A Little Vinyl Siding Goes a Long Way

Fernando Pages Ruiz

One problem with affordable housing has always been the homes’ design. They often look cheap. They often look the same. And if they don’t, they often cost a lot of money to build and are only affordable with taxpayer subsidy.

Not so with Tiny Homes Detroit, a smart-looking affordable home community in downtown Detroit, developed by Cass Community Social Services, and eye-catching enough to catch the eye of CNN and PBS.

What’s unique about this project is the high-level of design integrity. Using traditional vinyl siding and polypropylene shake, the building designers were able to clad the tiny homes with a variety of architectural styles from modern to Victorian while meeting the challenges of curb appeal, low maintenance, environmental rigor, and true affordability.

As the name implies, the secret sauce is their size — the average tiny home measures about 400 square feet, the size of a two-car garage.

Before you sneer, think about places like Tokyo and Manhattan, where residents pay a small fortune for a “flat” that may not be much bigger. In Tokyo, the average market rate apartment rents for $15,081 a month and measures 635 square feet. In New York City, it’s a little better: the average rent is only $2,300 for a 550-square foot flat.

So, the folks moving into Tiny Homes Detroit’s appealing and uniquely designed  homes – with private yards big enough for a barbecue and a dog – that costs no more than $400 a month, well, they are doing quite well. Better still, after seven years of on-time payments, each renter owns the home free and clear, making home ownership possible for 25 families who otherwise might’ve had no hope of obtaining the American dream.

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