For the formerly homeless and those living at or below the poverty line, qualifying for a mortgage and becoming a homeowner is more of a dream than a reality.
A social movement known as the “tiny house trend,” which offers people smaller but more efficient space with a reduced carbon footprint, has made the dream a reality for some; for other who make between $10,000 to $15,000 a year that may not qualify for Habitat for Humanity homes or their own mortgage, the price tags are still out of reach.
Fortunately, cities such as Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; Madison, Wisconsin; Seattle, Washington, and Ithaca, New York have built tiny house communities for people who are homeless or qualify as low-income households.
Dignity Village in Portland has used tiny houses to shelter 60 people a night since 2001, and claims to be the oldest city-supported community housing program. And, in Detroit—a city with an abundance of abandoned buildings and vacant lots—one nonprofit is offering people who might not otherwise be able to find a stable, better life for their family a way to rent their way to homeownership.
“We saw that we could build these houses relatively inexpensively and people could operate with very small bills,” said Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, which provides, food, housing, job programs and healthcare to people in Detroit.
Renters will pay $300 a month plus electricity, which is expected to be a maximum of $35 a month. After three years, residents become eligible for a rent-to-own agreement that can make them homeowners after a total of seven years in the house. The first 300 square foot house was completed in September and six more houses are set to be be built by the end of October, with the first seven renters set to be moving in just in time for Thanksgiving.