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Cass Community’s ‘Tiny Homes’ initiative spurs economic mobility among poorer Detroiters

“We’ve started building 25 tiny homes, 250 to 400 square feet each on lots from 30 to 100 feet, for formerly homeless people, low-income senior citizens, and students who have aged out of foster care,” Reverend Faith Fowler tells Kirk Heinze on Greening of the Great Lakes. “The idea is that they’ll rent the homes for seven years based on the home’s square footage – a dollar per square foot per month.”

Fowler is senior pastor of Cass Community United Methodist Church and founder and executive director of Cass Community Social Services. In 2016, she was inducted into the 33rd class of the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.

“They [renters] have to make at least $10,000 per year. If they stay in the home and participate in the program for seven years, we’ll ask them to join a new homeowners association and give them the deed to the property and the house.

“It’s about helping people who are poor to have an asset. This really changes things now and generationally and helps give people economic mobility.”

Fowler says the only bill residents have to pay during the seven year rental period is electricity, which includes heat.” The homes are equipped with quality insulation and windows so “the heat and electric bill in the coldest Michigan winter should be $35 or less per month.”

Fowler adds that the money to build the homes is raised upfront, entirely from private sources.  “There isn’t a government nickel or dime involved.”

Volunteers and donors, says Fowler, “understand what it means to have – or maybe not have – a home.”

Fowler updates Heinze on the Cass Green Industries initiative, the success of her latest book, (This Far by Faith: Twenty Years at Cass CommunityDavid Crum Media) and offers her take on Detroit’s renaissance.

“It’s real, but it’s limited geographically at this point. Downtown, Midtown and Corktown are all doing really well. You never would have imagined ten years ago the businesses and residents moving in. So, in those areas, it’s truly a world-class city again or at least moving in that direction.

“The neighborhoods, however, haven’t had nearly as much attention; consequently, they’re lagging behind.  Much more work needs to be done in the neighborhoods.   And it’s not that people are saying they won’t do it. You just have to take it a step at a time.”

Greening of the Great Lakes airs inside MSU Today Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.

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