Debate over homeless vets tiny home community continues at emotional meeting

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – A Kansas-City non-profit wanting to build tiny homes for homeless veterans in an up-and-coming Oklahoma City neighborhood versus a community afraid of what that project will do their property values. It’s been a heated debate in the Capitol View neighborhood, and Thursday night a Citizens Advisory Committee got to formally ask questions and weigh-in.

Members of Veterans Community Project, a Citizens Advisory Committee for the Capitol-Medical Center Improvement and Zoning Commission, and more than 40 members of the Capitol View community met at the Will Rogers Building.

The focus was the land at Northeast 28th St. and N. Phillips Ave., where VCP wants to build 35 tiny homes there that range from 240 to 320 square feet.

Jason Kander, president of the non-profit’s national expansion, told the advisory committee that OKC’s mayor among others invited them to collaborate on helping the city’s roughly 300 homeless veterans.

“When you see a VCP campus, when you drive by it, one of the things that stands out is, as you can see, it’s built to a certain standard,” he presented. “You don’t drive by the veteran’s community village and think, ‘I bet homeless people live there.'”

VCP reps said they considered many locations, but Capitol Views’ proximity to public transit and a VA center, as well as its available sewer infrastructure, make it a perfect spot for their tiny homes village.

While residents voiced their admiration for the project in general, they expressed deep concerns about how the village could lower property values in the neighborhood, which would be deflating in light of how The City of Oklahoma City’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative has invested more than $2 million in Capitol View since 2018.

Kander told residents this wouldn’t happen, citing VCP’s success with tiny home villages in Kansas City and beyond.

“The presence of VCP is the primary reason it’s residential neighbors have enjoyed a minimum property value increase of 2-and-a-half times the average increase throughout the rest of the zip code,” was one testimony he read aloud.

The advisory committee asked VCP about sustainability, the screening process for the vets, why the project couldn’t be built elsewhere in OKC, and on if the project could truly integrate into their community while considering the needs and wishes of those who already live there.

And at the end of the meeting, residents spoke.

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“You do have to also realize that any time veterans had problems, it’s always a possibility the problems back,” a man said during the period for public comment. “So, your screening and everything that you’re going through doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to stop it.”

“I think this project is a beautiful project, but like the others, I think it’s too crowded in this neighborhood,” one woman said after him.

When President of Capitol View Neighborhood Association Kevin McPherson took his turn to comment, he told VCP that this project needed to slow down and that much more extensive conversation needed to happen about if the non-profit and neighborhood could agree on a common, mutually beneficial vision.

“You’re telling us what we’re thinking and that’s part of the bias that we’re talking about, when you come into a community and you don’t take into consideration what we feel,” he said.
The advisory committee will now give their recommendation to the Capitol-Medical Center Improvement and Zoning Commission which meets on December 16th. 

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