Local 'Tiny House' Community For Low-Income Residents Starts Opening Its Doors

Dec 4, 2017

The first new homes of a “tiny house community” are now open to Leon County residents in need of adequate housing. “The Dwellings” is seen as the first of its kind in the country.

Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

“Haven’t quite figured out where to put everything, so I can get to it in my wheelchair,” said Russell Wallace. “But, all this furniture came with it.”

Decked out in his Florida State University clothes, Wallace gives a tour of his new tiny home and wheels himself to one of his favorite spots: his front porch.

Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

“For the last two or three years, I’ve been in and out of the hospital a whole lot, in and out of rehab a whole lot,” Wallace added. “They were trying to save my leg. Nothing worked for more than a couple months, and I was in physical therapy rehab trying to learn how to use my prosthetic, and had about resigned myself to the fact that I was going in a nursing home.”

Now, the 70-year-old retiree lives in one of 11 tiny homes in the Dwellings community. The available homes come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Wallace lives in a medium sized “tiny house.”

Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

“To my knowledge, the mediums are the only ones that have handicapped capabilities,” Wallace continued. “It’s got the roll-in shower if you need it, all the grab bars put in the right places in the bathroom, and everything is accessible to me.”

And, Wallace says all the tiny homes comes fully equipped.

“The bottom line is anybody who wants to move here…if they walked in with their clothes only, they would have everything they needed,” he stated. “I mean this place came in with all the pots and pans, the linens, all the bathroom towels, hand towels, washcloths, TVs already in there supplied,” he stated.

He even gets to use new technology.

“Even got one of those [Amazon] Alexa…you can just talk into and get her to do stuff…she doesn’t answer me all the time,” laughed Wallace.

John Schmidt, the director of the Dwellings community, also has Alexa in his office, which he intends to eventually convert into a tiny home for someone in need. He says his overall goal is to help those who are disadvantaged.

John Schmidt, the director of the Dwellings community, looks out the window to people headed up the path to his office, also a prospective tiny house.
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

He says there a few things they look for in those who apply to be a resident. For example, a medium home—like Wallace’s—costs $700 a month, and the buyer’s net income has to be about $1,700.

“If you can show us that you have the finances to afford that monthly fee that we charge, then we’re not going to do a credit check,” said Schmidt. “The only background check we’re going to do is make sure we don’t have any sexual predators or sexual offenders in the neighborhood. It’s not an automatic disqualifier that you’ve been to prison or to jail. We’ll have conversations about that because they’ll be forthright with us. But, everybody needs a chance. Everybody!”

Still, the development has had controversy. Associated with the Kearney Center, some neighbors expressed concerns about living near former inmates and the homeless, and what that could do to the property

A group of tiny homes that are part of the Dwellings community
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU-FM

values. There was even a court challenge.

“That’s probably a year and a half ago or more,” Schmidt stated. “I think what you can see is that the folks around this community, even next door here in the Wolf Creek subdivision, can see what we built. And, this from a visual perspective is a beautiful community. And, then, I think those that have come to visit with us and know what we’re doing know that this is not another emergency shelter for homeless people.”

The community is located off of Blountstown Highway. It’s expected to have 130 tiny homes. With 11 already done, the next 12 will be ready for more residents by mid-January. For more information, theDwellings.org.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.