Progress on ‘expensive’ Alameda County tiny homes project is on target

A 29-unit tiny homes project on the grounds of Fairmont Hospital in unincorporated Alameda County remains on schedule to qualify for $3.9 million in federal CARES Act funding, county officials said on Tuesday.

When asked by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson if the county will miss a Dec. 20 deadline set by the federal government, Willie Hopkins, director of the Alameda County General Services Agency answered, “Absolutely not.”

An invoice for construction of the tiny homes was recently received by the county, he added, one major requirement for fulfilling the CARES Act’s funding rules.

While the county appears likely to complete one unit compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and a modular office building before the year-end deadline, problems with the area’s aged infrastructure has persisted, Hopkins said.

The soil at the Fairmont property was found to be contaminated with asbestos and required remediation, Hopkins said. Utility connections and fire hydrants also required replacement, he added. The site is also bookended by two earthquake faults, further complicating construction.

The $6.4 million project, known as the Fairmont Safer Grounds Tiny Homes Project, is due to be completed next April, with one unit coming online this month, eight in January, and 10 apiece in February and March. Operating cost for the tiny homes was estimated to be $1.4 million annually in August when the Board of Supervisors approved the project.

But the tiny homes cost per unit caught some Alameda County supervisors off-guard on Tuesday.

Each tiny home measures between 177-200 square feet, Hopkins told the board. At roughly $300,000 per unit, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said, “I’m just shocked at the cost per unit.” Hopkins agreed.

Aside from the $3.9 million in CARES Act funding, the remainder of the project, $2.1 million, comes from residual county property taxes, known as “boomerang funds,” said Susan Muranishi, Alameda County administrator.

Another $893,000 in contingency funding for the project is also available. A majority of those funds will be drawn down due to unforeseen issues with Fairmont’s infrastructure,” Hopkins believes. “We don’t know what we may encounter.”

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