By Amy Russo
The Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE — The median price of a single-family home in Rhode Island was $375,000 in November, according to the Rhode Island Association of Realtors.
For less money, you could get a four-year degree at Brown University, a couple of dozen Rolex watches or a Bentley or two.
So, what if affordability simply means building smaller?
That’s a question Providence City Councilman David Salvatore is exploring, eyeing the possibility of constructing small homes, also known as “tiny homes,” on part of the parking lot of Veazie Street Elementary School in Wanskuck.
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While Providence may not have made any appearances on the TV show “Tiny House Nation,” the small-space trend has reached the city. Earlier this year, local nonprofit ONE Neighborhood Builders unveiled its newly completed Sheridan Small Homes project, a development of five 750-square-foot homes by the Woonasquatucket River Greenway in Olneyville.
Each of the homes features two bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms, in addition to solar panels to offset condo fees. Eligibility is determined based on income, with homes going to families that earn no more than 80% or 120% of the greater Providence median income. For a family of two, that translates to $52,480 or $78,720.
Reflecting on the inspiration behind the idea, ONE Neighborhood Builders Executive Director Jennifer Hawkins recalled her mother’s growing up in a 900-square-foot ranch house in Warwick.
Earlier this year, Providence nonprofit agency ONE Neighborhood Builders unveiled its newly completed Sheridan Small Homes project, a development of five 750-square-foot homes.
“Those kind of modest, entry-level homes allowed for working-class families to be able to enter the homeownership market,” Hawkins said. “And I just feel strongly that we need to be able to build more modestly sized homes and do it in a compact fashion.”
The term “tiny home” has been popularized recently by TV shows on compact living, which Hawkins said have “helped people to remember that we don’t necessarily need to live in 2,000 square feet of a home to have enough space.”
But perception of the downsized lifestyle is all in the name.
“We call it small — not tiny — and that’s quite intentional. It still has two bedrooms,” Hawkins said. “The home that we built has one and a half bathrooms, and nice, open living, kitchen area, plentiful closets, laundry, et cetera.”