In a city where a big chunk of the population, half, spends a big chunk of its income, half, on housing, the chance to own a tiny house with a tiny mortgage generates big interest.
It excites Franallen Acosta, 23, a 6-foot 6-inch Lawrence man who ducks when entering many homes but is keen to build wee houses in this densely settled city of nearly 80,000 souls.
The 2012 Lawrence High graduate wants homeownership for more residents. He has faced housing uncertainty himself; has friends who have battled homelessness; and his mother has for 20 years spent the lion’s share of her pay on rent, likely in the neighborhood of $200,000.
“And she’ll never get that back,” he said.
Acosta also wants to create jobs in his home city, where, according to state labor statistics, unemployment stood at 5.3 percent in October, a major improvement from the 10 percent level of two years ago but still almost twice the state’s 2.7 percent rate in October.
Acosta’s response to unemployment and expensive yet limited housing in Lawrence is founding Mi Casita. Translated from Spanish it means “My Little House.” It’s a small step along a challenging, steep path…
Lawrence’ Director of Business and Economic Development Abel Vargas says the city is working with Acosta on clearly defining tiny houses in ordinance language and identifying a property that meets his needs.
Acosta has filed ordinance language, which upon review will need City Council approval. He has filed survey results, asking residents about the need and their desire for tiny houses.
“He has taken the appropriate steps,” Vargas said. “His idea is promising…”
The next major steps will be to find financial backers — people with capital to support the initiative — and to line-up buyers.
To that end Acosta invited a tiny homes builder to showcase the product at an LCW outside event.
He has also has identified 30 people who are interested in living the homes.
It’s unusual for tiny houses to take root in a post-industrial, urban center such as Lawrence where 11,000 people live per square mile compared to a statewide average of about 840 people per square mile.
Acosta isn’t deterred. The city is sprinkled with vacant lots and the need for housing is here.