Tiny homes may give big boost to af­ford­able hous­ing

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY | TECH - Sandy Mazza Nashville Ten­nessean USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A bunk squeezed be­tween a win­dow and the ceil­ing serves as the guest bed­room, and the work desk is jammed be­tween the washer-dryer combo and re­frig­er­a­tor.

The 450-square-foot “mi­cro-home” isn’t large enough for a fam­ily. But one af­ford­able hous­ing de­vel­oper sees big po­ten­tial here for the lit­tle houses.

Ed­die La­timer, CEO of non­profit Af­ford­able Hous­ing Re­sources, is de­vel­op­ing a “mi­cro-village” of 13 small mo­du­lar houses just north of down­town. They will rent for about $1,000 a month, far less than the me­dian stu­dio apart­ment price of $1,545 a month in down­town Nashville.

“Our goal is to help Nashville dis­cover tools to start re­plac­ing the af­ford­able hous­ing we’re los­ing,” La­timer said.

Shift­ing pri­or­i­ties

Tiny homes are pop­ping up in dense cities across the coun­try as young pro­fes­sional sin­gles pri­or­i­tize liv­ing in hip, walk­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties over spa­cious ac­com­mo­da­tions, ac­cord­ing to non­profit re­search firm Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute.

And smaller mi­cro-apart­ments, some with less than 400 square feet, are pop­u­lar in places like New York, San Fran­cisco, Austin and Chicago.

The teeny homes have been pop­u­lar­ized on shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House Hun­ters,” where cre­ative de­sign el­e­ments are used to get the most out of the space.

Nashville’s devel­op­ment boom has caused home prices to nearly dou­ble in the past six years, with the av­er­age cost jump­ing from $140,000 to $260,000. Mean­while, low-in­come res­i­dents have been pushed far­ther from the city’s core in search of a fast-dwin­dling sup­ply of af­ford­able hous­ing.

French doors, gran­ite counter tops

Lux­ury mi­cro-homes aren’t a so­lu­tion to the af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis for very low-in­come res­i­dents, but they could de­liver more op­tions in the work- force hous­ing mar­ket.

At $130,000 each, they could also make home own­er­ship a re­al­ity for many peo­ple who can’t af­ford one now, La­timer said.

Some­times called granny flats or mother-in-law suites, they can fit in back­yards as guest houses.

Souped-up de­sign el­e­ments are used to max­i­mize the min­i­mal spa­ces. There are plenty of tall win­dows.

French doors, hard­wood floors, stain­less-steel ap­pli­ances and gran­ite counter tops bring a lux­u­ri­ous fin­ish.

Some mod­els have ex­posed wooden ceil­ing beams, porches and Po­plar bark sid­ing.

The na­tion’s grow­ing num­ber of sin­gle-per­son house­holds, also fu­eled by a ris­ing se­nior pop­u­la­tion, is en­cour­ag­ing de­vel­op­ers to in­vest in tinier apart­ments and houses.

“Mil­len­ni­als are very se­ri­ous about re­duc­ing their car­bon foot­print and they don’t re­ally care about big houses,” La­timer said.

PHO­TOS BY GE­ORGE WALKER IV/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

Ed­die La­timer, CEO of Af­ford­able Hous­ing Re­sources, a non­profit group, is de­vel­op­ing a “mi­cro-village” of 450-square-foot tiny houses near down­town Nashville.

French doors, hard­wood floors, stain­less-steel ap­pli­ances and gran­ite counter tops bring a lux­u­ri­ous fin­ish. Some mod­els have ex­posed wooden ceil­ing beams, porches and Po­plar bark sid­ing.

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