The tiny house movement is now becoming a working solution to end homelessness in Detroit, MI. Cass Community Social Services, a nonprofit, is spearheading the initiative to offer tiny homes, in a neighborhood of tiny homes, to qualified homeless individuals.
While offering tiny homes to the homeless isn’t novel, what is different about Cass’ planned community is the homeowners are able to rent to own, providing a long-term solution to a social problem.
Not all of the tiny homes will go to the homeless, as the plan is to house college students, senior citizens, and Cass staff members in half of the homes built. Each home will be between 250 and 400 square feet. Cass plans to start with 25 homes, the first of which was completed in September.
"Everybody is talking right now about ending homelessness, but really the goal for this project is to end poverty for these families," said Reverend Faith Fowler in an interview with Business Insider. The program calls for the tenant to lease for the first three years, and then pay off the land over the subsequent four years, after which time they will become the rightful owners of the land and the home. That prospect of home ownership after seven years of payments is important to Rev. Faith who says, "You have something to leave on generationally in your family, which is part of the American Dream.”
The homes are not big enough for families, and are being limited to singles and couples. And they’re not cheap to build either. Each home costs between 40,000 and 50,000 dollars and takes six weeks to construct using volunteer construction workers.
The Ford Motor Company and the RNR Foundation has fronted most of the private funds for the project which has an overall budget of 1.5 million dollars, 800,000 of which has already been donated.
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Fowler says the response from the community has been swift, having taken in over 600 applications for the 25 planned homes. Those dwellings are being constructed on vacant 3,000 sqft lots, and similar lots are all throughout the area, according to Rev. Fowler.
The community is being built in a Central Detroit community. Fowler said that was intentional, saying, “The other communities we visited are outside of town, they’re removed from the life of the city.” She added, “We wanted to tuck ours into an existing neighborhood."
According to Business Insider, “The concept of providing tiny houses for low-income people isn’t new — San Jose, California recently passed a law to facilitate the construction of tiny homes for the homeless, and many other cities, including Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon have created villages of tiny homes for the homeless.”
The Insider added, “These initiatives are supported by research that suggests the most efficient way to combat homelessness is to simply provide those living on the streets with homes. But the Detroit model is different for an important reason: It's the only tiny house community in the country where residents rent to own.”
The Cass project is very much different from the Denver Homeless Out Lout (DHOL) movement in Denver, CO. There, activists ignored building codes and regulations and rather cavalierly set out building a community of tiny homes.
As The Free Thought Project reported, DHOL's purpose statement read, "We seek to create affordable, sustainable alternatives to the current housing system. Tiny homes, residential structures between 100 and 200 square feet in size, [are] what we propose. Our vision is to create a community of micro-houses grouped together in a Tiny Home Village.” But Big Government stepped in and squashed the DHOL's attempt at self-determination, and sustainable, affordable living. A SWAT team was even called in to demolish the homes already constructed.
As TFTP concluded, "DHOL’s quixotic and largely symbolic response was to ignore the onerous regulations and crony arrangements that have wrecked Denver’s housing market and simply start building homes." So, hopefully, Cass and Rev. Fowler will have much better luck dealing with the powers that be.