Denver Development

Denver Closing In on Approving Zoning Codes for Tiny Home Villages

The Beloved Community Village, pictured here in RiNo, recently moved to Globeville.
The Beloved Community Village, pictured here in RiNo, recently moved to Globeville. Facebook/Colorado Village Collaborative
On Wednesday, August 7, the Denver Planning Board approved an addition to the city's zoning code that would allow for temporary tiny home villages. If approved by city council, the final arbiter, later this month, the changes would ease construction for the villages in Denver, which proponents say would help chip away at homelessness.

"We need a clear set of rules that any provider could follow in order to propose the village, and we need a broader range of zoning districts to create opportunities for the land," said Councilwoman Robin Kniech, who has championed the villages, at the board hearing. Kniech noted that the villages are designed to serve as a bridge between emergency shelter services and permanent supportive housing.

There's only one tiny home village in Denver, which was permitted through multiple zoning code variances. Previously located in RiNo, the Beloved Community Village relocated to Globeville this spring amid fierce opposition from some Globeville residents who felt that the city had been using the area as a dumping ground for projects that other neighborhoods rejected. According to a 2018 University of Denver study, when the Beloved Community Village was located in RiNo, it had a neutral or positive impact on the neighborhood and didn't lead lead to an uptick in crime.

The zoning code update would allow tiny home villages in almost all areas of the city, except for places zoned as open space. In residential zone districts, a tiny home village could only be built on a lot that already has a space used by the public, like a church or a community center, and a village would be able to contain up to thirty units, which could each house up to two individuals. A building and fire code update adopted by the city in July stipulates that each unit would have to be a minimum of seventy square feet.

The update would still only allow for temporary tiny home village permits, which will be split into two categories. Some permits will be short-term, meaning that they'll 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 a chance for a two-year renewal and will require fixed bathrooms. Once those four years pass, no tiny home village would be allowed on that plot of land for four more years.

In addition to laying out the specifics of what would qualify as a temporary tiny home village, the zoning code update would also require developers applying for a permit to reach out to neighbors and neighborhood organizations located within 400 feet of the proposal and work with them to craft safety protocols, the resident application process, and a method for resolving disputes that might arise in the village.

More permanent tiny home villages are likely to get their own place in the city's zoning code, but not until early next year. The planned permanent tiny home village zoning code update would be open to all individuals, not just those experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The permanent tiny home village classification is part of the city's effort to update the zoning code to allow for more group living situations. City council is likely to vote on the changes in the winter.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.