Detroit is awash with abandoned homes, which left the Rev. Faith Fowler a bit on the defensive about why she built seven brand new ones. But there's something special about hers: They're tiny, and the first part of an envisioned tiny home village where low-income Detroiters can not only find safe and affordable housing, but work to achieve the otherwise impossible-seeming dream of homeownership. Fowler is the executive director of Cass Community Social Services, whose Tiny Homes Project has thus far erected those well-equipped and well-built homes (see a video tour here) on seven of the 25 vacant lots that CNBC reports CCSS bought from the city for $15,000. The houses cost about $50,000 each to build.
Those now living in them (122 applied for the first seven homes; those chosen have an average annual income of just under $12,000, reports the Christian Science Monitor) pay $1 per square foot—meaning somewhere between $250 and $400—plus cover electricity. They also participate in a homeowners association and take home maintenance and financial literacy classes. But what's so especially unique about the program is that after paying the rent for seven years, they will own the home outright. As for the genesis of the idea, the death of Fowler's mother made her consider the subject of inheritance and, as the Monitor writes, "how the poor often miss out on what can be an important economic safeguard." Now, "You can earn as little as $750 a month and be a homeowner in seven years," she tells CNN. (Read more Detroit stories.)