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This rent-to-own tiny housing scheme aims to lift low-income people out of poverty

5 min read

Better Society
This rent-to-own tiny housing scheme aims to lift low-income people out of poverty
Source: CNN Money

These cool tiny homes are making a huge difference for low income residents in Detroit.

These tiny houses let people with incomes as low as $10K become homeowners

Tiny homes are making a huge difference for low-income residents and people that used to be homeless in the US city of Detroit, Michigan. Cass Community Social Services is building more than two dozen rent-to-own tiny homes to help revitalise its city and make home ownership accessible to low-income citizens.

This non-profit builds tiny homes for low-income workers When the project is complete there will be 25 different Tiny Homes. Each home will be on its own lot and every one will be on a foundation. Most will have a front porch or rear deck to increase the living space. Source: Facebook/NowThisFuture

Tenants can potentially gain full ownership rights of the home after seven years

The houses will range in size from 250-400 square feet (23–37 square metres). Each house will look different, but will have similar amenities. This model house (main photo), is 300 square feet, and they’ll be building a deck on the back of it for additional living space. A 300-square-foot home would cost about $48,000 to build, but that figure could decrease as more are built.

Residents will need an income to qualify for the project. A 300-square-foot home will cost $300 in rent each month, plus heating, which should only be about $32 per month in the winter. They’re using a rent-to-own model, with tenants graduating from a rental lease to a land contract, with potential full ownership rights of the home after seven years.

This is a first of its kind project in Detroit. Cass Community Social Services first worked with the city on appropriate zoning. They’re unsure of what the homes will be worth in the future, as there are no comparable properties in the area. There are over 300 vacant lots within a mile radius of this neighbourhood, so they’re looking at this project as repopulating the neighbourhood.

Source: DetroitCurbed.com

Each will have its own basic furnishings and appliances, but no bedroom -- so they are not meant for families.
A look inside Each will have its own basic furnishings and appliances, but no bedroom — so they are not meant for families. Source: DetroitCurbed.com
This tiny house neighbourhood is within walking distance to Cass' main campus, meaning that residents won't be isolated and can still access many of the social, educational, recreational and health services that the agency provides.
With rental set at $1 per square foot, a 300-square-foot house would cost $300 in rent per month This tiny house neighbourhood is within walking distance to Cass’ main campus, meaning that residents won’t be isolated and can still access many of the social, educational, recreational and health services that the agency provides. Source: Cass Community Social Services/Video screen capture

Residents won’t be isolated and can access the services and facilities the agency provides

The structures are being built with the permission of the city, and with the help of professional tradespeople and volunteers. The project is using a rent-to-own model, with rental prices set at $1 per square foot, meaning that a 300-square-foot house would cost $300 in rent per month. 

Each will have its own basic furnishings and appliances, but no bedroom — so they are not meant for families. 

This tiny house neighbourhood is within walking distance to the Cass main campus, meaning that residents won’t be isolated and can still access many of the social, educational, recreational and health services that the agency provides.

Tenants have to meet low-income eligibility requirements, and have to go through an interview and selection process. The plan is to focus on housing low-income seniors, students, and homeless people as well, who want to have a place of their own, but don’t have the funds to buy a home. 

Tenants pay their rent, capped at no more than a third of their monthly wages, and after a maximum of seven years of paying off the cost of the house, they will be owners of the home they live in. 

As experienced tiny house residents know, the cost of utilities such as heat will be low, estimated here to be about $35 per month. The only mandatory requirement is that tenants attend financial coaching and home maintenance classes once a month.

Below, executive director of Cass, Reverend Faith Fowler speaks about the scheme.

Source: Treehugger.com

Note: the above article was first published in 2017. Updates in 2019 below.


Tiny homes – huge impact Here’s Cass’ executive director Reverend Faith Fowler speaking about the project. Source: Youtube/C&BSceneInc

Cass & Ford Fund Unveil ‘Freight Farm’ Allowing Cass to Grow Fresh Food Year Round!

Cass Community Social Services, a Detroit nonprofit dedicated to providing area residents with food, housing, health services and job training, is housing the Ford Freight Farm in a shipping bay at its World Building headquarters in Detroit. A small space has been developed, creating a teaching area for school classes, volunteers and others.

Ford Fund and Cass Community Social Services are longtime collaborators on community projects, including Cass’ Tiny Homes Detroit project.

  • The 40-foot freight container is equipped with LED lighting to enable seeds to sprout and vegetables to grow. 
  • The indoor farm operates without the use of pesticides, sunlight or soil. It also utilizes 90 percent less water than would normally be used. 
  • Hundreds of vertical towers house produce that is fed by water infused with nutrients. 
  • The container has the growing capacity of up to two acres of land and will produce up to 52 harvests per year. The unit will be partially powered by solar panels to reduce environmental impact and offset operating cost. 

Cass is currently growing lettuce, greens and herbs that will be utilised in the nonprofit’s community kitchen that serves over 700,000 meals each year. 

The growth cycle for current plant varieties (lettuce, mustard greens, Basil, Swiss Chard and Kale) is approximately four-to-five weeks from seed to mature plant (ready for harvest). Harvests will be staggered, allowing Cass to continually start new plants growing.

In addition to providing fresh, healthy produce to its community kitchen, the Ford Freight Farm will also provide some part-time employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. 

Beginning in 2019, produce will be sold to area restaurants to create an income stream to help support the freight farm. 

The Ford Mobile Farm is the brainchild of Millennial Ford employees who participated in the 2017 class of Thirty Under 30, a philanthropic leadership program launched by Ford Motor Company Executive Chairman Bill Ford to create a new generation of community-minded employees. 

The Thirty Under 30 team was challenged with improving Ford Mobile Food Pantries, a successful food distribution program launched in 2008 to address increasing hunger needs across metro Detroit. Team members toyed with the idea of creating a farm in the bed of an F-150, which led to growing vegetables inside a 40-foot shipping container. 

The Ford Mobile Farm project received $250,000 in funding from the Bill Ford Better World Challenge, a grant program funded by Ford Motor Company Fund and Bill Ford personally to provide support for employee ideas capable of transformational change. The grant helped support the purchase and outfitting of the freight farm, the hiring of a person to oversee the farm and the educational arm of the program, including the preparation of an F-150 for school visits. 

Source: C&B Scene

Cass & Ford Fund Unveil ‘Freight Farm’ Allowing Cass to Grow Fresh Food Year Round! Cass Community Social Services and Ford Motor Company Fund unveil the second piece of their Ford Mobile Farm project collaboration – the Ford Freight Farm, a 40-foot shipping container that grows nutritious food hydroponically. Source: YouTube/C&BScene
Detroit Nonprofit Delivers Solar Panels to Puerto Rico In November 2017, Detroit nonprofit Cass Community Social Services delivered 50 solar panel generators to hurricane stricken Puerto Rico. In January '18, Cass' Executive Director Rev. Faith Fowler returned to install solar units at a local school. Source: YouTube/C&BScene

Cass CommunitySocial Services

Cass Community Social Services is a Detroit nonprofit agency with a person-centered philosophy that assists people living in areas of concentrated poverty by offering food, housing, health care and jobs. 

  • Cass prepares and serves 1 million meals a year
  • It provides shelter and affordable housing for 285 homeless people nightly. 
  • It offers both a free medical clinic and medication monitoring for residents. 
  • The agency’s Green Industries employs 80 adults with significant barriers to work and will soon employ 25 youth.
Tiny homes foundations in Monterey Source: Facebook/CassDetroit
Volunteers making a difference Source: Facebook/CassDetroit
Make an Impact

Donate direct to CASS and help put this tiny community on the map – literally

There are a number of ways you can donate to this scheme, whether financially, with materials, or with your time, skills and labour.