Detroit, Michigan, may have one of the highest rates of poverty in all metro cities in the U.S., but a new initiative launched by local non-profit Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) aims to make it easier for low-income individuals to escape lower class living. The organization is constructing 25 tiny homes which will house tenants who don’t have the funds to rent their own living quarters or purchase a home. Homeless people, students, and low-income seniors will be given priority.
A fundraiser was kicked off last week when CCSS invited the public to tour six completed tiny homes. Located in the two vacant blocks between the Lodge and Woodrow Wilson Street, each home will have a unique exterior, and will range in size from 250 to 400 square feet. The development will also be in walking distance to popular social, education, recreational and health services at Cass’ main campus.
Said Cass’ executive director, Reverend Faith Fowler, “The structures are being built with the permission of the city, and with the help of professional tradespeople and volunteers. The project is using a rent-to-own model, with rental prices set at $1 per square foot, meaning that a 300-square-foot house would cost $300 in rent per month. Each will have its own basic furnishings and appliances, but no bedroom — so they are not meant for families.”
Potential tenants need to meet low-income eligibility requirements and go through an interview and selection process. Rent is capped at no more than one-third of their monthly wages and after a maximum period of seven years, they will officially own the house. The cost of utilities is expected to run around $35 per month. The initiative is applaudable, but there is a catch: tenants are required to attend financial coaching and home maintenance classes once a month.
“It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the environment, as tiny homes have a small carbon footprint. It’s good for the renter to become homeowners because [they will someday have] an asset. It’s good for the neighborhood because 25 more lots will be filled with people and repopulated. It’s good for the city because they’ll become taxpayers. It’s good for the larger community, especially the homeless community, to see that somebody who used to be homeless now is a stakeholder in our neighborhood. So it’s really good on so many levels, and we’re excited about it,” said Fowler.
As TreeHugger reports, the tiny house project is primarily funded by private donations and foundations, including the Ford Motor Fund, the RNR Foundation, and the McGregor Fund. Cass’ ultimate goal is to help revitalize the surrounding area. Because there are over 300 vacant properties within a one-mile radius, the non-profit envisions rehabilitating unoccupied buildings for low-income residents and operating on the same rent-to-own basis.