Omaha Tiny House Village Aims to Be Homelessness’ Last Stop

Metropolitan Community College students are building seven of the tiny houses for the Cottages project site. (Courtesy of Arch Icon Development)

Neb’s first micro-housing community. funded by low-income housing tax credits

By CINDY GONAZALEZ
Nebraska Examiner

Nebraska’s first Modern Tiny Home Village – which will soon begin to sprout in downtown North Omaha – is expected to do more than add affordable housing to the hip urban core.

The 50 free-standing homes, each approximately 250 square feet, have a humanitarian purpose: they are to be occupied by formerly homeless people who have thrived in other shelter programs and are ready to take the next step towards independence.

Additionally, the $8.2 million project provides a training ground for students: Seven of the houses are being built by aspiring construction trades workers enrolled at Metropolitan Community College.

    50 small rental homes and a community center will span approximately 2.4 acres near 17th and Charles streets in Omaha.  (Courtesy of APMA)
50 small rental homes and a community center will span approximately 2.4 acres near 17th and Charles streets in Omaha. (Courtesy of APMA)

“We are just thrilled,” said Linda Twomey of Siena Francis House, who will manage and own the residential development. “It’s innovative. This is a huge neighborhood improvement. It will provide a home – a place to grill, to have plants and a dog.

In the planning stages since 2018, “the Cottages” initiative officially kicks off next week on a 2.4-acre former industrial site near 17th and Charles streets.

“Prototype Project”

The gated village – with a community center, gardens, communal laundry facilities and on-site managers’ offices – is set to open in 2023.

Funding comes primarily from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program administered by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority and intended for residents with special needs, such as the homeless population.

NIFA’s Shannon Harner said the Cottages are the first small home community in the state made possible through low-income tax credits. She anticipates the project could pave the way for similar projects in Nebraska in the future.

“We hope this is a prototype project,” Harner said.

A rendering of the Cottages affordable housing development.  (Courtesy of APMA)
A rendering of the Cottages affordable housing development. (Courtesy of APMA)

Although located just half a block from the Siena Francis House campus – and therefore close to transportation, counseling and other accommodation services – the Cottages are intended to create an independent lifestyle for previously homeless residents.

Twomey, executive director of Siena Francis shelters, said around 1,400 people on any given day were homeless in Omaha and Council Bluffs.

Bragging rights for students

Many of those who will be eligible and chosen to reside in the Tiny Houses will likely have succeeded in one of the most support-intensive Siena Francis programs and are ready for the next stage of chronic homelessness, she said. declared.

An on-site case manager will be available to help connect residents to community or support services, including employment or tenancy assistance. Twomey said residents will be responsible for rent and will likely qualify for government grants or vouchers where they pay 30% of their income for rent.

Each of the small houses will include a kitchen, bedroom and covered porch.

Trevor Secora, an instructor at Metro campus in Fort Omaha who oversees student construction of seven of the tiny houses, said Cottages developer Arch Icon provides the materials and students assemble the shell to transport to the site. Once finished.

This is one of the little houses Metro Community College students are building for the Cottages.  (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)
This is one of the little houses Metro Community College students are building for the Cottages. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

It’s a win-win situation, he said, that provides hands-on, hands-on training for young construction workers, who can then drive by with family and friends and showcase their work.

“These are real projects that will be given back to the community,” said Secora, a member of Metro’s construction and building science faculty.

Students step up their game

He said the students go the extra mile knowing that the structures will actually be used instead of being torn down after completion, as some other practice projects are.

“So their efforts and their know-how are going to be stepped up a bit,” he said.

Cleaning up the north downtown site for the Cottages also helped clean up Kellom Greenbelt Park and a few other tough spots, Twomey said.

City officials said the development should boost the geographic pocket and possibly attract more private investment to the area, which is not far from the trendy and growing Millwork Commons neighborhood. .

The 17th and Charles Streets Cottages site dedicated to former homeless people.  (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)
The 17th and Charles Streets Cottages site dedicated to former homeless people. (Cindy Gonzalez/Nebraska Examiner)

Darin Smith of developer Arch Icon said his company has done many affordable housing and other projects, but the Cottages are the first of his team to focus on the homeless population.

Other partners include the City of Omaha, Midwest Housing Equity Group, Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture and American National Bank.

“It’s pretty cool how we worked with Metro Community College, Siena Francis and other partners to bring it all together,” Smith said. “We look forward to seeing the completed project and the benefits to the community. »