If Coyla Shepard could make wishes come true, buyers with deep pockets would appear with a million dollars to buy the properties on either side of THINC, the first tiny home village in Langley.
Tiny Homes in the Name of Christ, or THINC, a non-profit founded more than five years ago, will provide nine tiny homes for Whidbey’s residents challenged with finding affordable places to live. One of the 264-square-foot homes is nearly complete and six others of the same size are under construction. Providing affordable housing for everyday workers is among the highest priorities facing the City of Langley and Island County. And THINC’s focus on getting homes built for the needy has never faltered.
Energetic and charismatic Coyla Shepard uses every bit of her energy these days managing the THINC project—which involves securing materials, finding volunteers, and coordinating with non-profits/groups who have committed to building and helping with construction, such as Island Church of Whidbey, Calvary Chapel Whidbey Island, Living Design Foundation, South Whidbey Assembly of God, Trinity Lutheran Church, St. Hubert Catholic Church, Langley United Methodist Church, PriceJohnson Construction, and the Old Curmudgeons.
Seeing her vision became reality with the building of the tiny home village, the first in Island County, Coyla is thinking ahead to expand housing resources for the community. She wants the right someones to take the reins and spearhead buying a former chiropractor’s office and outbuilding next door that is on the market for nearly $750,000. The property has two buildings totaling nearly 2,400 square feet, has 11 parking spaces, and has been on the market for more than 220 days.
Meeting with Coyla, and her team of enthusiastic helpers Judy Thorsland and Bernita Sanstad, Sept. 21, we walked next door to talk with one of the property’s listing agents, Dana MacInnis, who works with John L. Scott Whidbey Island South.
“We currently have seven families living in trailers,” Coyla said, mentioning her recent conversation with Mary Michell, the McKinney-Vento liaison for the South Whidbey School District. McKinney Vento is a federal law, requiring school districts to immediately enroll unstably housed children. One of Mary Michell’s tasks is scouting out housing for needy families. “We could have four families living here,” Coyla added.
Dana agreed that affordable housing is on everyone’s minds now that prices for rent and home buying have skyrocketed since the COVID pandemic.
“This particular property could be the perfect expansion of what is already happening for workforce housing on this strip of Camano Ave,” Dana noted. “For those focused on the dire need for affordable housing for our local workforce, the vision is easy, the challenge is finding the person or persons who may be able to fund such a project.”
There are public agencies such as The Port of South Whidbey, which has proposed providing 15-20 workforce housing units at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds across from THINC, using Island County’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act funds. Island County received $16.5 million in ARPA funds and has earmarked $9.5 million to be used for affordable housing or toward providing infrastructure to facilitate it.The port operates the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds.
Coyla and Dana mentioned seeking assistance from the newly created, as of July 25, 2022, Home on Whidbey, Community Land Trust or HOWclt, whose purpose is to form permanently affordable homes and a thriving community on Whidbey Island.
According to one of its founders, Architect Ross Chapin, “It is a nonprofit organization to secure land, direct the development of permanently affordable limited equity homes and manage them over the long term.” Ross linked his Facebook-posted comments with website: Grounded Solutions Network and its Community Land Trusts page, which notes that there are over 225 community land trusts now in the United States.
“Wow, the prices these days are dazzling,” Ross wrote via Facebook Messenger, in response to the focus of this story. “I can alert our group to this, but it’s just forming. I’ll also look in more detail at the offering.”
Coyla also advocates the purchase of property north of THINC, which would, in her mind, make a great park and showcase visitors’ entrance into Langley with its 16 regal Douglas fir trees.
“I would like the community to purchase the lot and donate it for a park,” Coyla said. “People like to sit and wait for their kids coming out of their classes”
The property adjacent to THINC is on the market for $350,000 and has not been built on. Across the street is the Whidbey Island Dance Theatre and Whidbey Children’s Theatre, which attracts a number of cars dropping off and picking up kids.
“We could have park benches designed and gifted by the local organizations,” Coyla said. “We need a committee formed to purchase of the park. If they put housing there, some of the big trees will need to be taken down—Douglas firs, one 40 inches in diameter, will come down. The property is zoned for neighborhood business, which includes a park. The Boy Scouts have maintained the property for the past 20 years and charge for fair parking.”
The Whidbey Island Fair across the street saw more than 22,000 visitors in 2021 and saw big crowds in 2022. The Boy Scouts and other nonprofits charge for parking nearby, and fundraise for their organizations during the fair.
Attending a recent Langley City Council meeting, Coyla suggested the piece be purchased for use as a park. Meanwhile the property’s owner has received an offer. Coyla noted: “They have received an offer by a contractor dependent upon a feasibility study –they have 15 days to finalize that contract or negate it.”
If anyone can realize a vision, it is Coyla Shepard. Now all she needs is some good folks willing to donate the funding, and a committee to carry this forward.
“Cathi Sheneman –940-597-7565–has volunteered to take down pledges for the park and for the group home,” Coyla wrote in an email. “The funding is needed to purchase the properties.”
For more information, visit THINC’s webpage here.