Integrated Family Community Services 3370 South Irving Street, Englewood, CO 80110-1816 Ph: 303-789-0501

How Tiny Home Developments Can Help Communities in Need

Tiny home communities are a relatively new concept, but they’ve proven to be helpful to communities in need of housing for disenfranchised populations that otherwise might fall through the cracks, such as the homeless population, low-income families, the refugee population, and those on disability.

But in the current U.S. real estate market, it’s not only the disenfranchised that are in need of stable and affordable housing. Recent data indicates that rent costs are rising faster than wages can keep up with. Further, among low- and moderate-income Americans, there is a shortfall of about 2.6 million affordable housing units.

Today’s renters are looking for creative solutions to the housing crisis, and many are resorting to home-sharing or roommate situations. Another potential solution that has been making waves is the development of tiny homes. Tiny houses typically comprise between 100 and 400 square feet, and are essentially a free-standing studio apartment. About 144 tiny houses could fit inside a football field, meaning that this type of living arrangement could be ideal in urban areas.

Due to factors such as cost and land use savings, several communities and cities across the country are already trying out tiny home development in an attempt to combat homelessness and housing insecurity.

Factors Impacting the Housing Shortage

Buying a home, once the cornerstone of the American Dream, is increasingly out of reach for a large number of Americans, especially millennials. This reality doesn’t mean that young people prefer to rent, however: A recent survey found that 75% of Americans consider buying a home to be a high priority. It’s just the logistics can be problematic.

For example, it can be difficult for young people or those who have fallen on hard times to secure a home loan. And then there’s the additional expenses of home ownership to consider, such as home insurance, property taxes, lawn care, and maintenance. The long list of potential expenses associated with homeownership can be daunting, more so for those with a limited income.

But America’s affordable housing shortage isn’t just about the inability of many to buy a home. Those who rent a home or apartment are often subject to surprise rent hikes, which can put a real strain on one’s budget. In some cases, low-income families and individuals dealing with a sudden rent increase must seek outside financial assistance in order to stay off the streets.

Considerations When Building a Tiny Home

Major urban areas often see the brunt of repercussions from the national housing shortage. And tiny home communities may provide a viable solution. Detroit, for example, has been plagued by widespread poverty, unemployment, and homelessness in recent years. The city is one of the first to build tiny houses especially for the disenfranchised.

After overcoming barriers such as land access and zoning restrictions, Detroit’s Cass Community Social Services began construction in 2017 on a neighborhood of 25 rent-to-own tiny homes. The project teamed professional tradespeople with passionate volunteers every step of the way. Designing and constructing tiny home communities is similar to building a traditional neighborhood, just on a smaller scale.

After securing the lot and obtaining the appropriate permits, the next step in tiny house construction is clearing and grading the land. Vegetation, tree roots, and large rocks must be removed from the property, and then the land must be graded to accommodate the home’s foundation. In most cases, the job should be turned over to a professional company to avoid problems down the line.

One of the biggest advantages of tiny home construction is the cost savings throughout the project. Tiny houses require less land and significantly fewer materials than traditional homes, from flooring and siding to both interior and exterior paint. And part of the construction process is determining the right amount of materials to avoid shortage or overage.

Where paint is concerned, the calculations are relatively straightforward. By determining the square footage of the surface area to be painted, it’s easy to figure out how much paint is needed. Generally speaking, a gallon of paint covers 400 square feet, but drywall may absorb more paint than wood or other materials. While material costs may seem insignificant in regards to the overall picture, proper planning helps ensure a successful project. And reduced material costs typically translate to lower costs for the homeowner or tenant.

Strengthening Communities

It remains to be seen whether Detroit’s tiny home community will help improve housing insecurity within the city. However, Detroit is on the right track when it comes to taking a chance on creative solutions. Providing stable, long-term housing to 25 people, in a community setting, is a step in the right direction.

Solving the national housing crisis is a multifaceted job that requires the involvement of town planners, social organizations, and individual volunteers alike. Those who want to get involved with the building of tiny home communities don’t necessarily need construction experience, just a strong work ethic.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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According to Feeding America, food insecurity is a problem. Almost 28,000 Douglas and 75,000 Arapahoe County residents (1 in 7 Coloradans) face this issue.

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