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County approves budget for tiny-house village

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A tiny house village on the horizon could help San Luis Obispo County deflate its ballooning rate of homelessness.

"The intent is to serve 30 people at a minimum, a max of 60, and ideally 45 individuals," said Joe Dzvonik, the division manager of the Department of Social Services' homeless services wing.

DRAFTING HOUSING Plans from BOSS Cubez, San Luis Obispo County's vendor for tiny homes, show two-room modular units that the company's proposal said can be rapidly assembled like Lego blocks. - SCREENSHOT TAKEN FROM SLO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS STAFF REPORT
  • Screenshot Taken From SLO County Board Of Supervisors Staff Report
  • DRAFTING HOUSING Plans from BOSS Cubez, San Luis Obispo County's vendor for tiny homes, show two-room modular units that the company's proposal said can be rapidly assembled like Lego blocks.

At its Dec. 13 meeting, the SLO County Board of Supervisors authorized a $585,786 budget to set up the village. The county contracted with the Los Angeles-based BOSS Cubez to set up roughly 15 tiny homes at Oklahoma Avenue, which also houses a controversial safe parking site.

However, its proposed proximity to the parking area—which has faced issues like drug overdoses, duplicated services, a fatal fire, and discontentment from some of its homeless participants—caused 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold to hesitate.

"This is a premature vote," she said at the meeting. "I don't believe we've studied the site, knowing that there are issues at the Oklahoma site, or evaluated other sites."

She added that she was worried about the lack of details on the tiny-village model presented to the board, possible liabilities, rules on how the operations would be run, and who would provide services to village residents. Arnold was the sole dissenter in the 4-1 vote that approved the budget.

Dzvonik told New Times that Arnold's concerns were valid but added that Social Services was also working against a time crunch. He fielded questions from supervisors at the board meeting. There, Dzvonik said that the project plans aligned with the county's five-year plan to reduce homelessness. He told them that even if his department purchased tiny homes, BOSS Cubez will not manufacture or deliver them until a location is cemented.

He added that the money committed to the tiny-village project came from a reallocated grant that was initially awarded to the Salvation Army for rapid rehousing. The nonprofit couldn't spend it by the Jan. 31, 2023, deadline because of staffing issues, and any unused funds go back to the state of California.

"We have to spend a big percentage of [the reallocated funds] by the end of January. Dec. 13 is the last supervisors meeting, and it's the last opportunity to get approval to buy those homes," Dzvonik told New Times.

Supervisors Dawn Ortiz-Legg and John Peschong expressed their support for the project, with the latter calling for heightened attention toward mental health services for the homeless.

Ortiz-Legg said that supply chain issues delayed housing projects like Grover Beach's pallet shelters, which will open the week of Christmas.

"There were supply chain issues, and if they had known that, they would have ordered things like the electrical piece they needed a year ago," Dzvonik said. "I'm doing that now as well."

Environmental issues arising out of a constraints analysis at Oklahoma Avenue paused further work on the tiny-village project. Dzvonik said that the county will be held accountable for the timeline on Jan. 12 by a sanctioned citizens oversight committee. Δ

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