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Neighbors express concerns regarding 'tiny homes' project in St. Joseph

Community Action Partnership's plan is to build 6-10 "tiny homes" in a vacant lot near 31st and Easton in St. Joseph.

Posted: Oct 21, 2020 8:12 PM
Updated: Oct 21, 2020 8:27 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  St. Joseph's Community Action Partnership agency wants to close the homeless gap in the community by building affordable "tiny homes."

The plan is to build 6-10 "tiny homes" in a vacant lot near 31st and Easton, with the possibility of expanding to 20 if the plan works out. Homeowners in the area are not reacting well to the idea and voiced concerns at Monday's St. Joseph City Council meeting.

"My concern is, will I be able to go in my backyard at night. Who knows, who might be in your backyard," Area resident Connie Turnball.

CAP plans to use the little structures to help the homeless in the community, but the idea is not getting the kind of reaction they hoped to receive.

"What we're doing, is we're looking to provide safe and affordable rental units with supportive services that are on sight as well, to low-income people that help them get on their feet," said Whitney Lanning, Executive Director of Community Action Partnership.

Another concerned neighbor spoke immediately after Turnball and said:

"Maybe they are getting in a good transitional area, but then again, how do we know that? How do we know that they aren't going to bring somebody else to live in there, bring more homeless, and then they are going to start a homeless community down there with a bunch of tents," James Dozier said.

CAP Executive Director Whitney Lanning was at the council meeting Monday night and spoke with the frustrated neighbors that raised their concerns.

Lanning explained that the target group of renters for the small homes are retired, homeless veterans, that are able to pay rent, and homeless people that are actively seeking help.  

"We really are looking at this as a gated community for individuals that are able to manage a rental property," Lanning said. "If there are issues with illegal activity or inappropriate activity then they wouldn't be allowed to stay there just like in any other gated community."

Regardless of the comments made, neighbors in the area say they don't want the development "in their backyard", leading a couple of residents to say they are considering moving if the plan goes through.

"We've got a lot invested here. And We enjoy this area. And uprooting ourselves again at our age is something we weren't looking forward to," A resident who wished to remain anonymous said. 

Turnball also added said:

"We've lived there for probably 18 years or so. And I would like to stay there, but if it gets to the point where we don't feel safe there, then we will probably have to move to somewhere else."

While concerns continue to build, CAP and Lanning believe it is their responsibility to help the homeless, and the low-income community in need.

"These are our people and these are people that have fallen on hard times, and, you know they want to change their lives," Lanning said. "We're trying to create a project that helps them do that." 

St. Joseph's Planning and Community Development Department officials said the lot is already zoned and fits the requirements for the style of the "tiny homes."

The project is fully funded by the Community Action Partnership.  The total cost will come out to over $200,000 and each unit will cost $20,000. 

Lanning adds there are still many steps to be taken to get the project fully complete.  She hopes to sign a contract on the property after the first of the year.

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This week will be much cooler than last week for northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. Wind chills Monday morning will be in the teens with the daytime high only getting into the 40s. Tuesday we will see a little bit of a warm up with highs in the mid 40's.
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