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Habitat to build 4 'tiny homes'

Habitat to build 4 'tiny homes'

Chipola Area Habitat for Humanity plans to soon build out the first official “tiny home” community in Jackson County next year.

And the group is setting some precedents for itself, as well, in this four-home build.

The four homes don’t yet have owners, for instance.

Habitat Executive Director Carmen Smith said hopes are that seniors and veterans in particular will apply and qualify to take ownership of the homes that are to be built on Chipola Street in Marianna. This will be the first time that an owner hasn’t been identified and approved ahead of the build.

In in another first, these homes will be on smaller lots than usual, with the tiny home model making it possible to use spaces that would typically be too small for the standard three-to-four-bedroom Habitat home.

The project also involves some other firsts: Chipola College students from the newly-established Building Construction Technology program there may be building one of those units from the ground up, working from a design created by students from Auburn University’s Rural Studio program. This would be the first real-world build for the Chipola students in that program.

Plans are still underway, but Chipola’s Darwin Gilmore said the terms are already being negotiated with Habitat for that building partnership.

This is also the first time that Habitat is engaging a university team for the design of a structure here.

The houses are all different but have similar floor plans and will range in size from about 615 to 970 square feet. Two will be one-bedroom units and two will have two bedrooms.

They’ll be even more affordable than the typical Habitat home. Smith said they’ll come in under six figures, making their mortgages potentially more attainable for the target senior and veteran populations. The latest appraisal of a typical Habitat home was estimated at six figures, around $115,000. Smith said she’s confident these four will be well under that, although there are challenges because of the rising cost of construction materials essentially across the board.

Those seniors and veterans displaced by Hurricane Michael, she said, are of particular interest as applications are being accepted.

“I got frustrated with the fact that we so often find people in need of a home but that don’t have the kind of income that would qualify them for traditional home,” Smith said.

“We have a lot of applicants that are single and on a fixed income but can’t afford a mortgage on a 3-4 bedroom home and don’t need that much house, anyway. They need an affordable housing solution that gives them the opportunity to live in and own a functional energy-efficient, fortified home. I’m happy: This option opens things up for a very underserved but significant population and to me it’s a win-win. You have a more affordable product to offer, you’re not sacrificing quality just because you decrease the size, you’re serving a family that needs it, and you’re adding taxpayers to the rolls.”

And if no senior or veteran applicants sign up and qualify, Smith said, others on the applicant list will then be considered. These homes built on faith, she’s sure, will change four lives for the better.

With the holidays slowing construction efforts, she said, the applicant selection process should catch up soon so that before the houses are up, the potential owners will be known.

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