If Ashley Dalzell has her way, the vacant lot next to her Access Housing office in Commerce City will become a tiny home campus, offering transitional housing for young adults.
Dalzell, executive …
This item is available in full to subscribers.
If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.
Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.
If you made a voluntary contribution in 2022-2023 of $50 or more, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one at no additional charge. VIP Digital Access includes access to all websites and online content.
Dalzell, executive director for Access Housing, is negotiating to use a plot of land in Commerce City to build tiny homes and expand transitional housing services for families and people under the age of 25, emancipated high school students and young people that have aged out of the foster care system.
Dalzell said she has a grant from Adams County for the development of a traditional eight-unit affordable housing development. She'd prefer to do something different, where the tenants have a bit more privacy.
"We are looking for support for the development and asking the Commerce City Council for approval," Dalzell said.
Dalzell said her vision is to build a tiny home village and collaborate with various community groups, including local high schools.
"The tiny home village would be like the ones you see on TV, each with its own kitchen, bathroom and loft with a bedroom," Dalzell said. "By owning the property, we can invest in the property, and provide a bathroom and kitchen in each individual unit."
Dalzell said she knows it's a different concept and is excited to work with the city planners and commissioners to benefit a wide variety of individuals and young people that need their assistance with housing – starting with Commerce City.
"We are having preliminary conversations, with the focus on purchasing this piece of property in Commerce City, and also looking at a wide variety of property in Adams County," she said.
She can't say when the project will come to fruition, but she's hopeful.
"As of March, we have come to somewhat of an agreement with current landowners," she said. "So we'll see if this probability is more of a reality here in Commerce City jurisdiction for unhoused residents."
Dalzell and her team have purchased a prototype tiny home to demonstrate the project to planning officials. It's currently located at her office near 70th and Colorado Boulevard in Commerce City.
"These tiny houses have plumbing and bathroom inside the unit. So, launching a tiny home village is another layer of complexity," Dalzell.
Access Housing has called Commerce City home for almost 40 years. They serve all of Adams County and run a transitional shelter for families with children.
"In our current program here on the property, our staff sees the families daily, and our office is next to the shelter," she said. "Our existing shelter has eight units, each with a two-bedroom apartment with its own bathroom, kitchen, and living room area."
Dalzell said they prefer to manage smaller housing projects because it lets them have a single case manager for eight families. She hopes to use that vision for the tiny home village, creating a small neighborhood setting.
"It's a friendly neighborhood to get advice about cooking, shopping or the nearby school district," Dalzell. "That's the relationship we want with our clients when facing a very challenging point in their lives with housing instability."
The current development also has a playground, part of the list of services they offer for young families.
"We are also involved in the school district, help with teen skills, job skills or cleaning the apartment, and how to take care of shopping lists that lead to good meal prep for the family and the kids," Dalzell.
Dalzell said their first tiny home was finished last year in June. It's currently on display in their parking lot but is ready to go, with bathroom and kitchen facilities ready for hookup. She said they hope to add nine more and move the bunch to the nearby lot.
"We're hoping that by having this model in Commerce City, we can show them how this really can work and that we're invested and want to make the long-term connections," Dalzell said.
They have also talked with Adams County about the property and the group's vision, with an eye on future projects.
"We are trying to figure out which communities in Adams County are tiny home friendly and who wasn't as far as the jurisdiction and trying to understand the complexities of this space," she said.
Their demonstration home has its own plumbing built-in, which makes it quite different from the housing offered by other housing groups.
"The tiny home will come to us already built," she said. "We don't touch anything regarding building a tiny home. We have to figure out how to hook this up."
Dalzell said her group had toured tiny home developments around the area to see how they operated. A Denver-based development, for example, is located on land leased from Denver County. Those developments will have to move their homes every couple of years, when their leases expire.
"We don't want to do that, because we're going to make an investment and land preparation, she said. "We'd rather buy it outright than have leases."
"After many conversations, looking at land, we returned to this empty lot next to us here in Commerce City. We know Commerce City plans has its vision of what homelessness support or sheltering might look like. So it brought us back to our backyard," Dalzell said.
Dalzell said that so far both Adams County and Commerce City are supportive. There are still plenty of details to be settled, however.
"Sometimes they don't have the answers to our questions but they invite us to the table to talk," she said. "So far, they support Access Housing's vision with the village concept."
Dalzell said many municipalities struggle with the unknowns regarding a village of tiny homes.
Dalzell said Commerce City has asked questions about potential zoning for the tiny home village and about the building details – whether the development should be zoned as an RV or a mobile home park, for example. The city needs clarification, but they have been willing to work with Access Housing so far, she said.
"Each tiny home-friendly municipality doesn't have the answers today and they are all struggling with it," she said. "Because there needs to be a shared understanding of what is involved with tiny homes, each municipality is still drafting zone and requirements."
Dalzell said she is continuing her research, touring other tiny home villages, including some designated for veterans. She hopes to bring some new ideas to the table in future meetings with Commerce City and Adams County.
"We want a small neighborly feel. It's essential to us," Dalzell said. "The other thing that's very important to us is owning the property to make long-term investments. Add good fencing, trees, colorful gardens, and seating areas to enhance the property. We don't want them to feel like they are on top of each other."
Other items that may interest you
We have noticed you are using an ad blocking plugin in your browser.
The revenue we receive from our advertisers helps make this site possible. We request you whitelist our site.