Coyla Shepard, founder of Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ, stands in front of the property the nonprofit recently purchased in hopes of building six tiny homes for low-income families and individuals. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

Coyla Shepard, founder of Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ, stands in front of the property the nonprofit recently purchased in hopes of building six tiny homes for low-income families and individuals. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group

Group aims to provide affordable homes

An idea for a tiny-house development is starting with a pretty regular-sized home.

A South Whidbey nonprofit organization recently purchased a residence on Camano Avenue in Langley in support of its effort to provide more affordable housing on the island.

Tiny Houses in the Name of Christ, or THINC, is comprised of board members from seven local churches, and it was able to raise enough money to purchase the two-bedroom home and one-third of an acre in Langley in October.

However, the nonprofit is still far from meeting its goal to create at least six tiny homes on the lot behind the house, according to Coyla Shepard, founder of the group.

She said the group hopes to move in a low-income family into the upstairs portion of the house, and the daylight basement will be used as a community space for the eventual tiny home residents.

The house isn’t quite ready for move-in —- it needs insulation, a new heating system, its floor refinished, new siding and the a sewer connection, Shepard said.

“But we have a place where we can start,” she said.

Repairs on the roof are currently underway. All of the needed work, including the sewer connection, is estimated to cost around $40,000, Shepard said.

It’s all worth the effort because of the immense need on the island.

Shepard said she’s spoken with business owners who lament their inability to find workers because of the lack of housing availability and affordability.

Jenn Jurriaans, one of the owners of Prima Bistro and Saltwater Fish House & Oyster Bar, said she’s noticed her employees struggle to find housing they can afford.

“It’s gotten worse and worse,” Jurriaans wrote in an email, “close to a crisis for many.”

Matt Nichols, vice president of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, said it’s also been an issue for his workers.

“There just isn’t anything on South Whidbey and I don’t think any of Whidbey,” Nichols said.

A housing needs analysis performed by Island County found that 50 percent of renters in the county were cost burdened, defined as paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Shepard said once the nonprofit’s units are up and running, rent will be charged on a sliding scale to keep it affordable for the residents. She said THINC will work with the county Housing Support Center, the House of Hope, the Whidbey Homeless Coalition and the school district to identify individuals and families in need.

There will be rules for the area’s future residents, she said. There’ll be references required to be accepted, quiet hours, and likely an on-site manager.

“We hope to fit in really nicely with the neighbors,” Shepard said.

She also wants to residents to fit with each other, which is why the community space is such an important aspect of the development. She said the meeting space in the basement would be vital, and the group plans to add a large kitchen for use by any of the tiny-home dwellers.

“So they can have their potlucks,” Shepard said. “… We want to have a real community spirit here.”

She group hopes to reduce the expected total of $40,000 by receiving more donations of goods and services or having more volunteers chip in. To help keep costs relatively low, Hanson’s Building Supply has provided all needed building materials at-cost. The nonprofit also recently asked the City of Langley to waive or reduce its sewer connection fee.

Shepard said members of THINC believe that supporting affordable housing is the best way to support the community.

“We love living on Whidbey and we like all the goods and services here,” Shepard said. “We need housing that’s affordable and available. It’s the best way to keep businesses open.”

To donate to the repairs on the house, visit www.gofundme.com/tiny-houses-roof. To learn more about THINC, vist http://thincw hidbey.org/

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