Episode 23: Tiny Homes – Big Impact

Episode 23: Tiny Homes – Big Impact

Photo Credit: Build Us Hope
Photo Credit: Build Us Hope

Episode 23: Tiny Homes – Big Impact: Transcript

News Anchor:
There's an ambitious new project that broke ground in Phoenix this past weekend. Area nonprofits along with students from Arizona State University are building affordable high quality tiny homes for veterans experiencing homelessness, mental illness or other disabilities. The goal is to build 2100 of these houses; the first ones are expected to be completed within the next three weeks.

Mousetrap:
Mousetrap here.

AP:
Hey its AP.

Mousetrap:
On today's episode we travel to Phoenix Arizona to cover an inspiring story about tiny homes making a big difference. 

Intro Music- Hey Look It’s the Doublewide Dudes

Mousetrap:
Welcome back to another episode of the Double Wide Dudes. We’re back in the studio, how you been man?

Alberto:
Doing good. We’ve been busy. Our phones been ringing a lot with all sorts of folks on the coast down there in Port Aransas and up by Houston, that they just need some sort of housing ASAP and that's kind of where we've been fitting in lately.

Mousetrap:
Yeah. It is going to be a while before all that gets fixed up.


Alberto:
Yeah between hurricane Harvey and now J.J. Watts out for the whole season, I mean Houston's just been taking a beating. 

Mousetrap:
Is he?

AP:
Yeah. At the game last night he went down trying to sack the quarterback and just a freak accident broke his leg and he is out for the season.

Mousetrap:
Wow. That shows you how much I watch football but that sucks.

Alberto:
But he put out something on Twitter today apologizing to the city of Houston and his teammates and I know it feels horrible not being able to be there but what he was able to do and what he continues to do for the city of Houston has just been amazing.

Mousetrap:
He’s got a lot of passion. And I bet it hurts not being able to play but he's going to come back stronger I can imagine.

Alberto:
Yeah he's one of those feel good stories; you know mouse trap. And with things that have been going on... it's been a crazy world lately. Especially last week with what happened in Vegas. I don't even know how to put into words. But I just felt like more than ever we needed to find some kind of inspiring story, some kind of feel good story that just no matter what your political affiliation, what your personal beliefs are, I think this is really a story that everybody can get behind. And to tell you that after talking to Elizabeth Singleton which we'll hear here in a minute, this isn't just a story about someone trying to make an impact and fix homelessness in their community. This is also a startup story, an entrepreneurial story. Her company build us hope is a nonprofit. But it's a startup nonetheless and you'll hear here in a bit when we get into the interview. You know she went through that start up journey that I think in some form or fashion we're kind of going through at Braustin Mobile homes. You know, the first year it's been, can you believe eight months now, we're coming up on a year.

Mousetrap:
The holiday's around the corner and that's going to mark a year doing the business. It’s crazy man.

Alberto:
It’s crazy, yeah. But to hear and talk with Elizabeth and share some of those entrepreneurial experiences that you can only really experience if you've gone through a startup and started a company yourself the way we have Mousetrap. It's just a story I think that's going to speak to everybody's hearts and I hope you enjoy it.

Mousetrap:
Yeah. I agree. After listening to the interview and seeing her journey and hearing it, it's an amazing thing that she’s doing for these veterans. 

Alberto:
It really is.

Mousetrap:
Without further ado let’s get into the interview, I hope you enjoy. 

Elizabeth:
My name is Elizabeth Singleton and I am the founder and President of Build Us Hope. We are a nonprofit development company that is currently developing tiny homes for veterans and those in need of a affordable housing like those who are disabled or are mentally ill. So currently we have been working on our first model property which we actually took a location right across the street from, or bought a property right across the street from our current largest shelter in order to have a clear message that tiny homes is an option of affordable housing. And it's also an option to end homelessness among those and especially who have served our nation and those who are disable. 

Alberto:
Yeah that's awesome. Last week when we were chatting, I thought it was kind of funny, you put your location right across from the city housing office to make sure you got that attention that this issue so desperately needs. What's it been like on your end trying to get local support, both from the representatives and the community there.

Elizabeth:
Well two years ago when we first started it was pretty much no tiny houses, we’re not interested, we don't have the permitting, or we don't have the requirements needed but something like next here, we don't want blight in our city...And then some were interested, they wanted to know more about it and to see what we were going to create. They showed us their pictures of tiny homes which were everything that we tried to stay away from. I don’t put those communities down because they're trying to at least provide a resource. But they showed us I think the most worst part of the Tiny House movement, I guess you would say. And then they pretty much said that was going to be the entire community. I would have to say today, they are very happy. They have been really responsive. Of course it took two years of us working with city planning and zoning department. They really didn't have any regulations or permitting process for this size house. So I would have to say that was the struggle for me. It was an emotionally and financially a struggle for me and the company. But I think now that we're at a place where we are leaving a legacy for others to be able to build a tiny home and even a tiny house on wheels in the state of Arizona. That it won't be so difficult for them and will be affordable for them to build. 

Alberto:
So overcoming the stigma associated with tiny homes, factory built housing... so did you have to write new legislation? How did that go?

Elizabeth:
Well what we had to create was a system for planning and zoning process and currently we are writing documents that basically when you go into your planning or zoning departments, they usually give you a check list of what you need to have to be able to do this type permitting whether plumbing or site development. Well they’ll have the same guidelines for being able to build a tiny home and the requirements. So not much is getting legislative changes, we actually kept working with our permitting zoning department to understand that asking us to build a two car garage or two car garage on a tiny house made no sense whatsoever. And or the amount of egress and density purpose which means how many homes we can get on my property based on your amount of density that you would have on a smaller infield property. When you build a micro community or a tiny house community you kind of build them in a pocket style setting. And pocket style is where we face each other in the community and have like a community garden that the homes are facing toward. So everyone's patio is facing towards where you have some type of center space connecting us together. For us to be able to create something like that we had to give up fifty feet of our property in order to be able to set something up like that. So we were able to work with them and show them that this wasn’t really realistic. And to get some of those changes. So it hasn’t been a legislative change more just of how the planning and zoning looked at the current policy.

Alberto:
In San Antonio we have multiple shelters, I'm sure that is the same in Phoenix. I would imagine this community living would definitely help with independence and getting these folks back on their feet. Were there any other goals you are looking to accomplish with this community structure of helping the homeless population versus say the shelters and there are more traditionally used in cities?

Elizabeth:
Well I'm not a homeless provider I would like to say. I don't like to consider myself as a homeless provider. What I consider myself is a developer of affordable housing. And the only way that you can end homelessness America and in our community and in our neighborhood is be able to offer multiple options of affordable housing. And to deregulate some of the... I mean, just the permit requirement to make it feasible or affordable needs to be removed or adjusted for this type of style living which its noting new, it's not a trend. We’ve been living in small and tiny homes for centuries. So we don't consider ourselves as much as a homeless program, we consider it the solution to homelessness; just one of the solutions to homelessness. And so the shelters and systems that I see in our communities are really…sometimes…I file they have a good heart and a structure of being a shelter but as far as their experience with trying to find housing... A shelter is not a solution. A shelter just a temporary place that a person should be to get back on their feet. I don't see tiny houses or micro houses as a transitional period, to me I see them as permanent housing. People relate tiny houses now to save the day for homeless people and that is not what it is doing. It is creating affordable housing. So working with the shelters here has been interesting. They serve one purpose and I believe that having the option of enough affordable housing will eliminate homelessness. And I hope I answered your question.

Alberto:
Yeah – 100%! It sounds like your goal is to provide a permanent solution where these folks can become homeowners and kind of get out of the rat race of going from shelter to shelter. Does that pretty well sum it up?

Elizabeth:
Correct. If you look at say in our state we need 200,000 affordable housing units and last year we were only needed 145,000 affordable housing units. We are not seeing a decrease meaning that we have more affordable housing units coming online for people to be able to use. Whether you increase housing in one place, but you have more people move here and you see a decrease in affordable housing or with our market being so positive and at a 1% to 3% vacancy rate. Our rental market, or even an increase in our houses for sale. It is positive for those sellers and landlords but it's negative for the average renter or homebuyer. What we’re trying to create is to have a permanent solution for that? With the tiny houses or micro housing you have multiple options of sustainability to be able to own your home. And even if you rent your still have a low cost with what we currently have as or median rental rate.
So the permanent solution to me and using this as permanent solution. It is affordable i.e. your cost of living becomes affordable. If you do take a mortgage in one of these homes you're looking at a five or 10 mortgage rate instead of 30 years of your life where you are just trying to pay off that mortgage. So it gives you more freedom with your time. To me I believe tiny homes to bring you closer to the people around you. And how the tiny home communities are set up, the sustainability, gardens, aquaponics and anything like that can contribute to that. I only create them as a permanent solution to a problem that we currently have. I don't look at it as a transitional period for people's lives.
Now people can say I may want to live or don't want to live in a tiny house that is up to them. Its just a simple choice, do you want a two-bedroom home or do you want a five bedroom home? It is the same thing.

Alberto:
I know that when you were talking last week, both in your state of Arizona and Texas, just a ton of folks moving from California that are really making that affordable housing crisis even worse. It is awesome to have folks like yourself focusing on a permanent solution. In doing a little research, y’all have gotten tremendous amount of press, not just in Arizona but across the country. I saw you have been nominated for woman of the year. What is it like getting all this attention?


Radio Announcer:
"Nominated for the woman of the year award, she is Elizabeth Singleton, nominated by Marlene Purnell. Marlene wrote to me and said Elizabeth is running a nonprofit organization to provide tiny homes for homeless veterans and the mentally or physically disabled. This Phoenix-based and nonprofit plans to give the most vulnerable people a new home. And there those tiny homes that you see on HGTV! They say the impact would be huge. It is called Build Us Hope, a branch of Singleton Community Services. And they’re going to break ground this year on one of their first tiny homes. In fact this community will be a first for homeless veterans and there are a lot of them.

Elizabeth:
Well…I used to be in radio for several years and I've been an advocate for quite some time so I am used to the media. It may be good or bad. But as far as this current project, you know my son servers. And always when I build a project I think about where I would want to live or what I would want to see my son be in or be a part of. And so I make it personal to myself. So when we were receiving the coverage, it is personal to the project. I mean, two years and still counting of working on this, scraping everything out of your penny jar to get here. Some people thinking you're never going to get here and giving up on you. And then there are those people truly hanging in and believing in you. So it's been a positive for us getting all the coverage. I told my staff that if you build it they will come and this is a feel-good story for people. We do have a lot of drama and a lot of tragedies in our communities lately and people do want to hear good things. I remember one of the reporters calling me and saying you know what, we just need a feel-good story and we believe this is it. So it has been amazing.
I would tell people never give up. If it is something truly that they want to do, the media will come to your positive message especially if you're doing it to create change. And so to me it has been very positive, very rewarding and I think for all of my volunteers and my staff, I want to tell them to pat themselves on their back because they did this. I am actually very happy for it.

Alberto:
Yeah. Absolutely. Is this something you are plan to perfect in Phoenix and then spread elsewhere in the country or are you focusing primarily on the home front for you?

Elizabeth:
Well, I get many calls and emails and letters from individuals all around, all across the United States and I have gotten some from other countries just asking how did you do it, how did you get some of your permits, how did you get some of your zoning requirements changed? And so I feel welcomed to answer some of those questions. I can’t always because some of those states I'm not familiar with, but I do know quite a bit about multiple state requirements. But we do see this project being taken into other states, not as it is just for us. We are willing to work with other people who want to do it. To me it is not about, I did something, I started something or we got this - because people have been building tiny houses forever. But its about, I actually want to see this all across the United States as I said an option for affordable housing but it's a lifestyle change. So in order to do that I have to encourage others to be able to do it and to be able to lend a hand for them to be able to do it. But I am focused right now in Arizona because we do have a major issue and if we don't take care of it, where going to see a lot more of our men and women who have served and those who are truly in need of affordable housing suffer.

Alberto:
Right. Well it’s so awesome to follow your stories on LinkedIn and just see the progress that you guys are making. If there someone listening or someone that hears this that would like to get a hold of you guys to either donate or help volunteer or possibly learn how to do this in their community, how can they reach out to you?

Elizabeth:
I would suggest they really go and take a look at our website at http://www.buildushope.org and or they can email us at info@buileushope.org and I would be glad to answer any questions that they have. They can take a look at the new models that we have coming out. It's definitely different from where we were when we first started. But I look on our page and I’m like we need to change those pictures. You know I encourage people, some of the first designs, I did on my Excel spreadsheet. And I taught myself how to do it on sketches and how to do it. If think you can you definitely can. You can make positive change. But I think it is for all of us. So I would definitely check out our website or our Facebook @buildushope. I’m free to be able to talk to you. I do have a busy schedule but I would try my best to get back to you.

Alberto:
I can definitely vouch for that. And we will be sure to include the links to your website and Facebook page on our podcast page when we launch this. But thank you so much for that little boost of inspiration on our podcast and for what you guys are doing out there in Arizona.

Elizabeth:
Well thank you. I follow you as well and I'm thankful to you. And I’m just thankful for the whole alternative community. I just hate saying alternative – this is the way it’s always been. 


Alberto:
I like how you said that tiny homes go back centuries. It's a recent thing that we needed 3000 sq.ft. for three people.

Elizabeth:
And we still have in California and in New York where you have 90 sq.ft. apartments going for $2000 a month. I tell everyone that this is not a trend, the trend is the 5000 sq.ft. homes; that's the trend.

Alberto:
And definitely not a sustainable one at the rate which we're going.

Elizabeth:
No it isn't. So the focus is also on sustainability. And that’s what I love about the tiny houses. They give you are so many options and they can do it in such an affordable way.

Alberto:
Yes ma'am. Well we’ll post some new pictures as well and thank you again and we look forward to seeing what it looks like when it's all said and done.

Elizabeth:
Thank you and I will definitely be sending you some emails. I’ll have them on my LinkedIn and on my Facebook as well. So thank you for the interview, I really appreciate it and what you guys are doing.

Mousetrap:
Well alright, that was the interview between Alberto and Elizabeth Singleton talking about her nonprofit organization Build Us Hope. They’re really getting things running in Arizona.


Alberto:
Yeah. They’re set to open here in a couple weeks and what got me the most about her story and what her team's doing Mousetrap; this truly is a permanent solution. We hear about the problem all over the place but this is one of the first true solutions, permanent solutions to homelessness I've come across. This isn't just a fix it for the night kind of thing. This is true home ownership with the pride and the stability that comes with that that I think's going to see a lot of these disabled and homeless veterans really get right back on their feet.


Mousetrap:
Yeah it's going to be a big help and with it being a permanent solution, she's making incredible moves and this is just the start of it. I see some like that happening here in San Antonio.


Alberto:
Yeah. She’s really got my gears ticking in my brain on how we can apply this to downtown San Antonio. You know we work down there and we go down there quite a bit and I saw on the news, what was it last year where they said we had officially ended homelessness amongst our veterans. But you know I don't know who's a veteran and who's not downtown but I know for sure that homelessness is not permanently solved in downtown San Antonio. And we've talked about it on this podcast Mousetrap, we've got all these in-fill lots on the East Side and around downtown San Antonio that are just sitting there. 


Mousetrap:
And what she's done with change in the zoning in Arizona, it did take her two years with getting all that wrapped up but pushing legislation and getting people behind this movement, I see it easily doable.


Alberto:
It's definitely doable and I think their example at Build Us Hope is really going to serve as a model for other folks that want to take this to their cities and to their city councils and to their mayors and say hey I know we've got a problem - I think I might have a solution. And as a community coming together and I hope the more of us that are able to hear her story...they've been all over the news, that's how we found out about them, hopefully change some people's perspectives so we can get zoning changed and get some folks into houses Mousetrap.


Mousetrap:
Yeah absolutely. Well that wraps up this episode. I want to give a big big thanks to Elizabeth Singleton for taking the time out of her day to speak with Alberto. You can check out what her and her team are doing on her website at www.buildushope.org And over on Facebook @buildushope


Alberto:
Yeah and that audio clipping was adopted from off that Facebook page from Beth McDonald at KEZ FM and The Morning Dose. Big thanks to the media for continuing to cover this amazing story and again thank you Elizabeth for taking time to visit with me.


Mousetrap:
Well alright. That does if for this episode. Thanks for tuning in, we’ll catch you on the next one


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