Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Details on Austin's 200-unit Micro-Housing Community

Community First Village—a 27-acre master-planned community being developed in Austin, Texas—has been touted as a solution to chronic homelessness. Once complete, the village will include 200-units of micro-housing along with supporting common facilities.

I recently had a chance to chat with Alan Graham—president of the non-profit organization behind the project, Mobile Loaves & Fishes (ML&F)—which provided a bit more insight into the project compared to what has been presented in the news thus far. 

"If you want to understand homelessness you have to understand home," said Graham,  "and we believe home has very little to do with the physical structure."

Instead Graham talked about permanence, affiliation, orientation, hospitality and safety as the real defining factors of home—all of which he has made the focus of Community First Village.

ML&F has raised $7 million to complete the housing project—all of which has come from private donors. Graham estimates that 80% of this funding came from between 15-20 people. The village will have full-time staff on site with an operating cost projected at $1.2 million per year.

It's important to note that Community First Village will actually be an example of low-cost housing and NOT a "housing first" type model for the chronically homeless (I'd been led to believe otherwise based on what I had read about the project). There will still be rent and residents will have to have some source of income in order to live there. But by building small, ML&F will be able to keep rent affordable to low-income individuals independent of ongoing public subsidies.

Three different housing options will be offered with monthly rent being a variable of the accommodations of each housing type. This includes:

Screenshot from Mobile Loaves & Fishes website (

1) Canvas Sided Cottages $120/month (8'x10') - $180/month (8'x12')

2) Micro-Housing: $210/month (12'x12') - $250/month (10'x18') 

3) 5th Wheel RVs: $400/month

The canvas sided cottages and micro-housing will have electricity but no plumbing. Instead they will be supported by common restroom facilities scattered throughout the site. The 5th wheel will come equipped with both electricity and plumbing.


  1. Boy I am having a problem with my math. 1.2 million a year for on site operating costs divided by 200 residents is $6000 /year per resident. That is $500/month per resident. Are they having their meals brought to them 3x a day? Medical care and dentistry? And $120-180 a month for a tent? I agree that small affordable communities for low income people are desperately needed but these figures just seem bloated to me.For dwelling spaces that small, all utilities should be nor more that 2 digits (water, sewer, electric)
    How many staff members and what are their wages?
    Maybe I am missing something here.

    1. Just counting on my fingers the exact same math....who is subsidizing this community? Is there any debt servicing on the land? Of course we all want to help the homeless but from my investigations, a trailer based tiny home costs $25000-30,000 to build WITH interior bathroom, stacked washer dryer unit, small kitchen, solar with generator back-up. Water source here is???
      Staffing is going to have to be heavy here with the anticipated drug and mental problems unless everyone has to be in rehab or mental health counseling to live here....lots of sure there are the best intentions here but socialized people in standard neighborhoods seem to have trouble with maintaining their streets, like picking up their dog's poop on a walk...I can only imagine some of the unsocialized episodes the staff will have to handle.....

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