DURHAM, N.C. — The sunny yellow, two-story home—each floor is about 200 square feet— is taking shape right in view of its neighbors.
“I will say there is a ton of work going on in here, so it’s crowded,” warned Topher Thomas, founder of Coram Houses.
The small company is located in Durham, North Carolina. The closest neighbor to the tiny house is in the very yard where it is located.
“What we do is build backyard tiny homes,” Thomas said. “We just focus on affordable housing.”
Those tiny homes, though, are built in a specific place: people’s backyards.
Coram Houses is linking up homeowners who have backyard space, with renters who need an affordable place to live.
“Part of this ‘building in the backyard,' we're already building community,” he said.
It all started when Thomas, who is a high school teacher, was building a tiny home of his own in Durham. A neighbor he knew got priced out of their rental home nearby.
“They walked by and said, ‘Hey, this is my situation. This is what I can afford. Can I live in your backyard?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, that makes perfect sense,’” he said.
And that is how Coram Houses was born.
How does it work?
Working with architects and structural engineers, Coram Houses builds a tiny home and helps find a tenant needing affordable housing.
The homeowners get 20% of the rent, and Coram Houses gets the rest. Depending on the financing plan, after 10-15 years, the homeowner gets full ownership of the tiny house.
In the meantime, the selected tenant gets an affordable place to live.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is a need for more than 7 million affordable units for America’s nearly 11 million lowest-income families. Among the states with the biggest deficit of affordable housing: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Texas.
Several tiny Coram Houses are already up around Durham, with 10 more in development. It’s an idea catching on with some.
“We're actually clearing some trees in our backyard right now for this concept,” said Andy Andrews, who lives in Durham.
He feels it’s a way of getting a tiny house built and play a part in making more affordable housing available.
“I think it's a great complement to some of the solutions that are already been implemented,” Andrews said. “I just think they're really doing some great work for really good reasons.”
Back at the tiny yellow house, construction workers are finishing up some of the interior details of the house.
“This one will be done by the end of next week, and there's already a tenant who's going to be living here,” Thomas said.
As for Coram Houses, much like its name, the goal for the tenants is simple.
“The word ‘Coram’ means presence,” Thomas said. “My hope is that by not having to worry about whether my rent is paid, they're able to be more present with themselves.”