Mon, June 24, 2024

Tiny homes coming to Augusta

A plan to build a tiny home village on Merry Street received the green light from Augusta Commissioners during the April 16 meeting.

Commissioners approved two re-zoning requests for just over three acres at 1140 Merry Street. The land had been a city-owned park, but was turned over to the Land Bank three years ago due to lack of use.

The plan put forth by the non-profit organization Bridge Builder Community, calls for a total of 25 tiny homes to be built in phases. The first phase would be 10 homes, in two clusters of five. Bridge Builder Community is a project of the Drumgoole Family Initiatives.

“I keep saying from day one, it takes a village to do what we’re doing. It takes a village to take care of a village and I love this collaborative effort,” Dr. Jackson Drumgoole, Founder and Executive Director, told ABD. “It’s almost palpable. You can feel it in the air. Right now, we’ll take a deep breath and we’ll prepare to move on with the plans. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We understand that. But we have the steam, we have the people to do that and now we have the land.”

The homes will provide a place to live for young adults in the foster care system after they turn 18 years old and must leave the system, often with nowhere to live.

“The idea for the children aging out is a wonderful idea. I think it’s just a bad place because of giving them the parkland, which is the only park for quite aways around there. It is going to take away from the neighborhood,” Wrightsboro Road resident, Michael Thurmond told commissioners, adding he had a petition with the names of 33 people opposing the project.

Each tiny home will be 320 square feet, designed similarly to a studio apartment, and provide a living/dining/sleeping area, bathroom, and kitchen with a two-burner induction cooktop, microwave, and refrigerator. It will be fully furnished with a new bed and linens, pots, pans, utensils, table and chairs, and bathroom supplies. When the resident leaves, the items go with them to help set up their first, independent home.

The complex will include a community building and living quarters for an on-site manager.

Among the programs offered will be assistance with educational and vocational outcomes, workforce development partnerships with Augusta Technical College and Goodwill Industries, healthcare and life skills coaching.

The goal is to provide young adults with a chance of a better outcome than the one shown in current statistics. According to Bridge Builder Community, 50% of teens aging out of foster care are homeless within six months, only 53% graduate high school, 71% of women in foster care become pregnant by age 21, and 25% of former foster children go to prison within two years after aging out.

District 1 Commissioner, Jordan Johnson has long been a proponent of tiny homes. He helped craft the ordinance, passed in August 2022, allowing tiny home villages in Richmond County.

He told ABD if this first one targeting at-risk youth aging out of the foster care system is successful, it opens doors for additional such villages.

“I’ve always been a proponent of making sure that we have special housing for special groups,” he explained. “There’s no reason why we can’t have tiny homes for veterans, ranch-style homes for teachers, homes specifically for law enforcement officers like our sheriff’s deputies and our firefighters. This is a great opportunity to be able to present alternatives for people who need it. Because the fact of the matter is, the cost of living has alarmingly increased.”

Although commissioners approved the re-zoning request, it came with a stipulation. The site plan must be submitted to the city and be approved before construction begins.

The overall project carries a $3 million price tag, with $1 million already available. Organizers hope to break ground on phase one by this summer.

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