When Varna residents first heard of plans for a 15-home development on a little more than two-acre plot in the hamlet [of Ithaca], they were a bit skeptical.
After hearing what Buzz Dolph, the owner of Tiny Timbers and the development’s builder had to say, that apprehension gave way to excitement — after all, Dolph said, it’s not every day a builder comes along who proposes homes that, under mortgage, cost less than $700 a month to pay for.
“It’s really important to the Varna community,” Dolph said. “I feel like they’ve been really frustrated with what’s going on… there’s a significant lack of that. Rents and housing prices have skyrocketed… there just isn’t enough supply and there’s a big financial hump for everybody. If we can add supply at an affordable rate, I feel we’ll do all right.”
Smaller, affordable homes are a niche the current housing market isn’t filling, said Megan McDonald, a senior planner with Tompkins County.
McDonald said family sizes have remained low in the county — 2.8 people per household — and have decreased slightly since 2009, creating a demand for smaller homes. The recently released Danter Study found the demand for condominiums had its highest potential for growth existed for properties priced less than $250,000.
Tiny Timbers has an advantage, McDonald said, because most developers don’t build at that price point because the profit margins on the less-expensive units aren’t as lucrative.
Dolph is able to produce homes that cost between $100,000 and $200,000, including labor, because he and local architect Noah Demarest have developed floor plans for a set of homes that are based off a 15-foot by 15-foot timber-frame block Dolph can prefabricate in his workshop.