In Detroit Ford is helping build 25 homes on a sustainable scale in a bid to revitalise communities

Affordable housing is an issue that is at crisis levels in the US.  According to a new report by the nonprofit Urban Institute, the market alone only provides 21 units of suitable housing per 100 extremely low-income households. With government support, the number only rises to 46, enough to meet less than half the demand.

And it is not just people on very low incomes who are affected. According to a study by the MacArthur Foundation, 81%  of Americans believe housing affordability is a problem.

One movement that is gaining traction in US cities is the “tiny house” movement, to build affordable homes on a far smaller footprint than the typical American home of 2,600 sq feet.

In Detroit car maker Ford is contributing $400,000 and the services of its employee volunteer corp towards a $1.5m pilot project, by nonprofit Cass Community Social Services, to build 25 tiny homes, ranging from 250 to 400 square feet, as affordable housing for people, including young college graduates and the formerly homeless.

Jim Vella, head of Ford Motor Company Fund, said the project was aimed at revitalising a neighbourhood that is so rundown “you wouldn’t get out of your car after dark."

All of the homes will have a porch or patio, and Vella said that the company expects residents will make community a "core value" of living there. "We imagine people who live together and help each other and revitalize the neighborhood," he said

Residents can own the home after renting them for seven years, he said: "Once people can own a home, they can get a home equity loan against it. This gives them something to pass on to the next generation and something to fall back on in times of trouble. It's breaking the cycle of poverty."

Vella said the project has had inquiries from 42 cities and that the architecturally distinctive houses were making the neighbourhood a tourist draw. The first six are expected to be ready for occupancy this summer.

But Cass had to work closely with Detroit's planning office, as existing housing regulations called for a basement, while these homes are built on a concrete slab.  Some critics point out that zoning and other restrictions on tiny houses in other jurisdictions have limited their potential to be a viable solution to housing woes.   

This is one article in Ethical Corporation's briefing on sustainability in the Trump era. See also:

#WeAreStillIn: 'America will meet the Paris Agreement despite Trump'

‘In the void left by coal, a new economy can grow’

Private sector in the co-pilot’s seat

Bringing the SDGs home to Philadelphia

Resilience is new green for New York City

‘Cities badly need business allies in fight against climate change’

Ford Motor Company Fund  Cass Community Social Services  tiny houses movement  affordable housing 

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