Detroit — There's much to love about the houses in Detroit regardless of their states of upkeep or disrepair or construction.
The crews of some popular home shows can attest to that.
A team from "This Old House" is helping a couple renovate a vacant, vandalized 1939 Tudor-style red brick dwelling. The Detroit firefighter and his wife, a Chrysler employee, fell in love with the leaded- and stained-glass windows and ornamental plasterwork. So are viewers of the highly rated PBS show.
And, in 2015, a Venetian Gothic mansion from the 1870s with stone carvings of flowers and a second-floor turret got a long-awaited new lease on life. Nicole Curtis, the host of HGTV show "Rehab Addict," said she "finally found a way to make the numbers work."
Another exciting housing project in Detroit is both its newest and teeniest. Seven of 25 tiny houses focused on individuals in need of affordable housing are ready for occupancy in a neighborhood where the last building record dates back to 1974. And that was just for a garage.
"To see new construction here, it really is a rebirth and revitalization. It's something of hope," the Rev. Faith Fowler told me as we toured the small structures ranging from 250 to 400 square feet.
The styles are based on a variety of plans with names like Loring Bungalow, Minimus 2 and Katrina Cottage, which was developed as a dignified option to FEMA trailers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The tiny houses cheerfully stand out amidst some 300 empty lots within a mile radius. Their bright colors of siding, welcoming porches and appealing accents — be it a dormer covered in yellow gingerbread shake or stately white polymer columns or a contemporary blue metal roof — pack a lot of curb appeal.
Indeed, more than 500 people jumped at the chance last month to go through the tiny houses before the individuals who are on a seven year, rent-to-own plan get their keys. The visitors donated $75 each or $100 a couple toward construction costs for the next group of tiny houses.
Like others, Fowler is trying to make the numbers work — a lot of numbers. First, there's the estimated $40,000 cost to build each tiny house — "about the price of a nice car," she says — and then there will be residents needing counseling to balance tight budgets.
Of course, plastic building materials will make the tiny houses energy efficient, and that's important for the prospective residents. The project targets individuals with annual incomes of about $10,000.
Four of the houses have vinyl siding and all have 9 inches of fiberglass insulation keeping out the Michigan cold and freeway noise. Some also have vinyl windows bringing in light while also limiting the heat exchange between the indoors and out.