North Carolina church builds tiny houses on its property

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In Chapel Hill, N.C., the Episcopal Church of the Advocate has begun a collaborative project, building, funding and documenting the construction of three 320-square-foot “tiny houses” on its property to serve as housing for those affected by poverty and homelessness.

From the News & Observer:

It’s a joint effort among the church, the town, students at UNC-Chapel Hill, Habitat for Humanity and a local group called the Community Empowerment Fund, which works to alleviate homelessness and poverty.

Beyond providing homes to three people, the project is meant to serve as a model for other churches and landowners. A group of graduate students at UNC is documenting each step of the process, including financing, zoning, permits and lease arrangements with tenants.

“The hope is other churches will be inspired to find a way to do this,” said Rev. Lisa Fischbeck, the vicar at Church of the Advocate.

Fischbeck says the project was started by members of the Community Empowerment Fund who came up with the idea that churches could help satisfy the need for affordable housing by building tiny houses on their property. She said someone from the group approached her about it three years ago and that the church’s board was receptive.

The church’s congregation had purchased 15 acres off Homestead Road in 2011 and moved an old Episcopal chapel from Germanton, a small community north of Winston-Salem, that had not had a congregation of its own in more than 30 years. The restored chapel has a cornerstone with two dates — 1891, the year it was built, and 2012, the year it was trucked in pieces to Chapel Hill.

The 185-member congregation bought more land than it needed in hopes that the property could be an asset to the community, and Pee Wee Homes seemed like a natural fit, Fischbeck said. The property includes a single-story brick house dating from the 1970s that the church uses for offices and meeting space, as well as an old farm pond, which is stocked with bass, bream and catfish.

The houses will have Episcopal red doors. Construction costs will total $160,000, funded in part by Chapel Hill’s Affordable Housing Development Fund ($70,000), the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina ($10,000) and money raised by students from UNC’s Kenan Flagler School of Business ($35,000).

The houses’ first tenants are not yet determined:

Besides the size and income requirements, there will be other factors to consider, including that the church is about a half mile from the nearest bus stop. The three houses are close to each other and will be part of the church community, Fischbeck said, so they might not work for someone wishing to live alone in the woods.

“You will be around other people,” she said. “Especially on Sundays.”

This Sunday was especially busy, with the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, the Rt. Rev. Samuel Sewall Rodman III, helping the church celebrate its 15th anniversary and bless the homes. These three tiny houses are “the stuff of the gospel,” Rodman said during his sermon. “This is what we are called to do and to be.”

Photo from Music That Makes Community website

 

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