By Stephen Ide
When Romario and Dr. Jhanev Allen Butler purchased their new home on September 1, it was the realization of a big dream for a small space.
“Everything just kind of matched up to exactly what we wanted,” Romario said.
The couple, expecting their first child in January, had researched small homes. Their new condo, one of five Sheridan Small Homes built using Passive House principles, was just what the doctor ordered: efficient, 750 square feet, two bedrooms, 1.5 baths and located along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway and the Fred Lippitt bike path.
Jhanev, who this summer completed her postdoctoral work in clinical psychology at Kaiser Permanente, said her vision aligned perfectly with the design and concept of Sheridan Small Homes.
“I’m a member of a transnational feminist organization called af3irm,” she explained. “We really seek to dismantle any forms of oppression, especially the ones that impact women of color and children of color. And so we’ve been working on this and educating the public about the housing crisis that exists … across the United States, across the world. And so something that I really have been committed to in the last few years is minimalist living, efficient living.”
The Sheridan Small Homes, built by ONE Neighborhood Builders, are Rhode Island’s first low-income, deed-restricted homes, clustered on three-quarters of an acre of land in Providence’s Olneyville neighborhood. All five condos in the complex have solar panels generating electricity that is sold back to the electric grid, helping to offset the owners’ condo fees. In addition, the efficient construction of the homes helps reduce their utility costs.
Romario and Jhanev met online four years ago, while Jhanev was working on her postdoctoral residency in California and Romario was in Jamaica earning his bachelor of science degree in Quantity Surveying (called Construction Estimating in the United States). He earned his degree and they were married in 2019.
Jhanev, originally from Boston, was a big believer in the small homes concept (she’s a fan of “Tiny House Nation” on Netflix), and the couple had hoped to find one near her family in Massachusetts. But most zoning laws don’t allow for small homes and Massachusetts was too expensive, she said. Their search took them as far south as Atlanta before they heard about Rhode Island and ONE Neighborhood Builders’ Sheridan Small Homes project.
“What’s so beautiful about ONE Neighborhood Builders is that they’re really trying to revitalize the community,” Jhanev said. “It was perfect, because, as a postdoctoral resident, I don’t make enough money. … [We’re] dying in student debt at this point, you know what I mean? … we just met the qualifications for people who could afford this.”
Although Jhanev has now finished her studies and has taken a new job doing work as a child and family therapist, the couple qualified because they earn just less than 120% of average medium income, the household income level required to purchase at Sheridan. They paid $150,000 for their home.
Their shared experiences—from Romario’s life in Jamaica to Jhanev’s travel to other parts of the world where people live in more modest, efficient dwellings—shaped their view of what constitutes happiness. To them, efficient living, not wealth, defines happiness.
“For first-time homebuyers,” Jhanev said, “we just met the qualifications for people who could afford this. It’ll really help us in the long term. … Not living above our means, but living right within it, living in a close environment that’s surrounded by community, surrounded by other people, and parks, and things like that. And also, not adding too much to my debt.”
Romario continued: “Their [ONE|NB’s] goals really aligned with what we want for our generation and the next generation to come, where we have community, efficient living, not living above our means … a small enough home is enough. …We don’t need two living rooms, two dining rooms. It’s more so about family and community.”
Of the five units in the complex, one unit is available for someone who qualifies at 80% of average medium income for the area.
“What’s so beautiful about ONE Neighborhood Builders is that they’re really trying to revitalize the community. It was perfect."
—Jhanev Allen Butler, PsyD”
“Their [ONE|NB’s] goals really aligned with what we want for our generation and the next generation to come, where we have community, efficient living, not living above our means … a small enough home is enough."