Update 3: Case Studies

In my last post, I talked about Second Wind Cottages in Newfield, NY, as that organization seemed to be the closest fit to what I envision for a homeless housing community in Williamsburg. In this post, I’ll discuss the other case studies I researched, and go through details of each and what could be added to a Second Wind-type model to improve it for Williamsburg.

A Tiny Home for Good (Syracuse, NY)

This community is built on vacant city lots with zoning codes appropriate for building single-occupancy tiny homes. Each home is 300 square feet, and includes a kitchen, bed and bathroom. This organization utilizes a rent-to-own model, and residents pay rent on a sliding scale based on income. Rent is 30% of a resident’s income. The community is primarily for US veterans, and it includes professional care managers. For financials, each unit cost about $28,500 (average) to construct using volunteer labor and donated supplies. Funding comes from private donations, with the rest from grants and rent.

Since housing is theoretically supposed to cost 28% of one’s gross income, the 30% income number from this organization seems fair. Some residents may not be able to pay a fixed program fee. The average cost per unit is higher, but this average could include extra costs like adding storm drainage ditches and other facilities.

Quixote Village (Olympia, WA)

What started as a mobile camp of tents in church parking lots turned into an established community of 30 tiny homes (and these are very tiny- 144 square feet). This community is made up of various faith communities. The homes have a bed, toilet, sink, and some storage space. Residents share a community building that includes a kitchen, dining area, showers, living room, laundry and meeting spaces. This entire project cost about $3.05 million to complete. Each home cost roughly $19,000 (meaning the total housing cost is $570,000). The rest of the expenses include installing three (3) storm drainage ditches, constructing the community building, leasing land, etc. While these additions are expensive, they are necessary. Olympia, WA gets an average of 50 inches of rain per year (11 inches more than the national average of 39 in). Thus, drainage ditches are important to prevent flooding. Williamsburg would have a similar expense, since the city averages 48 inches of rain per year. Newfield, NY, however, averages 38 inches, so these drainage systems are not as necessary for those communities. Like other communities, Quixote Village raised their funds through public and private organizations.

This community utilizes a Recovery Housing and Permanent-Supportive Housing model to both provide a drug and alcohol-free environment and potentially permanent housing for residents. This village is currently full, and the executives for this community are currently working on opening two more villages in nearby counties. Quixote Village has a few ramps for residents in wheelchairs, but leaders see a need for more in the future villages for disabled residents. Disability does not exclude a person from being a resident, but residents can’t have outstanding warrants or sex offender registration.

The organization attributes its fundraising success to 1) residents having a reputation as good neighbors within the community, 2) volunteers showing support for the community, 3) residents being willing to speak at public meetings, and 4) a progressive and generous community ready to help its homeless population.

I admire this community’s resiliency and commitment to helping homeless people. They progressed from living in tents in parking lots to having their own homes. In a Williamsburg model, I think it would be important to include accommodations for disabled residents and factor those costs into a total expense projection.

Community First! Village (Austin, TX)

This community sits on a 27-acre plot and provides housing for the disabled and chronically homeless. Residents pay an affordable rent ($250-$350 in rent/month) and have access to gardens, worship centers, medical facilities, bus stops and Wifi. Community First seeks to allow residents (both men and women) to “rediscover hope, renew their purpose and restore their dignity”. Additionally, Community First has a unique aspect in that it includes a B&B for overnight visitors. This feature, in my opinion, helps connect the homeless population to those in the middle class and could help raise awareness for the community. Another unique facet of this organization is that the organization has community programs to help residents build relationships and learn job/life skills to help them earn income (this includes programs like art and woodshop where residents can eventually sell their works to help earn income).

Overall, this site is made up of 120 small homes, 100 RVs, 20 canvas-sided homes (tents with foundation), and it cost about $14.5 million to construct everything. One could assume that this organization had tremendous community support to raise that money. Indeed, Community First has had over 19,000 volunteers since it opened in 2000. I very much like this model, but as I mentioned, it may be difficult for some residents to pay a fixed fee if their income is too low. However, this could be offset by the community programs that potentially help residents earn income to pay their rent. Williamsburg should have a decent supply of volunteers, as William and Mary students are generally very service-oriented. Partnering with the College could help spread awareness of one of these communities and help raise funds for construction.

The Cottages at Hickory Crossing (Dallas, TX)

This community consists of 50, approx. 400 square foot houses. Each house has a kitchen, bathroom and bed, with physical and mental healthcare from staff. CitySquare, the organization behind the community, raised $6.8 million to construct the houses. While both Austin and Dallas have a below-average annual rainfall, there are probably additional factors to consider with weather in housing construction (hail, for example). CitySquare seeks to “fight the causes and effects of poverty through service, advocacy and friendship”.

I found data for this organization regarding success of residents- between January and June of 2018, 234 residents found work through CitySquare, and 62 people increased their savings through financial empowerment coaching. There is room for improvement for resident savings statistics. William and Mary could potentially help in this regard because the business school will have a Financial Wellness course this fall for students to learn about saving for retirement, paying debts, etc. Depending on the success of this class, the business school could potentially extend this to the broader community to help adults get control of their financial lives.

Overall, these communities each have unique aspects that could go into a Williamsburg model. For example, A Tiny Home for Good’s focus on veterans helps that section of the broader homeless population, Quixote Village’s focus on community support to raise funds for houses, Community First’s inclusion of programs to help residents earn income, and Hickory Crossing’s emphasis on getting jobs for residents all combine to improve quality of life for residents. I personally believe that a sliding scale for rent would be the best for residents with different incomes, but programs to help earn income as mentioned with the Community First case can support a fixed rent amount. The average cost of housing for all of these models is still far below that of owning an apartment or buying a larger home. As I mentioned in my last post, the main reason people become homeless is because of the inability to find affordable housing. This solution provides that intermediate for homeless people to find work without paying more than 30% of their income for housing.

In the next week, I’ll post my final summary with some specifics on zoning in Williamsburg and more on environmental conditions and how that would impact expenses, as well as demographics of the case study cities.




A Tiny Home for Good


Community First


Quixote Village


  1. Hey there,

    I really enjoyed reading this post and I learned a lot about different types of housing communities and the different kinds of challenges each faces and the solutions employed to make them possible. As I was reading, I was wondering how long each of these different communities have been in existence. Are some models older and more “tried-and-true”? Is there collaboration between some of these groups about what works and what doesn’t work?

    In reading your post, it seems like these organizations are strongly community-based and orientated. Do you think it’s feasible to build housing communities in areas where the community isn’t as supportive, at least initially? What could be some effective ways to build community support and involvement in these communities, for instance in the form of volunteers and funding? I’m very excited to read your final conclusions!


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