According to T.R. Goldman who is one of Washington D.C.’s journalists – a political writer, health care and urban planning writer, tiny homes are considered to be a possible solution to homelessness and poverty. Are you ready to know what the journalist was referring to? Read on and know more about the tiny homes project and who is behind this noble movement.
Tiny houses are commonly mocked upon as millennial indulgences, a protest compared to the clutter of modern life and our lavish use of the earth’s resources.
The neighborhood in Detroit with several vacant lots and seeing tiny homes are providing a financial lifeline to those who are in the lower income bracket. Reverend Faith Fowler, a 60-year-old Methodist pastor, have created a radical new approach in solving a national domestic crisis, which not only affects some people, but an estimated half a million people. The Cass Community Social Services is an anti-poverty nonprofit that got founded in the local Methodist church, have started building homes in 2016 in the center of the city that has suffered a debilitating loss of housing stock and a serious situation of homelessness. Their project of houses all looked like a scaled down version of a middle-class suburban dream in the Cape Cods, Victorians, and angle-roofed moderns that were none larger than 400 square feet with each house having a 30ft by 100 ft lot. Having 8 of those houses are occupied by those who at one point in their lives had been homeless.
These tiny homes were used to be emergency shelters or transitional housing in areas like Seattle and Denver. With Seattle having 10 tiny house “villages” that provides a range of social services built from weather tight and secure place to sleep. However, Fowler’s project is different.
These tiny homes that are Fowler’s project are built with concrete foundations, which are designed for permanent living spaces and not just transitional housing with an estimated construction value of $45-$55,000 with a large portion coming from the donations from corporations, foundations, and a variety of Christian denominations – providing a chance to build generational wealth for the poorest of the poor people who are living from paycheck to paycheck.
Fowler said, “it’s about economic mobility more than residential stability, which is the American dream and which for most of us is tied to home ownership.” Her program would allow people who would never qualify for a mortgage where they could own a home.
Her program got started right after the death of her mother – her mother had left her a house. She recalls that moment saying, “for God’s sake, I’m middle class, and this is what we do.” If you compared the middle class and the poor, the poor people could never have that chance to leave a house through inheritance. So if you are poor, and the parent passes away, you and your relatives and friends will gather and try to raise some funds for a cremation, which could cost about $1,000 – not burial because the cost for burial is around $4-5,000.
In order to make the concept work, the Cass Community Social Services uses the rent-to-own strategy where they charge one dollar per square foot. So, at 250-400 square feet per home, that is a rental payment and is quite affordable with those who have a minimum income of about $7,000 annual that is allowed by the program.
What is included in this project is that residents should pay their own utility bills, be able to meet on a monthly basis with a financial coach, and be able to take part in a community watch program. If that goes according to plan, seven years after, the home and land on which it sits are deeded to the tenant – mortgage free!
The concept of tiny houses according to Fowler is to make it easier to manage financially. In addition, the tiny homes have a cute factor, which makes them an eye-candy for every magazine spreads. The fundraising goals of Fowler has exceeded its target of $1.5 million for the first 25 homes.
One lucky person, Robert Prince, aged 62 moved into one of the tiny homes last December 1, 2018 after his years of homelessness and he recalled during a telephone interview during a break in his job at Cass Green Industries, “oh man, when they gave me the keys and everything was furnished – bedroom, dining room, I fell to my knees and cried.”
People like Prince were among those who were given a chance to have their own home, felt at ease. For Fowler’s program and the rest of the city, this symbolizes hope for the future especially for those homeless families being given a second chance in life to own their own home.