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Detroit’s new starter home

For impoverished locals, tiny houses are an avenue to ownership

Detroit is grappling with both devastating poverty and a hot real estate market. One third of the city’s households earn less than $15,000 per year. While some areas of the city are experiencing a resurgence, remarkable inequity remains.

Large swaths of the city still bear the scars of decades of disinvestment and abandonment.

But Rev. Faith Fowler of the nonprofit Cass Community Social Services sees a way to remedy both: Develop tiny houses, and create a rent-to-own financing mechanism to help impoverished Detroiters become owners of those homes. People earning just $10,000 a year can buy property through her program.

Cass has received inquiries from 45 states and numerous countries asking about how they can adapt the nonprofit’s model. “Not everybody wants to live in a tiny home,” Fowler says. “But it is certainly a great option to help [people] up the ladder of economic opportunity.”

Nearly 1,000 people have applied to live in the 12 houses she’s developed so far. Keith McElveen, a 52-year-old security guard who was formerly incarcerated, and Gladys Ferguson, the 64-year-old manager of Cass’s pantry, are two of the community’s first residents that show us around: