The Low Income Housing Institute is moving forward with an expansion of its city-funded tiny house village in Interbay, which will add more shelter and site upgrades for its growing number of residents.

Interbay was one of the three original villages set up to temporarily house the homeless in 2016, moving to the Port of Seattle’s Tsubota property near the Magnolia Bridge in November 2017.

There are 24 tiny houses on the 11,300-square-foot site currently, as well as several dormitory-style tents.

“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.

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections issued a six-month temporary use permit for an 18,000-square-foot encampment last July, which triggered the need for a SEPA environmental review. Magnolia resident Elizabeth Campbell and her Safe and Affordable Seattle (SAS) group filed an appeal to the Hearing Examiner after the SDCI director determined the expansion would not cause any significant environmental impacts. The Hearing Examiner cleared the Interbay Village expansion to proceed in November.

There will be 23 new tiny houses built on the north end of the property, Reynolds said, with 21 to be occupied by residents. The other two will be for an additional case manager’s office and a storage unit. Seventeen tiny houses have been moved onto the property, with six more to go.

The Rotary Club of Mercer Island will begin constructing a tiny house at the site, 1601 15th Ave. W., on Friday. The club raised funds last year to support the creation of 10 tiny houses at 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.

“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,” said Rotary Club of Mercer Island member Eva Agrawal, “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.”

While the rotary club has financially supported 19 tiny houses in the past two years, about a dozen volunteers will be on hand to build one from scratch starting on Friday.

“It’s really just a taste of what it’s all like for the volunteers to see,” Agrawal said, “and the hope is they themselves will become more involved in the homeless situation.”

Site improvements as part of the expansion of Interbay Village include the addition of four new bathroom/shower units, plus washers, dryers and a new kitchen facility. Each tiny house will also be fashioned with porches.

“We anticipate that will be finished by the end of April,” Reynolds said.

Interbay Village has a model that includes self-management by Tiny Cabins Safe Harbor residents, who 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.

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

“Right now we’re in the final week or so of making sure everyone has housing when they leave the village, so they’re not back on the street or in a lesser quality shelter situation,” Reynolds said.

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.

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.

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.

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