September 28, 2016

Tiny Houses in Utah

Solving the Problem of Affordable Housing

Exterior almost complete as of January 2013

Exterior almost complete as of January 2013

On a Glendale neighborhood street, amid old brick, cinder block and aluminum siding houses, a new home building idea is taking shape.

With starter money from Salt Lake City Home Grants, and with help from the Crossroads Urban Center, Jeffrey White is building a tiny home. Doing most of the work himself, including fundraising, and using his award-winning design from Utah Design Arts, he is providing low cost, livable housing for those in need.

His project is called Sarah House Utah. Jeff named it after a San Francisco stone artist who never made enough money to stay in one place. After constantly being evicted, she lived out her remaining years doing house-sitting jobs while attempting to continue her art projects. He admired her work and spirit and wanted to help people like her. While in San Francisco, he also watched the ships in the harbor unloading steel containers. That is when the idea for his tiny home project started.

Jeff says, “My father gave me the love of building.” He has been doing it his whole life as well as designing and dreaming. He designed a living space using one 40-foot steel container and proceeded to build it in his driveway. A second one followed and the two houses are on display to help promote the project.

Besides the grant money, Jeff raises additional funds by designing and building wooden funeral urns. He sells them and puts the money into his Sarah House project. He also works selling real estate. “When I need money for personal expenses,” Jeff says, “ I go out and sell a house.” He spends most of his time working on the project when he is not out trying to secure funds or donations.

Fundraising is one of the frustrating aspects of the project. He gets plenty of interest, but people tend not to keep their promises. One bright spot came when he sent his design to the University of Utah School of Architecture. The faculty did not respond, but somehow the students saw it, loved it and spread the word through social media.

Jeff also sees “a movement of people in big houses going to small houses.” The Glendale house is made from two shipping containers. Finished, the home will be 670 square feet. Jeff designed it with a low-income senior couple in mind. The windows provide ample natural light. The finished house will have a fireplace and a built-in bookcase. There is even a room for sleepovers with the grandkids. A porch out front beckons to summer nights spent visiting with the neighbors.

Jeff has an evident passion for this work. He says, “Some folks think of retiring at fifty. I wanted to join the Peace Corp.” A one-man army of energy and enthusiasm, he is making a difference in the world.

Follow the progress of Sarah House Utah on Facebook.