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Green Building News

Tiny Houses to the Rescue

A New Jersey lawmaker proposes state grants to build very small houses for low-income families

Really small houses are still a novelty, but a New Jersey state senator thinks they might benefit poor families who otherwise would be on the street or have a hard time paying rent.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A New Jersey state senator has proposed a $5 million “Tiny Home Pilot Program” to create clusters of houses, each no larger than 300 square feet, to provide more housing for the state’s poor.

The website NJ.com reported the proposal from Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Union Democrat, would fund the program for three years.

The average new house in the U.S. is almost 10 times that size, but Lesniak thinks tiny houses hold promise. “They’re comfortable accommodations, and really provide housing opportunities for lower income families that cost less money than the rents that they’re paying now, and also may be able to take some people off the streets,” he told the website.

The proposed pilot program would be managed by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, which would choose towns in three regions of New Jersey. Towns that participated in the program would get extra credits toward their affordable housing obligations, NJ.com said.

Little houses get more attention

Companies like Tumbleweed Tiny House and the website Small House Society have focused more attention on these miniature dwellings, but their owners can’t always get building permits for them.

Kent Pipes, the president of a non-profit affordable housing development company, for example, told NJ.com that he has been hoping to build housing with shipping containers ranging in size from 160 to 320 square feet, but has been unable to find a town that would grant a permit because they’re too small. Lesniak’s bill might help solve that problem in New Jersey.

The idea of using very small houses to help the homeless has been tried elsewhere.

A project for homeless people called Quixote Village in Olympia, Washington, includes 30 houses of 144 square feet each. The cottages have only a sitting/sleeping area, a bathroom and a closet. A laundry, showers and kitchen space are provided in a shared community building.

Permit fees, road improvements and site development helped push the cost of that project over $3 million, and the project’s price tag was criticized by a number of GBA readers when the news story was published.

One Comment

  1. Stephen E | | #1

    Homeless
    A good article on giving the homeless a step up in life. Some homeless live in small shacks, tents and group shelters. This gives them a more permanent and safe place to live. As long as the funding is private with normal government programs I see no reason tiny homes for the homeless should be opposed.

    Think the biggest thing is safety. With that in mind putting all the tiny homes in one location would be a problem. These tiny homes should be spread out to stop the projects mentality. Like most communities local laws destroy progress for cookie cutter solutions.

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