Wednesday, May 4, 2016

HUD commissioned study recommends building Tiny Home Villages to increase Affordable Housing

A slew of clickbait headlines struck fear into the tiny house community last month—incorrectly stating that a proposed policy of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sought to make tiny houses illegal. 

In fact, the opposite is true. It turns out HUD is actively looking into the feasibility of using tiny home villages to increase affordable housing stock. They recently commissioned U.C. Berkeley's School of Public Policy—the top ranked public policy analysis program in the country—to research the issue. This week they released the following report:

A Tiny House Design
for Emerald Village Eugene
Making a Tiny Deal Out of It: A Feasibility Study of Tiny Home Villages to Increase AffordableHousing in Lane County, Oregon

As the subtitle suggests, the study was focused in Lane County, Oregon–in particular, the neighboring cities of Eugene and Springfield. The report concludes: "We found that tiny home villages are a good solution to increase affordable housing stock in Lane County, Oregon. It is also projected that tiny home villages will create communal support, benefitting residents’ likelihood of long-term housing, employment, and contentment."

Community support—both in the surrounding community and within the village itself—was identified as key to the success of a tiny home village. "All the tiny home villages with whom we spoke noted that the neighborhood community was more likely to support the building of a tiny home village if residents were notified in the early planning stages and included in discussions." It also emphasizes the importance of internal community agreements as—"a concise way to inform the residents and the surrounding neighborhood of the positive culture that the village is fostering."

It's concluded that: "Neighborhood outreach, a community agreement, and an application process will help a tiny home village be successful once built. Internal and external community support could help the project transcend stigma against the marginally housed."

The report also highlights the efficiency and durability of tiny homes, stating, "Even though tiny homes take less time to build than regular homes, more permanent tiny houses are expected to last the same amount of time as regular houses."

Various HUD funding streams, such as Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs), are reviewed in the context of their ability to be used for the development of tiny home villages. It's pointed out that the cost and complexity of the application process for LIHTCs—a popular way to subsidize modern affordable housing built by private developers—is a barrier to small non-profit organizations. Instead, the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) is identified as a particularly good match. It allows for the inclusion of "sweat equity" and volunteer labor, which lends itself to tiny homes utilizing simple construction practices.

The ability to evaluate the effectiveness of tiny home villages was limited, since there is not yet much data collected on the subject. However, the report identifies some useful metrics to collect future research, which we intend to put to use in our work with SquareOne Villages.

"Future developers in Eugene can benefit from the example set by SquareOne Villages, the organization that built Opportunity Village and is planning Emerald Village. Since the process of permitting and zoning a tiny home village has already succeeded in Eugene, developers could follow the established path."

Read the Report: 

Making a Tiny Deal Out of It: A Feasibility Study of Tiny Home Villages to Increase Affordable
Housing in Lane County, Oregon