Westside tiny home community opens door to affordable housing solution

Northeast Florida’s first tiny home neighborhood is taking shape on Jacksonville’s Westside.

The community of 50 total homes is being built by HabiJax and will be operated by Ability Housing as an out-of-the-box solution to the affordable housing crisis in Jacksonville.

The 500 square feet homes will be rented out based of the renter’s income.

“An innovation really to challenge us all to look at how we address the affordable housing crisis in a different way,” Monte Walker, the CEO of HabiJax, said.

Crews broke ground on the new neighborhood in fall of 2020 and hope to have renters moved in by late summer.

HabiJax is working with up to seven different social service agencies to take referrals and applications will be accepted starting in July.

The homes are all one bedrooms and will be fully furnished with IKEA furniture.

Mario Martin was driving through Friday and stopped in.

“Looking at the square footage and looking at the structure of it — it could be a good starter home,” he said.

Walker said the rising cost of property and goods drove increased rent and mortgage prices in Florida, but the median income didn’t follow.

The average house in the area has doubled in cost, from $158,000 to $304,000 according to the Northeast Flroida Association of Realtors. But the median income hasn’t followed the spike.

According to the U.S. Census, it was $50,010 a decade ago and is now $54,701.

“A lot of these families unfortunately just got left behind,” Walker said.

There’s about 41,000 low-income renter households in Jacksonville.

According to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor, rent surged 36% over the past decade. In Jacksonville, the average three bedroom apartment cost about $1,100 and is now about $1,400.