The Port of Seattle Commission unanimously approved a one-year lease extension for the Safe Harbor Tiny House Village to continue operating at the Tsubota site in Interbay during its Oct. 8 meeting.

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. It was previously known as Tent City 5.

The tiny house is supported by the City of Seattle and operated by the Low Income Housing Institute, as well as through self-management by its residents.

The amended lease between the city and the port will keep Safe Harbor at the Tsubota property, near the Magnolia Bridge, through Nov. 16, 2020.

Port of Seattle Commission president Stephanie Bowman tells Queen Anne News she had suggested the Tsubota site when community members initially approached the commission about finding a home for the tiny house village.

“We had almost sold that property two different times, so when the community came to us, I said, ‘What about the Tsubota site?’” she said.

Bowman said she wanted the port to play a role, and leasing the land to the city and letting LIHI operate the village made the most sense.

“I felt very strongly at the time that the port needed to be part of addressing homelessness in our community,” she said.

The Interbay village doubled its number of tiny houses back in March, and has added a full kitchen and restroom and shower facilities.

That effort had temporarily been delayed by a SEPA challenge filed by Magnolia resident Elizabeth Campbell in 2018. Lacking any “evidence aside from Ms. Campbell’s personal experience and opinion,” the hearing examiner sided with the city last November.

“I would say that that one complaint caused people to live for eight months without flushed toilets and plumbed showers,” said LIHI executive director Sharon Lee to the commission on Tuesday.

The total number of exits from the Interbay village, as of July 31, was 169 people, according to data provided to the commission. Sixty-two of those were into long-term housing and 60 (35.5 percent) moved into permanent housing. Forty-two residents were reporting earned income at the time of their exits.

“The Interbay Safe Harbor Village is outperforming other shelter models throughout the City with a rate of transition into permanent housing at 46 percent for the first and second quarters of 2019, compared to the average 4 percent of traditional shelters,” according to the commission memo.

“It truly is a model that is producing successful outcomes,” said Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck. “It’s not exactly new.”

The commissioner pointed out how Hoovervilles popped up during the Great Depression, adding what exist now are far superior.

Lee said a number of people on the streets during the rough February snowstorm were moved to Interbay where they had heated tiny houses.

“It was part of the emergency solution to get people out of the snow,” she said.

LIHI has 60 tiny houses that have been constructed by community supporters and donated to the nonprofit, which is ready to open another site. Lee said she’s hopeful more port property can be made available in the future.

Bowman told Queen Anne News she’s open to those discussions, but she also feels other agencies, such as Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities, have unused properties that would work well for supporting tiny house villages.

“I think the model has been a great model, and I think the port and every other agency, like Seattle City Light for example, should look at all the properties they have that are possible,” Bowman said.

As for the Interbay tiny house village, the commission president said she will continue to support it in the future.