One of the advantages to my sponsoring the Business Plan Competition at University of California at Berkeley is that I get to meet interesting, bright, motivated students. How does this work exactly? I’m a judge for the competition, and that puts me into regular contact with the student organizers. In about 2007, Kevin Casey was one of the organizers, and we got to know each other just a little bit. But I remembered him, and when he got into the tiny house movement, I took notice and contacted him.
He’s taking a different approach than I plan with my Green Homes venture I haven’t started but probably will at some point. But his approach is valid and he’s making solid progress.
Kevin Casey’s company is New Avenue, Inc. Here’s their mission statement, which I copied directly from their website for precision:
“In the United States 40 million of the 70 million single family homes have just one or two people living in them. These under-used homes were designed for easy building, not quality living, and they drive a seemingly endless list of negative effects such as sprawl, traffic congestion, lifelong “homeowner” debt, and costly energy use. This incredible waste of space is the result of the traditional model of accommodating growth through suburban tract home development. The US Census projects a need for 12.5 million additional homes by 2020 and we need a new way of creating these homes.
New Avenue is an alternative development model that enables communities to grow internally as opposed to externally. We do this by building homes on underutilized properties within existing neighborhoods. Our homes are designed to accommodate the true diversity of our family types, namely those of us that live in one or two person households. We call this the small plot development model and it can end suburban sprawl as we know it, accommodate the demand for 12.5 million new homes we need and bring financial and environmental sustainability to families.
New Avenue delivers a turnkey solution for building these one and two person homes. We have unique expertise in design, land use rights, financing, permitting and pre-fab manufacturing that allows us to create building opportunities where it is either illegal or unprofitable for the old fashioned banks, builders and developers to operate.
By creating new legal and financial products we eliminate the barriers that foil the old way of building and enable the creation of tens of thousands of right-sized homes that are energy efficient, attractive and healthy to live in. The homes we build provide financial security to landowners and strengthen our communities without consuming any additional green space.
The installation of small second homes can create community, enhance health, produce renewable energy, and provide a financially sustainable alternative for property owners and investors to shape the future of our communities.”
Kevin’s New Avenue has built its first home, close by in Berkeley, California. It’s in the back yard of a detached house that belongs to a UC Berkeley professor. I’ve toured Kevin’s tiny house twice, once while about half done and once after it was completed. It’s a charming, warm and livable home. It’s a mere 420 square feet, but I think a single person could comfortably live in it for years. The only thing it really needs that it doesn’t have is a washer and dryer.
Kevin arranged for no less than the mayor of Berkeley to be on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony, which is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 2:30pm. The preliminary festivities start earlier at 1pm. I plan to attend, and if you’re in the area, I encourage you to attend as well. Kevin has BIG plans for New Avenue, and I wish him the best of success in his ambitious entrepreneurial adventure.
My friend Sara Olsen likes what Kevin’s doing as well. Here’s an article she wrote for GreenBiz.com entitled The Social ROI Green, Affordable Housing. She writes that Kevin plans to build a stunning 10,000 tiny houses in the next few years. Kevin shared that detail with me as well, but I didn’t know if it was a number intended to be publicized. Since Sara published it, I’ll emphasize her point here. Kevin certainly thinks big. Maybe I’ll one day be talking about shipping 10,000 shipping container Green Homes… I hope so.
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