Massive tiny home community for the chronically homeless to be built on Salt Lake City’s far-west side if approved

The Other Side Academy unveiled its ambitious goal to build 400-500 small residential homes for the region’s chronically homeless population on a former landfill on Salt Lake City’s far-west side if the city agrees to rezone the large property.

Plans for a tiny home community modeled after similar successful ventures in other cities have been in the works for months. What was unknown was where it would go.

That question was answered Thursday, when The Other Side asked the city to rezone the city-owned parcel at 1850 W. Indiana (900 South), to Form-Based UN2 (FB-UN2), to match the walkable and mixed-use community the land would hold as part of the plan.

“The Village is a permanent supportive housing development for the chronically homeless, where those coming out of chronic homelessness can find not only tiny homes to rent affordably,” The Other Side wrote in its filing. “But services and resources to help them along the way, in a hand-up, not handout model.”

The Other Side in April shared its goal to build what would amount to the largest homeless service and housing sites in the Intermountain West. If its rezone request is approved, The Other Side says it already plans to have up to 40 homes built by March.

Approval may be likely, given the city’s close involvement with The Other Side and its status as one of few cities in the region willing to contribute solutions to chronic homelessness.

What’s still not clear is what the undertaking will cost and how it will be funded. When unveiling the concept in April, Mayor Erin Mendenhall suggested the city could tap its resources to help. There will also be ongoing costs for third-party service providers within the gated community.

Details and context

If built on the 45-acre parcel, the more than 400 homes would be between 250-400 square feet each, with many built as duplexes and triplexes. Homes will be paired in groups of 25-35 “neighborhoods,” with amenities in each.

“This will be a gated community,” The Other Side said, “where the residents will be able to come and go as necessary, but there can be controlled access of visitors to maintain safety and order within the Village.”

For context: The 39-story Astra Tower — which will become Utah’s tallest when built — will contain 380 housing units. 

A collection of governmental and nonprofit groups focused on services and housing for people in homelessness built three shelters with space for 300-400 people apiece that are often nearing capacity. And still more people are sleeping on the streets of the capital city.

Some housing has been built for people who are considered extremely low-income and those who need permanent support in order to regain stability in their lives. But the number built or coming online hasn’t been enough to meet the existing need.

It’s not clear how much of the 45-acre parcel between Redwood Road and I-215 would be developed as part of The Other Side’s undertaking, though the group asked also to rezone the portion of the property fronting 500 South, meaning the entire parcel will likely be developed.

The Western half of the parcel is home to a former landfill and would be off-limits for residential development, The Other Side said. The eastern half, they said, already passed an environmental analysis and is ready to develop.

“The Village would be able to utilize [the western half] to create additional green space with trees and paths, construct a modest solar farm to provide electricity for the Village, and to provide additional parking for large community events at the Village,” according to The Other Side.

The land would need to be rezoned from public lands (PL) to allow for residential and mixed-uses.

The Other Side, which likely worked alongside staffers in the Planning Division, suggested the FB-UN2 zoning, which allows for high residential densities, low parking requirements and mixed uses.

In addition to retail shops, performance center and wrap-around services like health, dental and mental health care, the group envisions a long list of community amenities.

Community Amenities

  • A small non-denominational chapel
  • A multi-use basketball/pickleball sports court
  • A cantina / food truck spot / coffee station near the center or north end of the village with an outdoor seating area nearby to be frequented primarily by the residents.
  • A picnic area
  • A memorial garden for residents that pass on
  • A memorial garden for pets
  • A horseshoe pit
  • A dog park
  • A Food Pantry (with access for Food Bank truck deliveries, storage and distribution space)
  • Open lawn space for active use
  • A fitness path that creates an integrated feel between neighborhoods with outdoor stations along the way.
  • A Children’s play area for visiting kids and grandkids
  • Trail systems that make for comfortable and natural movement between neighborhoods and attractive amenities spread between neighborhoods that encourage interaction.

Posted by Taylor Anderson

Taylor Anderson grew up near Chicago and made his way West to study journalism at the University of Montana. He's been a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune, Bend Bulletin and Salt Lake Tribune. A move from Portland, Oregon, to Salt Lake City opened his eyes to the importance of good urban design for building strong neighborhoods. He lives on the border of the Liberty Wells and Ballpark neighborhoods.