Big Enough: an introduction to the project

Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity has been working for several months to develop “Big Enough”, an investigation into small, simple, durable and energy efficient homes as a way to launch more families into the middle class in western Mass. Our goal has been to explore whether we might develop and pilot construction of a prototype small home with a $50,000 construction cost as an affordable homeownership option for low-income individuals and families. We have worked with various partners to explore the financial, regulatory, construction and social/cultural opportunities and constraints. We have researched manufactured, modular and small footprint dwelling options. We seek a model that works for Habitat’s end-user –earners at 60% of the area median income — as well as one that meets the needs of homebuyers with means to pay more, allowing for broader access than is currently available for smaller, greener homes.

Brainstorming Sessions

We completed 3 “power hour” rapid brainstorming sessions with experts from the financial, regulatory and construction fields to make sure our research was hitting key opportunities, constraints and intersections.  We also had a “world-cafe” style open forum on small homes where we solicited input from potential home buyers and others interested in small homes as a solution to increasing access to homeownership.

Surveys and Interviews

As part of our inquiry into the social and cultural aspects of the pilot, we sought to gather data and responses directly from those residents of the region who might be interested in looking toward smaller homes as an affordable homeownership option. We conducted in-person interviews as well as online surveys which sought to more closely define the demographics, aesthetic preferences, and spatial needs of prospective small home owners.  The research was designed to capture information from individuals and families in western Massachusetts who earn between $16,000 and $52,000 annually and have a household size which does not exceed four people.

The Solutions Lab

The Solutions Lab is an opportunity for our partners, as well as members of the larger community, to convene and build upon our knowledge base so far. The goal for the event is to get a better shared understanding of the potential of and challenges to the Big Enough pilot. This one-day event will bring together research and thought leaders to lay the groundwork for implementation.