Rev. Faith Fowler’s New Tiny House Development Turns Homeless Into Homeowners

The tiny house trend does more than cater to those trying to downsize.

By Archana Aithal Rose September 21, 2016
All photos courtesy of

[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”D” font=”Bowlby One SC” color_class=”otw-black-text” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]etroit may well be famous for its automotive industry, Motown and the Red Wings, but now it’s about to give the world yet another delightful innovation—a ground breaking housing movement. Starting out with a fundraising campaign, Cass Community Social Services recently showcased the model unit of a 300 square-foot tiny house on Elmhurst Street, that’s a part of the city’s largest tiny house development. What sets this movement apart is its philanthropic approach that gives the city’s homeless and low-income population an opportunity to be homeowners.

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Richard Lord, treasurer of the RNF Foundation, which has donated $65,000 toward the $1.5 million project told Detroit News, “This is not just about a house, it’s about changing the lives of the people who will be here.” Apart from RNF, Ford also put the pedal to the metal by contributing $400,000 toward this ambitious project. D-town’s tiny home project was conceived and led by Rev. Faith Fowler, head of Cass Community Social Services. In fact, not far from this site, Fowler and her team have already rehabilitated an apartment building for disabled homeless and low-income people.

Each one of the 25 homes built will vary in style and size at 250-400 square feet. The homes will be constructed on 30-by-100 foot lots, on Monterey Street. Other than providing the homeless with a space to breathe and the pride of ownership, the program is determined to address other fundamental issues like bringing a much-needed density to an area that has vacant lots and generating affordable, eco-friendly housing in the community. CCSS will also allow residents access to their other services—recreational, educational, mental and medical health programs. All services are within a short walking distance from the homes making transportation a non-issue for residents.

Despite its low-income prerequisite, the homes on the inside aren’t short on cosmetic charm or comforts. The model unit that was unveiled early September this year has an arched ceiling with nooks for twin beds, four chairs, granite counters, washer-dryer and air-conditioning. Even the exteriors aren’t too shabby either with a stucco façade, a green space and a plan for a deck to be built off the back.

The housing, however, comes with one condition—a required income to qualify for the project. Rents for a 300-square foot homes will cost $300 a month, plus heating, roughly $32 in the winter months. Residents will also only be accepted on a rent-to-own basis over a seven-year period. Fowler reckons, “this isn’t just a housing program, it’s a program of aspirations.” While this project is gradually gaining ground, CCSS is still accepting donations for the homes, including useful household items. A little girl in the neighborhood apparently donated $25 from her lemonade stand. Cute of course, but bringing a sea change is not so easy and every drop in the ocean counts.

Archana Aithal Rose

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Archana Aithal Rose

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Archana Aithal Rose

Archana Aithal Rose’s articles have appeared in The Times of India, CNNGo, Condé Nast Traveler and Vogue, covering such broad range of topics as fashion, art, travel, culture, celebrities, architecture and technology. In addition to writing, Archana's also known for her mad photography and cooking skills.

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