Tent City 5). He said he’s looking for work, and wants to be a builder.

“I’m a 40-year-old greenhorn, but work is work,” he said.

Gnecchi said his dream is to walk by Interbay Village some day and be reminded of the part he played there, and to see he’d made it better for the new residents.

A large work party was held at Interbay Village over the weekend, where new tiny houses were put in place, dorm tents were torn down, new homes were painted and the site was generally spruced up.

“The aesthetics do count when the community’s looking at it,” Gnecchi said of the village.

Other new additions to the site include four restroom/shower units, as well as washers and dryers. Reynolds hopes to have this hygiene facility running by mid-April.

“These are huge resources,” Gnecchi said.

Residents currently have to go to an Urban Rest Stop in either Ballard or Downtown to take showers and do their laundry. The Ballard facility doesn’t take appointments, Gnecchi said, so getting in a shower and some laundry can take 3-4 hours, which can be especially hard for residents with jobs.

The Rotary Club of Mercer Island raised funds last year to support the creation of 10 tiny houses at LIHI’s True Hope Village, and this year is providing $22,000 for another nine. Five vocational organizations are constructing eight, which could be sited at a future tiny house village in Seattle.

Rotarians were at Interbay Village on Friday and Saturday building the ninth. Their work supporting tiny villages is spearheaded by member Eva Agrawal.

“I have projects that I’ve done in India, and if you go to India, and whether in cities or in villages, you see people living on the streets,”she said, “and the first time I saw that in the early ‘70s it was very shocking, and it always bothered me seeing people living on the street.”

Agrawal said seeing people living unsheltered in Seattle upsets her, and she began discussing how the rotary club could make a difference with various homeless outreach organizations. She met LIHI executive director Sharon Lee, who told her about the concept of tiny house villages.

“It’s essentially a stepping stone to getting people on their feet,” Agrawal said. “There’s been ups and downs, as with any new initiative, and they work really hard on maintaining the grounds.”

“She’s been amazing. She’s been the consummator for all of this,” said John Matthews, a Mercer Island rotarian who also serves as vice president on Rotary International’s board of directors.

Matthews was among the volunteers at the village on Friday and Saturday, lending his carpentry skills toward completing the rotary’s tiny house.

“That’s one of the fun things about rotary, is you kind of find a way to make your passion happen,” he said.

He lauded the communal nature of the village, its residents coming by occasionally to greet them.

Gnecchi is one of many Interbay Village residents who was upset by the portrayal of the homelessness crisis by Eric Johnson in his “Seattle is Dying” special on KOMO. Interbay Village is not a low-barrier shelter, said another resident, and not everyone facing homelessness in Seattle has a drug addiction.

“Look at the volunteers,” Gnecchi said. “This is something the city can be proud of.”

Interbay Village is a clean-and-sober site, which means families can reside there. A couple could share a tiny house, Reynolds said, if they went through the intake process at the same time.

Residents voted last summer to remove SHARE/WHEEL as the site manager. LIHI stepped in, and there is a site coordinator who helps manage daily operations at Interbay Village.

LIHI terminated its contract with SHARE/WHEEL several months ago and took over management of the low-barrier Licton Springs tiny house village, which closed at the end of March.

The City of Seattle announced last year it would not grant an extension for Licton Springs, which had operated on a two-year permit.

LIHI runs two other harm-reduction villages, Reynolds said, but those require residents to meet regularly with a case manager and focuses on providing them with employment and health resources.

“I think we learned our lesson there in terms of who we want to partner with to run our tiny house villages,” Reynolds said of Licton Springs.

The Seattle Human Services Department held a community meeting in Magnolia on Oct. 30 to discuss plans to expand Interbay Village and take comments, most of which were positive, and included letters of support from neighboring businesses.

There had previously been 24 tiny houses on the 11,300-square-foot site, and Interbay Village was cleared to increase its footprint to 18,000 square feet last November. Magnolia resident and city council candidate Elizabeth Campbell had appealed the city’s determination that the temporary shelter wouldn’t cause any significant environmental impacts.

Reynolds said there is no more room left for Interbay Village to expand further, but the current size is manageable, and it would be challenging to have a community larger than what currently exists.

People wanting to learn about the program or to donate can visit For questions about potential openings at Interbay Village, call 206-482-0340.