Catawba Indian Nation residents may soon have a new housing option, albeit a tiny one.
Dale Dove, founder of the homeless services group Renew Our Community in Rock Hill, has been working for years to bring tiny homes to the York County area.
He has established ReNu Housing, a nonprofit that aims to change how people view housing and provide affordable housing to people who make $20 an hour or less.
“I’m talking about people who have income coming in, it’s just not enough,” he said. “People are having harder and harder times finding places to live.”
Dove’s nonprofit is not the only company doing tiny houses, which are popping up in cities around the country.
Tiny houses, which are usually between 100 and 400 square feet, offer options for those wanting to downsize and spend less money for a roof over their heads, Dove said. The homes can cost as little as $12,000 to buy.
ReNu Housing’s model of a tiny home that size will be at the Rock Hill Lowe’s on Saturday and will travel the area this summer.
To finance a $12,000 home at 4.5 percent interest over 10 years, it would equal $125 a month, Dove said.
“For less than $200, you’re not just renting, you can actually own a home,” he said.
That option appeals to Catawba Indian Nation leaders, who are considering bringing the tiny home trend to reservation lands, said Chief Bill Harris. The tribe is looking into building a community of the small homes on a parcel of land within the reservation.
“It wouldn’t require a lot of acreage to do that,” Harris said.
He said Dove approached them with the idea.
“They have housing needs just like the rest of us do,” Dove said. “Everybody has workers in that $20 an hour or less bracket and now, what housing options are available to them? The answer is not many and almost nothing they are going to own.”
Dove said he is working to change that.
“We shouldn’t have to force feed it on anybody,” he said. “This should be something our government leaders wake up every day thinking about. (Housing) is the No. 1 problem I think we have here.”
Meanwhile, the Catawbas have a plot of land in mind where the tiny houses could go, Chief Harris said.
When people see what they are doing and the quality of life these smaller micro-communities will bring, I think people will be intrigued.
Dale Dove, founder of Renu Housing
Elizabeth Harris, tribal administrator, said a tiny home community falls within the uses allowed under the reservation’s Land Use Ordinance, established in July 2011. The Catawba Indian Nation, the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina, does not fall under any city or county ordinances, and handles their own building permits and inspections, she said.
“There wouldn’t be any road blocks to build a tiny house community on the reservation,” Elizabeth said.
Chief Harris said the smaller homes could provide an affordable housing option for the Catawba Nation and beyond.
“When you look at a turn-key house for $15,000 to $20,000, that’s something that as a young person you could afford,” Harris said. “It’s not something that would be out of reach for people.”
Harris said he thinks the homes would be cost-saving investments for younger individuals since they are affordable, and use minimal water and energy.
“They are well constructed,” he said. “It has everything that one or two people would need.”
Elizabeth said the homes could also be another option for reservation residents currently renting.
“A lot of people still have that dream of home ownership,” she said. “This is a good first step toward getting them out of a rental property and into a home that can be theirs.”
A lot of people still have that dream of home ownership.
Elizabeth Harris, Catawba Indian Nation
Dove said that idea is something county, city and state leaders should consider.
“It’s something that everybody that’s responsible for a community should be looking at,” he said.
The city of Rock Hill prohibits construction of new homes less than 800 square feet, according the city's zoning ordinance.
York County typically requires homeowners to have about an acre of land per home if there is no public water or sewer on the property, said Josh Reinhardt, zoning administrator for York County.
The Catawba Nation is assessing costs and is putting together a study to gauge community interest before moving forward, Harris said. He said the project is in the beginning stages.
“We don’t know for sure where this is going,” Harris said. “We are waiting to see what the feedback is within the community. Until we actually sit down and do a study, we won’t know.”
The tribe also is not yet sure how the project will be paid for, Elizabeth said.
“Finalizing the sources of funding would be part of the research process and would depend on exactly how the project panned out,” she said. “We have not identified the exact sources of funding yet.”
How financing for the homes would work and how the community would be set up is also undetermined, Dove said.
What is clear is Catawba Indian Nation leaders like the idea.
“The concept is a great concept; we just have to see how it will work,” said Jason Harris, assistant chief.
Elizabeth said people who cannot afford a full mortgage may benefit from the tiny house movement.
“I think it’s pretty innovative that they are trying to bring something like this to York County,” she said. “It can build support for Dale Dove and his nonprofit so other people in the community can see if it can work here, it can work in other places throughout the county.”
That is Dove’s goal.
“I would like to see them have housing for their people, but also housing that is a showcase for other communities,” he said. “When people see what they are doing and the quality of life these smaller micro-communities will bring, I think people will be intrigued.”