A tiny house for low-income buyers in Seattle.

By Anessa Cohen

Low-income housing has always followed three molds provided by government agencies. The first mold is building apartment buildings with units rented to different levels of low- to middle-income families based on a sliding scale.

Mold two features a set number of apartments rented to low- to middle-income families — based on a ceiling threshold — in new privately constructed luxury buildings. The developer gets a tax abatement and possibly some extra footage allowance for agreeing to set aside the special category low-income housing.

The third mold is government-subsidized housing purchase. People with income under a set ceiling can qualify to purchase new housing built specifically to enable low-income earners to become homeowners.

A new type of innovative low-income housing has sprung up and although still in its infancy has been showing great results. Cass Community Social Services (CCSS), a social service organization in Detroit, is building tiny homes on small lots to service categories of low income earners who have the most difficulty in obtaining decent housing.

These tiny homes, no bigger than 250–400 square feet, are being built individually on 30- x 100-foot lots on permanent foundations. At a cost of approximately $28,500 each to build, they offer high ceilings and large windows so the occupants feel as if the little houses are actually much bigger than they are, They have front or rear porches or decks and fully contained living room, bedroom, kitchen, and full bath.

A similar program is being offered in Seattle. According to its website, “the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) is one of the largest providers of Tiny House Village shelters in the nation, ensuring that people’s experience in homelessness is as safe, dignified, and brief as possible.”

These homes will be offered to U.S. veterans, seniors, college students, as well as others for rent with an option to buy if they are still living in the same home after seven years. The rent is approximately $1 per square foot, which with a 250-square-foot home would equal $250 per month. Even someone making an income of less than $10,000 a year could afford to live there.

In order to qualify, in addition to showing less than a certain income level, all candidates must also agree to attend a series of classes in home maintenance, finance, and healthy living. The organization also provides access to a professional care manager to help them with any issues that occur while they live in these homes.

By regular standards, 250–400 square feet would equal the size of one large room in an apartment or house. Living in smaller accommodations would probably take a little getting used to. But if you would see how these little houses are set up inside, the design and creativity of the layout makes you feel as if you are living in a space nearly three times the size. The private backyard space and porch allows each resident not only their own privacy but to live in a dignified manner no matter how restrained their monthly income presently is.

Although this type of building is not presently widespread, it offers much food for thought of the innovative ways housing can be provided for those with even the most minimal of incomes, such as minimum wage workers and those without full-time employment.

There are parts of the country that have large areas of land on which putting little houses might create a new advantage, especially to those who cannot afford rentals on their present income. Someone had a great idea!

Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and a licensed N.Y.S. loan officer (FM Home Loans) with over 20 years of experience offering full-service residential, commercial, and management real-estate services as well as mortgage services. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa@AVCrealty.com.

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