Are Tiny Homes The Key To Homeownership?

Founder and CEO Booker T. Washington of Techie Homes gives us the lowdown.

For many people, owning a home is a sign that they have accomplished the American dream. While the desire to have a place to call your own is valid, the current economic climate makes it more challenging. With interest rates exceeding 7 percent and the impact of inflation, that dream may seem far from a reality. 

However, tiny and micro homes—residences with smaller square footage and innovative designs— make monthly mortgage payments more manageable. The emphasis on affordability was at the forefront of developer Booker T. Washington's thought process when he bought a three-acre lot in College Park, Atlanta.

Here, he breaks down the reasons he has embarked on creating South Park Cottages, a micro-community in one of the pricier cities, Atlanta, and where else you'll be able to find his next venture. Can you please give some background on South Park Cottages and what led to its inception?

Booker T. Washington: My company is Techie Homes, the parent company that built South Park Cottages. It is the first Black and minority development micro-community. Oddly enough, there's never been an urban center complex of small "cottage homes" or tiny homes in a major metro area in the United States. And so that's what South Park cottages are within the Metro Atlanta area of College Park.  

We [relied on] crowdfunding from people within the community who expressed a desire to contribute to creating such distinctive housing, all with a shared goal of promoting homeownership. This sets our community apart —it's not designed for rentals or vacations like the typical tiny home communities. It is a private gated community. Is buying one of these homes better than just renting?

Booker T. Washington: In the metro area of Atlanta and many other metropolitan regions, the average rent is above $2,500. The DC area, New York, California, and now even Texas, Houston, and Dallas are becoming more and more expensive to rent. 

So, for minorities, and Black people specifically who are declining in homeownership, if they don't decrease their home size to gain homeownership, you'll probably see, by 2030, the biggest gap between the haves and the have-nots. Micro Homes is a new version of affordable homeownership. Has there been a noticeable decrease in Black homeownership? 

Booker T. Washington: There was a post-COVID report with all the money flushed into the economy, where people reported higher incomes. You see a decline in net worth in Black people versus all other minorities, which is odd. Hispanic homeownership is now higher than that of African Americans in the United States. White people have always had a higher percentage of homeownership, now Asian Americans as well. 

So, although we may think we're having progressive movement in incomes—and maybe we are—they just took the goal line and moved it further. So, the more money we make, the more we actually aren't saving enough to get to the new version of homeownership. In Atlanta, the median home price average home price is 425,000. How big of a home can someone get for that price?

Booker T. Washington: New construction of about 1400 square feet within Metro Atlanta, where most jobs are, your average mortgage would be over $3,000. Your average rent would be over $2,500. And that's for "starter home." The average mortgage in a micro home is $1,500, and the square footage is 400-700 square feet. How many homes are in South Park Cottages, and are there any available?

Booker T. Washington: There are 29 homes on three acres of land, and they all sold out before we started building them. The homes ranged from $180,000 to $220,000 for 400 square feet to 650 square feet. How many bedrooms can you get in a 400 square foot home?

Booker T. Washington: The 400-square-foot home is a lofted one-bedroom with 20-foot ceilings. [Comparatively] the average apartment size in Atlanta is 600 square feet. The average hotel room or hotel suite size is 300 square feet, and if you think about it, of the 10 people you know, six of them live in an apartment. So, people are living in micro homes. They just haven't been defined as that.

Our homes are luxury homes. They have polished ceramic tile marble, luxury vinyl plank, waterproof flooring, and high ceilings. They are constructed out of the standard materials that your home is made of, just upgraded material for the same or less price you would pay in your average state for rent. My goal with Techie Homes is to create more homeowners in any way possible. Will you be building other homes elsewhere?

Booker T. Washington: Absolutely. There are so many metropolitan areas that could utilize this form of homeownership. The goal is to spread regionally and nationally to provide all these major metro area pockets with these micro-pocket communities. We've already started on our following two developments, Union Park Cottages in Union City, Georgia, and then Atlanta Park in the heart of Atlanta—and they will be the same prices as South Park Cottages. 

Union Park is going to have 26 homes and a retail space. There will be 26 homes and a retail coffee shop and bakery, and the homeowners will have ownership of the retail space. So, one last question: do you have any connection to Booker T. Washington?

Booker T. Washington: (Laughs) No connection, but I was born at Tuskegee University. They had a university hospital that Booker T Washington created when he built the school. I was one of the last babies born at that hospital. So they gave me the name. 

Editor's note: This article has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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