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Habitat for Humanity Tiny House in Cabarrus County, NC

Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County in Concord, North Carolina, just completed the first tiny house of its kind in the state, possibly nationwide. Weighing in at 488 square feet, the one bedroom house is handicap compliant with a wheelchair turning radius in every room, and built to high energy efficiency standards.


“It all started a couple of years ago when I started looking for an alternative for myself to the 1750 square foot home I currently own,“ says Shirley Kennerly, Family Services Coordinator for Habitat Cabarrus. While researching smaller homes, she stumbled across the tiny house concept and was intrigued. Not only did she find a dwelling alternative that will suit her needs eventually, but found an answer for an applicant population consisting mostly older singles and couples on fixed incomes. Shirley had to decline these applicants more often than not, due to very low income.

Tiny House, Big Impact

Tiny House COMPLETE

And so it began. Shirley and Dene Dawson, Program Manager and contractor for Habitat Cabarrus, teamed up to make a tiny house happen in Cabarrus County. After two years of research, proposals, talking with Kannapolis City officials, the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA), System Vision, sponsors and donors, the project broke ground in February 2015. Volunteers went to work and the house was completed in July 2015.

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Barbara, the new homeowner, is delighted! Disabled, she was homeless and in a shelter after a separation. She moved into her brother’s basement for a while, and she applied for a home with Habitat Cabarrus. Barbara qualified for transitional housing, and was accepted into the homeownership program a year later.

TH Windows, Doors, Sheathing 3

“I was afraid of having to spend the rest of my life on the fringes,” Barbara told us. “Habitat Cabarrus has given me the opportunity to have a decent home so I can put down some roots!” A smaller home will mean much less maintenance for Barbara, and that’s very important to a disabled individual. Her interest free mortgage, escrow and utilities will be well within her budget.

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There is high interest in this house across the state. Many other Habitat affiliates are visiting to tour the house and learn from the experience of Habitat Cabarrus.

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Plans for the future? “We hope to build two more tiny houses on the same block” says Shirley. “We’re a small affiliate and are now building six houses each year. The tiny house is a wonderful addition to our portfolio of new houses, repair, and revitalization projects. Being the first, we consider Habitat Cabarrus to be the “pebble in the still pond” and hope other affiliates will be able to follow our example. It is, after all, all about the people we serve.”

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Features of the Habitat Cabarrus Tiny House

  • Built to SystemVision energy standards with an estimated heating/cooling cost of $16/month using a 15.5 Seer ducted mini-split HVAC unit
  • Super-efficient one-story design with using space-saving features such as pocket doors
  • Universal design features such as 36” door openings, 60” radius and T-turns for wheel chair access, zero step front and side entrances, ADA shower and toilet grab bars, ADA stove
  • Allergy-free flooring throughout the home (Low VOC Laminate and Ceramic Tile)
  • Low maintenance exterior – fibrous cement siding, vinyl soffit, metal fascia, gutter guards
  • 3rd-party built furniture features scaled to tiny house dimensions

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Bedroom 1

Learn more: http://habitatcabarrus.blogspot.com/2015/07/habitats-tiny-house-dedication-reality.html

Resources

Our big thanks to Shirley Kennerly for sharing!

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Alex

Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!




{ 32 comments… add one }
  • Lynnette July 28, 2015, 3:08 pm

    This is so nice! Our aging population needs affordable and comfortable housing.

    • D. Lowery July 28, 2015, 3:35 pm

      Very true…but it seems like everywhere you look…cities/counties are doing everything they can do to keep affordable/comfortable housing for the poor from never happening…unless it happens in a private run shelter.

      • Lynnette July 28, 2015, 3:40 pm

        I don’t understand?

        • Eugene July 28, 2015, 4:45 pm

          Many places won’t allow small affordable places for low income and disabled persons to purchase. Many cities have “affordable” housing agencies which either own apartment buildings and/or homeless shelters and if you can not afford one the rent of one of the “affordable” apartments you are in the homless shelter.

          I applaud Habitat for Humanity Cabarrus County for this innovative thinking, I hope other Habitat for Humanity affiliates world wide follow this lead.

        • D. Lowery July 28, 2015, 4:46 pm

          The zoning restrictions in cities are setup that anything below 600 sq feet is either not allowed or you need to spend time/money to get variances to attempt to be able to build. Add into the mix where many cities could care less about the poor by either running them out of the town/putting them out of the way on the edges away from jobs and such/making sure they will never be able to afford to own any home in the community.

        • J Dark October 1, 2015, 2:35 am

          I am glad some branch of habitat is seeing the light some years ago I contacted them. I am electrosensitive and half bedridden w/ fibromyalgia and other things. They told me unless I could put in all those hundreds of hours of labor I could not get anything done. If I were able to do that I would be working a job and not on disability. Also the lots they allow are so small I would get more electropollution from neighbors than I do now in a section 8 rental. The only place here that builds for those that can’t put in labor is USDA and the are very anti tiny. I found my only option to be an RV, as that can be done on disability income, but not really. I have a pile of debt and still do not have a place that is liveable for me as for heat and solar needs and circuit safety and general repairs. Then add trying to find parking in the fall. The prices are more than a fixed income can take for the pollution free places.

  • Becky July 28, 2015, 5:52 pm

    INTRIGUED!!! would love to see a floor plan… looks delightful.

  • Eugene Stiles July 28, 2015, 6:23 pm

    Great little house. The only problem is the permitting process. I am in Arizona & am trying to get a permit for a 700 ft. house on 1 acre & I have to go through same paperwork as a mega house. & I am in the country. Seems to me that the government should lighten up on smaller house to make them more within peoples means.

    • D. Lowery July 28, 2015, 11:41 pm

      From what I’ve learned…many cities/counties look upon these homes the same way as group homes/jails/anything which the neighbors feel will “downgrade” their neighborhood. Goes back to “Not in my neighborhood” and any place they don’t know you exist. Until the Tiny Home community can out-bribe or take over the zoning commissions will anything change for the better.

  • ray July 28, 2015, 6:28 pm

    What was the total cost of the project? This would be a good project for Church groups to undertake! Would like to see floor plan.

  • Carolyn July 28, 2015, 7:48 pm

    What is the total break down of cost? Can dimensions be provided?
    Thanks,
    carolyn

  • gale July 28, 2015, 9:17 pm

    Wonderful home with everything anyone would need for a great lifestyle. Makes me proud to live in NC.

  • Anna Granfors July 28, 2015, 10:44 pm

    *This* is what I’m talking about. (Well, MAYbe 600 sf?) Much as I like Tumbleweed/Four Lights’ stuff, I would love to see neighborhoods filled with small houses like this. And they’re so desperately needed for those of us about to retire on a limited income.

  • Sharee July 29, 2015, 12:42 am

    It does not appear to be totally ADA efficient. Often the kitchen sink is lowered and empty below the sink for better wheelchair access to sink. I would like to see the bathroom. For ADA compliance it seems all they did was make sure no carpet and widen doorways. I do appreciate that there is no raised threshold at entry door.

  • Kim July 29, 2015, 1:36 am

    I expected to see a lower or Height Adjustable sink and hob and suitable heigh separate oven and lower or Height Adjustable worktop that is accessible to a wheelchair user in the kitchen. The person moving in to the house is disabled and there are wheelchair turning spaces, but she will not be able to make good use of the kitchen without these adjustments. Height Adjustable equipment will future proof the home for a peopel with a range of disabilities. I presume the bathroom is a wet room and has suitable grab rails and ossicle a shower seat?
    I work in schools that have pupils with physical disabilities and advise on these sorts of things!

    • Angela September 29, 2015, 1:23 pm

      Aren’t usually Habitat homes built typically with the person about to live in them? I’m guessing this person doesn’t need ALL the features possible for ADA compliance, and would be easy enough to modify for future houses built with disabilities in mind.

  • Nanny M July 29, 2015, 8:51 am

    A concept that should spread like wildfire. Which would probably loosen the restrictions.

  • Hunter July 29, 2015, 2:55 pm

    I don’t know if anyone watches “The little couple” BILL KLEIN AND JENNIFER ARNOLD. they built a house ( not tiny at all) but the kitchen was outfitted with a stove and oven and counters they can reach without having to climb on stools etc. there were objections from Texas codes when they started to build “little people sized” counters cabinets, etc. some how they were able to let the commissioners “SEE THE LIGHT” why should people who are building a home have to put up with stupid rules, that will affect their lives, when they are paying for the build themselves? as long as it’s safely built. height codes are a pain in the butt for anyone shorter. let us build our homes to accommodate ourselves, height, width or any other way. Governments…GIVE US A BREAK..we are not all rich, soc security is not sufficient to live happy, more like just get by…tiny can give us breathing room, for once in our lives. we need a hand up not a hand out.

  • Tom Zollinger July 29, 2015, 4:29 pm

    First. Ordinarycowboy is all lowercase.

    Surprisingly, most minimum size regulations are the products of “Homeowners Associations” and developers rather than governmental agencies. I suppose many homeowners believe that size and dollar requirements insure that the value of their home will be assured if the neighborhood is filled with like and like sized homes. It makes it easy for someone to say, “sorry, you can’t build tiny here. IT’S the LAW!”

    Tom

    • D. Lowery July 29, 2015, 5:39 pm

      When you have communities like Spur and Walsenburg who are actually welcoming to those of us who wouldn’t mind living in a small town to make our retirement better…what’s going to happen when (not if) the housing market tanks again? Where are these same people going to be when the only house they can get into is like what we want to build? Too bad selfishness and short sidedness are going to keep the rental market going higher and higher with no means to ever get into a home.

  • Nancy July 29, 2015, 10:52 pm

    Wonderful. Let’s hope other Habitats will take notice and follow their lead.
    The USA really needs some communities of tiny/small homes just like this one. We need affordable housing options like these for more than just the elderly and homeless. I’m convinced the need is much greater than most people realize.

  • Susanne July 30, 2015, 1:06 am

    That woman is a saint! Sad that it took someone higher up to stumble upon the idea (though smaller homes not entirely new) in order to get the ball rolling … And only took two years..(?!?!?)

  • Patty July 30, 2015, 1:27 am

    Glad to see someone being able to get this accomplished.

  • David Gillespie July 30, 2015, 12:54 pm

    This is a great concept, especially when most disabled people live at or below poverty and can’t afford much for housing. However, it needs a little tweaking to not only be ADA compliant, but FUNCTIONAL. I’m a paraplegic, and from my experience I can say the kitchen and bathroom are both going to cause shoulder and elbow pain for any wheelchair user over time. Counters need to be lowered, sinks need to have knee space to roll under. Upper cabinets need to have drop-down shelving. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but ADA compliance is more than just doing the bare minimum. It also needs to work.

    • Kim W July 30, 2015, 2:01 pm

      Hi, David. I agree. When there are regulations, people seem to work to that minimum standard, rather than doing what is actually required or future-proofing what is provided.
      Although the article talks about wheelchair turning space, I suspect the actual homeowner is able to stand to do kitchen tasks, but may occasionally use a wheelchair when tired, which is different to what would be required by a full time wheelchair user.

      • Tom Zollinger July 30, 2015, 10:02 pm

        If you live in a town, there are Council meetings to attend. If rural, there are County Commissioner meetings to attend. Land use commissions are for just plain us citizens. Go to meetings and volunteer your time. Make your point at every opportunity that some of us do not need 2000 sq feet per resident and do not need or want to be cleaning that much house for just me or a we of two. Our kids are grown and gone. DEvelopers and Planned unit Development toadies should not be able to mandate the house I buy, build or rent. Getting around is difficult for some of us codgers. 3 or 4 steps is plenty from my bed to the stove or (more important) the potty.

        Tom z

  • Dene July 30, 2015, 3:07 pm

    This house is 16 x 32 with a 4×6 covered front porch. Total cost (excluding land) was $42K with the volunteer labor Habitat utilizes

  • Kim W July 31, 2015, 3:04 am

    I had not really thought about that aspect if mobility, Tom!!
    We had a granny flat built for my mum in her later years. It had a small bedroom, a small living/dining/kitchen and a wet room with a shower. She could move round easily and the bedroom window and French doors looked out over out pretty garden. Before that she lived in a 3 bedroom flat in London with a view over a sports stadium that became a building site and (after she left) a shopping mall.
    She was very happy in her granny flat!
    Here in UK the government and other agencies are very keen to have older folk stay ‘independent’ in their own homes. Yet many older folk are still in their large family homes,with stairs and big gardens. They probably need help to downsize and find a suitable smaller or Tiny home to live in. My 81 year old mother in law gave up trying to find a 2 bedroom bungalow with a small garden on a flat plot on the town she lives in in SE England, as they don’t seem to exist! Newr us in Yorkshire there are plenty,but she doesn’t want to move up!
    I am hoping to downsize to a smaller property in UK, with at least one bedroom on the ground floor. If we move in the next few years we may well move with 2 of our 4 adult children – our autistic son and our home-loving younger daughter, who is not well paid, so it will be small(er), not tiny.

  • Dene July 31, 2015, 9:00 am

    For those that have commented on the ADA issues. This house was built using Universal Design concepts which allow aging in place. So, big items like zero step entrances, wide door ways, t-turn and 60″ wheel chair radius where incorporated in the design and construction. The owner is not wheel chair bound at this stage in her life but may be in the future so she was not ready for the full wheelchair accessible cabinets, vanities, etc. We did however do all the plumbing rough-in so sinks could be easily converted if and/or when needed. Toilet and shower grab bars where installed, ADA shower stall provided. The best description of the house would be “Universally designed, handicap accessible with easy conversion to ADA Compliance.” This allowed us to meet the owner’s current and future needs on a cost-effective basis – a lot to stuff into a 488 sq ft.

    • Angela September 29, 2015, 1:30 pm

      Lovely! Not everyone who is “disabled” requires wheelchair accessible everything. In fact, if someone has a disability but is NOT wheelchair mobilized, a counter and sink for someone who IS in a wheelchair would cause so many energy conservation and ergonomic issues. I’m an OT, and am a HUGE believer in age in place principles. If a house already has the basic structure capable of adaptations, making changes as needed is no big deal! 😉 I’m only surprised that houses this small are a new concept for Habitat of all organizations. But I love it.

  • Glema October 2, 2015, 4:00 pm

    Would not a chest style fridge be a better idea for a wheelchair? Just a thought. The door could be positioned to open in front and stand open like a car hood, then you reach in get whatever and let the door down. Is it not easier to reach over it to get items rather than to reach twice over ones head height? Just a thought perhaps it will come in handy for someone’s future (maybe even mine 🙂 ) Thanks for sharing the habitat tiny house, congrats on your new home. May God bless you!

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