BernCo buys land for Tiny Homes

Bernalillo County will soon own the Tiny Homes home.

The County Commission on Tuesday approved the purchase of the southeast Albuquerque property where it erected its Tiny Homes Village, agreeing to spend $575,000 on the one-acre property and another smaller parcel for the parking lot across the street. Both are currently owned by the Albuquerque Indian Center.

County Executive Julie Morgas Baca said the purchase comes after the Albuquerque Indian Center requested to terminate its agreement to operate the village, which is designed as transitional housing for the homeless. Bernalillo County has resumed program operations with the help of case managers from the University of New Mexico hospital, Morgas Baca said.

“When we first built it on their property, they (Albuquerque Indian Center) were the natural operators. We both thought it was very natural,” Morgas Baca said in an interview on Tuesday. “But as we progressed it was very difficult and they wanted to focus their attention on their mission.”

The county had paid AIC about $20,000 a year to lease and operate the site, which sits on land that Morgas Baca said the city of Albuquerque previously donated to AIC.

The 30-home village cost the county about $5 million to build, but has struggled to fill its 40 available slots since it opened in February 2021. Occupancy had been hovering in the single digits. Morgas Baca said on Tuesday there were now 20 tenants.

Commissioner Adriann Barboa, whose district includes the village, said she was hopeful about its future.

“When we started this project, I think it was a bit like building the ship while sailing it,” she said, noting that the project had to be presented to the commission several times over the years. . This includes a request in March to approve $500,000 in recurring funds for its operations. Morgas Baca said Tuesday that the allocation was made with the expectation that the county would assume the operations of AIC.

“I’m grateful right now that we have full staff – case managers and people to help support logistics, grounds and maintenance,” Barboa said.

“We have grown to 20 (residents), but only because we are trying to gradually increase the number, so as not to add 40 new people in one day. … We hope to be at full capacity, especially now that we are heading into the colder months.

Commissioner Walt Benson said he had been skeptical of the Tiny Homes project in the past, but thought it was a “smart” move for the county to own the land it operates on.

But at least one commissioner said the whole discussion came as a surprise.

“This is the first time I’ve heard of this (transfer of management and possible purchase) and it seems like such great news,” said commissioner Charlene Pyskoty. “I’m really trying to figure this out.”

Pyskoty said she was also curious about the additional $15,000 included in the commission’s approval, most of it for property tax bills as early as 2019. A county staffer told Pyskoty that the county was obligated to pay property taxes under its original lease with AIC.

The county’s purchase of the properties ultimately passed 4–1, with Pyskoty voting against.

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