These Beautiful Tiny Homes Make Home Ownership a Reality for Detroit’s Poorest

Some of Detroit’s most disadvantaged will soon have a new lease on life – quite literally.

Non-profit Cass Community Social Services have been working away on a $1.5 million tiny house project called Cass Tiny Homes, opening the door for low-income and underprivileged individuals to make home ownership a reality.

Detroit has one of the highest adult poverty rates and homeless populations in the U.S.

The project – the brainchild of Rev. Faith Fowler – primarily targets the homeless, senior citizens and college students. The whole idea is not only to provide safe, clean shelter, but also to help low-income people gain an asset.

The first of 25 tiny homes opened up in September.


Image: Detroit Free Press

Unlike similar tiny-home relief projects, what sets this one apart is that it’s the first to offer properties that are rent-to-own. This means that the resident can one day enjoy advantages of homeownership – likely once a pipe dream to some – like building equity and tax deductions.

Not to mention, they can one day pass on the homes to their kids.

The non-profit reaches out to the community to find people who are ready to move into a home but can’t afford one.

After a review process that includes an interview, tenants begin a year lease, paying no more than one-third of their monthly salary.

The rental price of each unit is $1 per square foot, with the average size of the homes around 250-400 square feet. The homes are built for energy efficiency, so utility costs are kept at a minimum, costing tenants $35 a month.


Image: Curbed Detroit

After seven years of paying rent, the tenant becomes the proud owner of the tiny house. The only catch is that they must attend monthly financial coaching and home-ownership classes.

The Tiny Homes community shares borders with the CCSS campus, so residents are integrated into the local community rather than separated from it. Furthermore, the houses won’t look uniform in any way – each of the houses will be a completely different design.

Each home will feature a beautiful façade, with a unique architectural style and design and either a front porch or back deck.

The air-conditioned homes will also feature a washer and dryer, a dishwasher and granite countertops.


Image: Curbed Detroit

Not surprisingly, the demand for the tiny houses is pretty huge. So far, over 600 people have applied for the units. The project could likely grow well beyond the first 25 homes. With the cost and construction time of the homes so minimal, the organization plans to expand the initiative to house larger families. There are also mire vacant lots near the original building sites.

The project is funded by private donations and foundations, including the Ford Motor Fund, the RNR Foundation, and the McGregor Fund. The thing is, it can’t necessarily be easily replicated elsewhere; it works in Detroit because the city has no minimum building requirements.

Now, if we could only make home ownership a reality in Toronto.

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