In April 2021, Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced The Other Side Academy would design and manage a village of tiny homes in Salt Lake City.
The proposed village is moving ever closer to becoming a reality.
Here’s what we know about it so far:
Where would it be?
What officials are considering now is a pilot project for The Other Side Village. The first phase would be located on eight city-owned acres west of Redwood Road between Indiana Avenue and 500 South.
If successful, the village could be expanded to cover up to 40 acres.
How big — or small — would the homes be?
Homes would range from 280 to 400 square feet and include a bed, bathroom with a shower, and a pint-size kitchen and living area.
How many homes would be there?
The Other Side Village expects to install 60 tiny houses in its first phase, with 54 of those available for residents. The remaining six homes would be occupied by on-site staffers.
Who would run it?
The Other Side Academy would operate the community. The nonprofit runs a residential vocational training program near downtown for convicted criminals and people with substance use disorders.
When would construction begin?
The Other Side Academy expects to break ground on the proposed project early next year. Before it can do that, however, it will need the City Council to approve the terms of a lease and rezone the site.
Who would live there?
The goal of the project is to provide housing to chronically unsheltered residents, especially those struggling with substance abuse, mental health or physical disabilities.
The village would be drug- and alcohol-free. Preference would be given to Salt Lake City residents and perhaps those who show a commitment to sobriety.
Before moving into a permanent tiny house, residents would have to first graduate from a more intensive care and case management program to get on their feet.
What would it cost to live there?
Residents must make no more than 30% of the area’s median income. This year, the annual income threshold for qualifying to live in The Other Side Village is $21,510. The most a resident would pay for rent and basic utilities under those constraints is $448. (Couples may pay more.)
To pay rent, residents may be required to have a job or another source of income, such as Social Security disability or a voucher.
Leases would be month to month, but residents may stay in a unit indefinitely as long as they meet tenant obligations. After signing a lease, they would be allowed to increase their income.
The Other Side Academy has told the city it is committed to helping existing and prospective residents find and keep a source of income to pay rent.
What else would be on-site?
In addition to the 60 tiny homes for full-time occupancy, The Other Side Village plans to offer 25 tiny houses as nightly rentals for visitors, volunteers and the public.
An on-site cookie factory, thrift store and the rentals — called the “Community Inn” — would provide job opportunities for residents and revenue to cover the main portion of operating costs.
Residents would also have access to a community center, clubhouse and other resources.
What are the terms of the lease?
City officials are considering a 40-year lease, with the nonprofit renting the land at $1 a year. The area of the proposed pilot project is worth more than $1.4 million.
If the organization wanted to lease additional land below fair-market value, a separate agreement would need to win the council’s nod.
What does the city see as benefits of the project?
Creation of such a village, a city report states, would give Salt Lake City a new model to fight the homelessness crisis.
Officials also believe the project could reduce the number of homeless encampments in the city. Village residents would have access to case managers to help connect them with benefits, health care, education, jobs and other community resources.
And by offering unsheltered people a more stable environment, city officials say they could see a reduced cost of public care for those experiencing homelessness.
There are also environmental benefits. The Other Side Academy has agreed to pay to clean up the site of the pilot project, which includes part of a former landfill.
Meanwhile, the report notes, the village would spruce up vacant property, reduce crime and could spur additional investment in the area.
The nonprofit has committed to the city that it will ensure its residents are respectful of surrounding neighborhoods.
How much does all of this cost?
The pilot phase is projected to cost nearly $13.8 million. That price tag includes environmental cleanup, permits and fees, construction, architectural fees and landscaping.
The cost falls squarely on The Other Side Academy. As of early July, the nonprofit had received nearly $2.2 million for the project, with another $3.1 million pledged. Most of the expenses are expected to be covered by in-kind contributions and donations.
Mendenhall’s administration has committed to ensuring the nonprofit has enough money to follow through with the project before signing the lease for the land.
The Other Side Academy anticipates the village would be self-sustaining by 2026.
What would the city look at to measure success?
The city plans to analyze three things: financial feasibility; effectiveness in helping unsheltered Utahns; and how it affects the neighborhood. Specific benchmarks have not been established.
Where does the council stand?
At least two council members publicly expressed reservations about the project.
Council member Ana Valdemoros said she was on the fence about whether the project could be successful. She wants to see the west side get a new amenity in tandem with the village.
Fellow council member Darin Mano would like the lease shortened and have the rezone apply only to the pilot area. He said he is still swayable on whether he will support the project and that he wants to hear from the public.
What are the next steps?
On Tuesday, the council will hear a presentation on potentially rezoning the land to allow for construction of the village but will not take any action.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal at a Sept. 20 council meeting.
A vote on the project is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 4, but that could change if the council believes it needs more time.