Always interested in increasing the availability of affordable housing, Columbus REALTORS® hosted a Tiny Home Forum to explore the viability of diminutive dwellings as an affordable and energy efficient alternative for buyers who might be priced out of the conventional market. A Housing Opportunity Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible – including an on-site tiny house for participants to tour!
In exploring ways to mitigate the serious shortage of affordable housing in central Ohio, Columbus REALTORS® is thinking outside the box and considering all the options. Tiny homes? Instead of dismissing them as an extreme HGTV trend, the REALTORS® recognized a possibility worth studying, and convened a panel of experts to discuss tiny homes as an affordable and efficient housing alternative. More than one hundred REALTOR® members and community partners attended the two-hour forum last October, and toured an actual on-site tiny home. A Housing Opportunity Grant from the REALTOR® Party helped make it possible.
The Tiny Homes Forum was a joint effort of Columbus REALTORS®’ Sustainability Forum and its Housing Affordability & Community Partnership Committee, explains Lynn Hackworth, the association’s Manager of Equity and Impact. “The concept of tiny homes has been on our radar for a while, as it addresses some of our top priorities, namely affordable housing and sustainability. We were pleased to be able to bring together key experts for our panel: a co-founder of Modern Tiny Living, a custom tiny house design/build company; a Columbus City Councilmember who is also a REALTOR®; an officer of the Affordable Housing Trust for Columbus; a partner in Vista Village Tiny Home project, a local 20-acre non-profit; and a lending professional. Between them, they covered a comprehensive range of issues, from zoning to financing, and answered lots of questions from the audience, which was highly engaged.”
According to Ida Seitter, the Director of Community & PAC Engagement for Columbus REALTORS®, a driving force behind the forum was the projection that central Ohio’s population will triple by 2050: “The university presence in Columbus makes us something of an incubator for new business. Intel Corporation will be moving up to 12K employees here in the coming years. Where are these people going to live? The conventional stick-build housing just won’t work anymore. It’s going to take dense in-fill housing, and plenty of it. Tiny homes are especially well suited to the need.” Columbus REALTORS® Foundation already has first-hand experience with tiny homes, she notes, as the $100K sponsors of a single home within Vista Village, which provides transitional housing, along with access to medical and mental health care, for those in need.
Columbus REALTORS®’ Sustainability Forum Committee Chair Jan Jedlinsky points out that the tiny homes, which could be built in the area for $75K-$120K, are not only for those seeking affordability. “We’re learning that there’s high interest in these as ‘granny pods,’ for example,” she says. “Whether a tiny home is intended as a stand-alone house or as an accessory dwelling unit, as a custom build, there is an opportunity to use luxury finishes – we’re not talking about lots of materials, after all: they’re tiny!” She notes that the construction of a tiny home is inherently energy efficient, and their carbon footprint is small. “We were pleasantly surprised by the fact that our capacity audience at this forum was younger and more diverse than usual. Our members weren’t getting CE credits for this, they are truly interested in this concept, as were our community partners, which is wonderful, because we’ll be relying on them to apply pressure when the City Council takes up the zoning amendments that will make tiny home development possible here.”
It was the Housing Opportunity grant from the REALTOR® Party that enabled Modern Tiny Living to transport a model tiny home to the forum for an ‘open house.’ Hackworth reports that applying for REALTOR® Party grants is easy and accessible. “We had an answer within a week, and were really pleased, because we weren’t initially sure that our proposal would meet their criteria. I’d encourage any association to go ahead and call them to talk through your ideas and see what is possible. The bottom line is that they want to support your success.”
To learn more about how Columbus REALTORS® is helping central Ohio explore all the options when it comes to increasing affordable housing, contact Lynn Hackworth, Manager of Equity and Impact, at Lhackworth@ColumbusRealtors.com; 614. 528.1112; or Ida Seitter, Director of Community & PAC Engagement, at Iseitter@ColumbusRealtors or 614.528.1104; or member Jan Jedlinsky, METRO II REALTY, at email@example.com or 614.348.3046.
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