In 2015, the Advocate was approached by a small group of community-minded folks who wanted to explore the possibility of building tiny homes on church property for people whose income is less than 30% of the Average Median Income. The idea was to form a collaboration, of property-holders, non-profit organizations, individuals with skills to share, individuals and organizations with financial resources, members of the University community and maybe even the Town and the County, all working together to develop one approach to tackling the problem of affordable housing in our town. It would be the Pee Wee Homes Collaborative, named for Pee-Wee, a man whose circumstance inspired the effort.
Would the Advocate be willing to be a first site?
The Vestry approved the exploration, and a year of inquiry and planning followed.
We figured out where we could place homes on our site with minimal infrastructure costs. We applied for, and were granted, a minor modification of our Special Use Permit. An architect worked on the design, while others developed the administrative model, and others met with Town officials and church officials to make sure the plan would work.
It would be called Pee Wee Homes at the Advocate.
We determined that we could place three homes on the site, close to the existing house, allowing residents to have proximity to the community as well as the Advocate pond. And having three residents will reduce a sense of isolation. The total cost of the infrastructure and the three homes is estimated to be $160,000.
In October, 2016, Pee Wee Homes at the Advocate was granted $70,000 from the Town of Chapel Hill’s Affordable Housing Development Fund to cover the cost of the infrastructure and the first house. Fund-raising among students at the UNC Kenan Flagler Business School has already raised more than $35,000. Other donations have come in from individuals, matching gifts, and grants, including $8,000 from the Strowd Roses Fund and a $10,000 grant from the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.
Then Orange County Habitat for Humanity agreed to serve as contractor for the project, training and scheduling the volunteers week by week.
In March, 2019 applications were received and in April, the residents were selected.
The three homes were completed so that and residents moved in the middle of June 2019.
The heart of this project is the spirit of collaboration among individuals and organizations that do not usually plan and organize and work together. The success of the project will be measured by its replication. Our hope is that Pee Wee Homes at the Advocate will be a prototype, a model that will inspire other churches and landowners to explore the possibility of building Pee Wee Homes on their property as well. With the help of graduate students from the University of North Carolina, The Advocate and the Pee Wee Homes Collaborative are keeping careful notes and records, chronicling the project so that Pee Wee Homes at the Advocate will serve as a resource for the future.
See CBS affiliate story here.
For more information about the Pee Wee Homes Collaborative and its model for affordable housing, see here.