On Monday, October 7, Denver City Council voted unanimously to approve a zoning update to allow for tiny home villages in almost all areas of the city.
"Everybody in our city deserves to live in a home," said Councilwoman Robin Kniech, the main sponsor of the initiative. She says tiny homes are one solution to help bridge the gap between emergency shelter services for those experiencing homelessness and affordable housing.
"This proposal, for me, was about understanding that there was a gap right in the middle, and that we had to put more energy into it," Kniech added.
Denver only has one tiny home village, which was permitted through a series of zoning-code variances. Previously located in RiNo, the Beloved Community Village moved to Globeville in the spring amid strong opposition from some nearby residents who said the city had been using the area as a dumping ground for initiatives rejected by other neighborhoods.
During Monday's meeting, Anne Elizabeth, a resident of Globeville, said she hoped council will avoid a contentious tiny home village dispute in the future and referenced "the pain that continues to linger in Globeville because of the manner [the Beloved Community Village] came to Globeville."
The zoning-code update will allow for temporary tiny home village permits, which will be split into two categories. Short-term permits will last for up to 180 days with a chance for a one-year-renewal, and will only require portable toilets. Long-term permits will last for two years with the chance for a two-year renewal and will require fixed bathrooms. Once four years pass, a tiny home village wouldn't be allowed on the same land for another four years.
Areas zoned as open space will still not be eligible for tiny home villages. For residential zone districts, a tiny home village can only be built on a lot that already has a space used by the public, like a church or a community center. Tiny home villages in these districts will be able to contain up to thirty units, each of which can house two individuals. The city adopted a building and fire-code update over the summer that requires each unit to be a minimum of seventy square feet.
The latest zoning-code update also requires developers applying for tiny home village permits to reach out to neighbors and neighborhood organizations located within 400 feet of the proposed site and to work in tandem with them to craft safety regulations, the resident application process, and a method for resolving any disputes that might arise in the village.
On Monday, multiple members of the public implored council to go further with zoning updates for tiny home villages.
“We would like to see this go to more permanent down the road," said Jeff Baker on behalf of the Curtis Park Neighbors organization.
A zoning-code update that would allow for permanent tiny home villages is likely to come within the next six months — part of the city's effort, in the works since March 2018, to revamp its zoning code to allow for more group-living situations.
City council has also requested that more money be dedicated to social services for tiny home village residents. On October 4, Denver City Council President Jolon Clark wrote to Mayor Michael Hancock, asking for more money for a wide variety of additions to the 2020 budget, including $125,000 for a housing navigator to help people get into stable housing.