an online resource for getting your village built
Choosing a Path
what type of village do you want to propose?...
In setting out to plan a village, you'll need to begin to define some basic parameters about the physical, economic, and social elements that will shape your proposal. We suggest starting with a fairly general concept as these initial decisions can be a challenge, and it's often difficult and confusing to change something you’ve already proposed. It's best to add more detail as things progress and as your group responds to feedback from the local community.
In this section, we establish two primary types of villages—Transitional Villages and Affordable Villages—and offer a description of each to help in coosing a path that's right for your community. This provides an overview to what we are talking about before getting into how to do it
In the table below, we compare and contrast these two types of villages. This information is not intended to be absolute. Instead, the purpose is to define a couple signposts along the spectrum between homelessness and conventional housing options; and to provide insight into some of the key decisions that need to be made along the way.
Transitional [ temporary ] Village
a stepping stone to more permanent housing situations...
The Village Model provides each person with a small, private space within a community supported by shared, common spaces. It emphasizes local control and broad participation. But what is meant by a transitional village?
Transition is defined as the passage from one form, state, style or place to another. Therefore, the Transitional Village is not intended to be a final resting place, but a stepping-stone on which to stabilize one’s life before moving on to something else. But what exactly is that something else?
Traditionally, transitional housing is offered for a defined period of time, and is seen as a means to an end—getting the client to sign a lease for permanent housing. The housing type typically consists of several rooms within a larger residence. Clients are required to participate in formal support services involving addiction rehabilitation, psychological assistance, and job training. Funding is based upon success, which is measured by the ability to place the client into permanent housing.
The Transitional Village has a similar goal, but takes a less hyper-rational approach in getting there. It provides individuals with responsibility and ownership over one’s own space within a supportive community of people in a similar situation. It's founded on an ethos of self-management and democratic governance, with basic rules that residents must abide by in order to maintain residency.
It improves upon existing encampments by facilitating the progression from tents to simple micro-housing structures supported by shared facilities. Similar to dormitories or assisted living centers, this form of development can be thought of as a “congregate living facility.” Here, the micro-housing is designated as “sleeping units”—a space that can provide provisions for sleeping, living, eating, and either cooking or sanitation but not both—rather than “dwelling units”—which have more stringent requirements for being permanent, self-sufficient structures. Allowing for the sharing of functions can reduce permitting requirements, costs, and environmental impact.
The Transitional Village deploys temporary, transportable development. This could include tiny houses on trailers or pier blocks, which can be relocated to a new site if necessary. It's perfect for pilot projects, temporary uses, and short-term leases on publicly owned land.
A temporary site can ease the concerns of neighbors, and allow time for public input that should be taken into account when evaluating if the project and site will be renewed. The questionable future of the community can also encourage solidarity within, incentivizing residents to come together to make the project a success. On the other hand, it makes significant infrastructure investments impractical, and this "outside-the-box" form of development can be difficult to build political support for.
While formal on site services are not required under this model, partnerships can be developed with existing service providers, organizations, and institutions in your community. Since part of the intent is to be able to fund a housing alternative within the local community, it does not have to compete with other services for already thinly stretched state and federal dollars.
The Transitional Village does, however, require that each resident participate and contribute to the community in which they live. So, rather than help being handed down, the model emphasizes tolerance, peer support, horizontal organization, and a participatory culture to engage individuals experiencing homelessness. In addition, it provides a place for building social capital by facilitating relationships between the housed and the unhoused.
Affordable [ permanent ] Village
an accessible and sustainable place to transition to...
In addition to a growing unhoused population, many with housing are paying an unsustainably high percentage of their income for that right. More than half of all renters are now paying more than 30 percent of their income towards rent, meaning a significant number of working citizens are living just one unpredicted expense away from losing their housing. Further still, there is a growing demographic looking to simplify their lives, reduce their ecological impact, and strengthen social bonds with neighbors. All of this points to the need for alternative housing options beyond the apartment complex and single-family house.
The Affordable Village meets this demand by establishing a low-cost, low-impact housing model. It appeals to those without a home, those who could live a more stable life devoting less of their income to rent, those with a desire to consume and pollute less, and those wishing to avert the social isolation of conventional housing by living in a community rather than a commodity. It aligns with the trend in “Housing First” programs, but by continuing to build small, share resources, and utilize economically creative practices, it can reach more people for the dollar.
This differs from the Transitional Village in that it is intended to create the potential for longer-term housing opportunities; especially for those living on part-time or fixed incomes, unable to access market-rate housing.
The Affordable Village moves toward more permanent tiny house designs built on foundations, allowing for more square footage and features when compared to the Transitional Village model. The units are still supported by shared facilities, but with a lesser degree of dependence. For example, the tiny houses could each include a small bathroom and kitchenette, while being supported by common house that includes laundry facilities, a community kitchen for group meals, and a flexible use space for gatherings and everyday use.
But to make real change in housing, we must also think beyond the physical structure. The Affordable Village pairs well with shared-equity ownership models, such as community land trusts and limited equity cooperatives. Combining tiny homes with this type of ownership model ensures ongoing affordability and supports many of the benefits of homeownership with fewer risks.
The stability of the Affordable Village can improve the consistency and effectiveness of resident management. Here the organizational structure more close resembles a housing cooperative or cohousing. Community meetings are still a critical component, but may be less frequent than in the Transitional Village.
The Transitional Village is a useful asset to the Affordable Village in that it can serve more people by emphasizing a transitory mission. Whereas the Affordable Village is designed to have a more stable population, the Transitional Village has greater capacity to serve those without access to housing or a stable source of income. In addition, it can provide a useful vetting process for selecting residents that will be a good fit for an Affordable Village. In this sense, the Affordable Village offers both a step-up from the Transitional Village, and a step-down from housing that may be economically, socially, or environmentally unsustainable.
Update: While our nonprofit initially formed as a grassroots effort to build a transitional village (Opportunity Village), our primary focus has since shifted to develping permanently affordable villages. As a result, we have since further defined this model here: The Village Model.