Tiny Houses Make a Big Scene

Savannah is a charming antebellum town with flying buttresses that mirror the architecture of New Orleans and wrap-around porches that beseech the likeness of Charleston. Savannah, though similar to others in its aesthetic aspects, has its own identity, and with it, a proprietary set of citywide issues related to its inventory of beautiful, affordable housing.

There are 18 homeless camps downtown that are makeshift homes to some of the 7,000 citizens that make up the city’s homeless population. The Homeless Authority is currently working on a plan to make the tiny house movement work in favor of those transient residents. The organization is manifesting a plan to buy a large plot of land on which to build 60 tiny homes. At 128 square feet each, these mini-houses will come equipped with a bed, air conditioning, heat, a bathroom, and a kitchenette. The cost of a buildout of a single home will be $7,000 and the price of the land purchase is estimated to be a little below $208,000.

According to City-Data.com, the median gross rent in Savannah in 2013 was $878, and the mean price of all houses was $239,365. By contrast, Savannah, like many up and coming cities across the U.S., continues to welcome the addition of new luxury units. This week, a request was put in to the Pooler Planning Commission for the rezoning of 16 acres of property on which to construct 250 new luxury apartments on Pine Barren Road.

Chronic homelessness is a severe problem in the state of Georgia. The state joins Florida, Texas, and New York as having the highest overall national averages for chronic displacements. It’s been suggested in many cities that abandoned homes in foreclosure and terminally vacant luxury apartments and condos be used to house the homeless. These measures, however, have received pushback from banks and community members that own surrounding properties.

A similar tiny home experiment was performed in New Orleans with Katrina Cottages. These pre-packaged dwellings were designed to be more structurally sound than FEMA trailers, and were even sold by Lowe’s with all of the instructions needed for their construction. Even in light of their overall usefulness for displaced and homeless flood victims, many community members protested their implementation, citing the lessening of their personal property values. The Savannah initiative appears to be met with less opposition, perhaps due to the fact that the houses are scheduled to be constructed on a parcel of land removed from existing homes, and will operate in the vein of a planned community.

Once construction of the small units is finalized, other related issues will have to be tackled. Stakeholders will have to decide who among the massive homeless population will gain access to the relatively few new units and requirements for new residents will have to be outlined.

Savannah continues to have a relatively high unemployment rate when compared against nationwide statistics. This has caused many to lose their homes and livelihoods due to long-term bouts without a steady income. If you believe that you were unfairly terminated or discriminated against on your job leading to unemployment, contact our attorneys at Morgan & Morgan for a free case evaluation.