STURGIS, Mich. (WOOD) — Plans are underway for the city of Sturgis to bring market-rate housing through what is called a tiny homes project.
The property on Prospect Street between Hatch and West streets is enough to fit one normal-sized home. But the city’s housing commission plans to fit five “small homes” that are about the same size as a “large studio apartment or small apartment,” President Craig Bolthouse said.
Site plans show the five one-bed, one-bath homes, with Bolthouse saying at least one of them also being Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant. Each will be at least 32 feet long and 20 feet wide, with square footage ranging from 460 to more than 570.
Bolthouse approximates the project’s cost, including construction, permits and utility, to total at least $600,000, which would be funded through federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grants.
“Instead of having them all stacked up where you’re sharing a wall with a neighbor, sharing a ceiling, you’re sharing a floor, maybe another wall … you’re going to have your own home,” Bolthouse explained. “That’s really, really important because there was concern (over) ‘The houses are close together, they’re only 10 feet apart on the drawing…’ That’s a lot farther apart than sharing a wall. That’s two walls that are going to be insulated, plus 10 feet of space.”
The property will also have safety features, like motion-activated outdoor lighting, and community amenities, including a grilling area and a playground.
“You’ll have this ability to interact with your neighbors. But we’re going to have a tremendous amount of landscaping … and some privacy fences that will also allow you to have a private home, if that’s what you want. So you can engage in one side of your house and you cannot in the other,” Bolthouse said. “That’s the goal, is to have both options available to people.”
Priced at market rate, the homes will be leased with either a one-year option or a five-year option that requires having a financial advisor to help the tenants build their credit. If the five-year lease is properly terminated, Bolthouse said a “significant” percentage of rent will be returned back to the tenant to have as a down payment toward a house of their own.
“If we build these with HUD (funding), (the housing commission doesn’t) have the traditional overhead that a developer has,” he said. “It’s just money that we can give back to the people. What we will actually do is we’ll make a direct deposit to a bank through an escrow and they’ll use that as a deposit on a new home.”
Reactions from locals are mixed, including from area landlord Matt Miller, who said he’s uncertain how the project would be feasibly developed and maintained and about the type of tenants it would attract.
“Change isn’t always a bad thing. It can be positive. It’s just a matter of seeing how it’s going to unfold,” Miller explained. “This is as good of an area anywhere else in Sturgis. Something has to be developed here (when) looking at the shortage of housing in this town and the cost of housing.”
Bolthouse said the development would address an area need for people wanting to become first-time homeowners.
“It’s a way to transfer people up the economic ladder in a way that they would have to pay rent to someone,” he added. “Let’s pay it to a nonprofit and give it back to them once they show they can meet the criteria of doing it.”
Once ground is broken, construction could take anywhere from a year to 18 months, according to Bolthouse.