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Tiny Houses for Huntsville Homeless

By Paul Huggins

Compliments: Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – A tiny idea could be a big solution for helping Huntsville solve its homeless problem.

During a Huntsville City Council work session on Wednesday, Nicki Beale, founder of Foundations for Tomorrow, gave a proposal for building small homes, less than 500 square feet, that could provide a safe, dry community for homeless people to replace tent cities, while also costing 68 percent less than building conventional housing shelters.

A tiny home, usually built on a trailer, can be built for $5,000 to $10,000, she said, noting she has seen one tiny home community of 30 units built for $100,000. Foundations for Tomorrow will have a 3-D model provided by Mind Gear ready next week and hopes to have its first tiny house built by Christmas.

Typical-tiny-house-example-tinyhousedesign-dot-com

“All I need from you guys is one acre of land that meets my site criteria,” Beale said. She explained the site must be near the key agencies that support the homeless, and also added that the city would have to work with her on navigating zoning laws, some of which would need to be changed.

There are size restrictions on houses unless they are built on trailers, she said, but Huntsville only allows trailers in trailer parks, and a new trailer park would have to be outside the city limits.

The United States currently has 10 functioning tiny home communities, Beale said, and all of them had to work around zoning laws.

The work session focused entirely on the Huntsville homeless issue, which was heightened after a homeless man, Mark Pridmore, died after being savagely beaten outside a University Drive convenience store on Sept. 4.

Representatives of 13 agencies, such as the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, Manna House, Riah Rose Home For Children, WellStone Behavioral Health, and Operation Standdown shared their service success stories and daily challenges.

Tiny-house-interior-photo

Lynn Bullard, board member for the North Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, said the January count showed 536 homeless people, and of those about 200 are on the streets.

She supported the idea of the tiny homes and said providing safe housing for the homeless is a more affordable way to address the issue in the long run, even if the city picks up the entire cost.

“We’re spending more money on emergency rooms than we’d ever spend on housing,” Bullard said, noting the homeless use the ERs for routine health issues, such as spider bites, and often a basic illnesses like the flu becomes pneumonia from sleeping outside.

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Under 200 Square Foot Tiny Houses in Northeast

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Nina Glinski

Compliments: Stuff

Doug Immel recently completed his custom-built dream home, sparing no expense on details like cherry-wood floors, cathedral ceilings and stained-glass windows – in just 164 square feet of living space including a loft (15.24 square metres).

The 57-year-old schoolteacher’s tiny house near Providence, Rhode Island, cost US$28,000 – a seventh of the median price of single-family residences in his state.

“I wanted to have an edge against career vagaries,” said Immel, a former real estate appraiser. A dwelling with minimal financial burden “gives you a little attitude.” He invests the money he would have spent on a mortgage and related costs in a mutual fund, halving his retirement horizon to 10 years and maybe even as soon as three. “I am infinitely happier.”

Aldo Lavaggi 105-square-foot tiny house new york hudson valley

Dramatic downsizing is gaining interest among Americans, gauging by increased sales of plans and ready-made homes and growing audiences for websites related to the niche. A+E Networks has begun airing Tiny House Nation a series on FYI that “celebrates the exploding movement.”

The pared-down lifestyle allows people to minimise expenses and gain economic freedom, said architect Jay Shafer in Cotati, California, who founded two micro building and design companies and is widely credited with popularising the trend.

Aldo Lavaggi off the grid tiny house runs on car battery and solar power“It shows people how little some need to be happy, and how simply they can live if they choose,” said Shafer, 49, who shares a 500-square foot home with his wife and two young children.

Despite gains in the labour and housing markets, Americans choosing mini houses remain wary of tethering themselves to a mortgage.

People want “a more modest lifestyle now,” said Derek Diedricksen, who travels nationally to lead building workshops. Those who opt for super-small structures don’t want to “waste their time or be a slave to a house they don’t fully use.”

Defined as 500 or fewer square feet (46 square metres), tiny houses range from primitive 9-square-metre huts to award-winning displays of sustainable architecture with elegant streamlined design. While many are built on wheels to avoid regulations, mobility isn’t the main draw.

Aldo Lavaggi, 36, can support himself as a folk musician in New York’s Hudson Valley thanks to the 105-square foot (9.75 square-metre) home he built on a friend’s farmland in the Berkshires and has lived in since August 2012.

“There’s a fallacy of limited options,” he said, arguing that people don’t need stellar credit, thick wallets or even a full-time job to own a house. His residence runs on a car battery and energy from two solar panels. He pockets enough cash to splurge on artisanal bread and gourmet cheeses from the local market. “I’m earning more than I spend,” he said.

Even with the micro-trend, the number of tiny houses in the United States is, well, tiny – just in the thousands per unofficial industry surveys. Their popularity is growing, however, as the U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to 64.8 per cent, the lowest in almost 20 years, and the median size of new single-family houses is the biggest ever – 2,384 square feet in 2013 (221.5 square metres), a 3.4 per cent increase from 2012.

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