Tiny homes aim to help tackle Tempe's not-so-tiny housing problem

A new community of houses that are about 600 square feet will launch by summer of 2019

Tempe is hoping to tackle its lack of affordable housing with a new initiative featuring a neighborhood of smaller homes. 

At roughly 600-square-feet, these smaller two-story one bedroom, one bathroom homes will feature amenities such as a fully functioning kitchen, living room and patio. Despite its already small square footage, these houses are larger than the traditional 400-square-foot “tiny homes” that swept the nation as one of the most recent housing trends. 

While project leaders refer to their models as “humble homes,” the developer calls them “micro-estates.” The community will be near the heart of the city, at just a few blocks away from ASU’s Tempe campus and is expected to launch by next summer.

Anna Brophy, a senior studying civil engineering and sustainable engineering, worked closely with the project through EPICS, an ASU program that allows students to solve engineering-based problems within their communities. 

Brophy served as a member of the team that helped develop the city’s plan and said the community is intended to appeal to Tempe’s expansive generational population while fulfilling its ever-growing housing needs. 

“We hope that they don’t only appeal to college students, but they appeal to people of any age, whether that be an older couple whose kids have left for college and they’re empty-nesters looking downsize or a 20-something young professional,” Brophy said.

Benefits of living in the humble homes include a reduced carbon footprint as well as more sustainable housing units at a reasonable price with an added community feel.

“The thing with this neighborhood is (for it) to be a true neighborhood, somewhere where there is a focus on semi-public spaces, where you can sit on your front porch and say hi to all of your neighbors as they go by and you’re working with them and interacting with them daily," Brophy said. "That’s something that I think in recent years many big cities have moved away from and something we’d like to bring back.”

Currently, the estimated price tag for each one of the homes is at about $138,000, but its developers are hoping to lower the cost to about $100,000 within the next coming months. 

David Crummey, the real estate development manager for Newtown Community Development Corp., the community's developer, said this community is expected to be a first of its kind in Arizona. 

For Crummey, this project was an opportunity to get involved within the community in a unique way.

“We saw this as an opportunity to try a different project, a different avenue in our work to provide affordable housing in Tempe," he said.

Crummey has high hopes in the success of the new development and hopes to see it help in providing more affordable housing in Tempe and eventually throughout the state.

"In the Valley, we need more than 30,000 units of affordable housing to meet the need by tomorrow," he said. "The only way we can do that is bit by bit, project by project, corner by corner."

Camille Medeiros, a junior majoring in architectural studies, said sustainable architecture is something society needs more of.  

Medeiros said sustainable architecture can be seen visually in terms of the building's size but can also play a role in features such as a building's solar panels and other mechanical  elements. Additionally, she said sustainable architecture is beginning to have an increasing need within society.

"As resources are becoming scarcer and scarcer, there definitely is a need to learn how to conserve them, reuse them and do what we can to protect the environment," she said.

Lauren Kuby, a Tempe City council member, said the homes will serve as one of the multiple solutions the city is taking to combat its affordable housing problem and lack of empty space.

“We can’t grow out because we’re landlocked, but we can grow up and in,” she said.

The project has been in the works for roughly three years and the homes are expected to launch next summer through infill development

Kuby said working with the community and ASU students has been incredibly rewarding.

“The best ideas come the community, come from our students,” she said. “You think about Tempe Town Lake, that was a student idea and when you think about the humble houses project, that’s a student idea.”

Following the development of this project, Kuby hopes that the City of Tempe becomes more inclusive to its various members.

“Tempe is a victim of its own success," she said. "We have lots of economic activity here. We have lots of gentrification here, and we don’t want to price out working families and students and nurses and firefighters and police out of the housing picture. We need to build more affordable housing, more workforce housing, and we’ll only succeed if build a city that’s welcoming to working families.” 


Reach the reporter at Kimberly.Rapanut@asu and follow @kimrapanut on Twitter.

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