A proposal for a new tiny home community in Newark could help the city combat the rising cost of living while providing housing for low-income families. 

Newark’s Look Up Center has proposed a tiny home community they are calling Grace Landing to try and provide housing for people facing barriers to renting or owning a home in Licking County. 

Obstacles like steep move-in deposits, previous evictions and the nationwide rising cost of living have kept low-income residents from purchasing homes, according to the 2022 Annual Report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition

“Fewer than four affordable and available homes existed for every 10 extremely low-income renter households nationwide,” according to the report. 

That lack of affordable housing has translated to the local level, where the median home in Licking County sold for $305,000 in December 2023 — a 5.2% increase from 2022, according to the Redfin Corporation

“[This proposal] is a positive because it could be a future home of one of these people that are working poor,” said Patricia Perry, co-founder of Newark Homeless Outreach.

The project fulfills the Look Up Center’s mission of serving the community through “Christ-centered love, education and encouragement,” Executive Director Lori Hubble said. 

“It’s about breaking generational poverty,” Hubble explained, comparing the six-unit tiny home village to Bailey Park, the housing initiative in the Christmas classic film It’s a Wonderful Life. 

“There are a lot of people whose families for generations never owned a home, and all they know is that they can rent,” Hubble said. “We have this space next door that we’re not utilizing, and we have a housing issue.”

Plans for the village include a parking lot, a playground and bike racks for the residents. 

Hubble faced pushback about the proposal, with some Newark residents concerned about how a tiny home village might impact their property values. 

Hubble said she understands their concerns, as well as the commitment required to see this project through. 

But the project, Hubble said, has the potential to make dreams come true, and she doesn’t take that lightly. 

“There’s only one other tiny home community in the state of Ohio and one that’s being built in Columbus now, for the same reason: there is not enough housing,” Hubble said. “[Grace Landing] would be a major investment.” 

Perry agrees.

“If we don’t go do something, people are not going to have any houses,” Perry said.

Tiny home villages like the potential Grace Landing have popped up across the United States, providing housing for low-income individuals and families. Places like the Bluff Street Village in Toledo, Ohio, Emerald Village in Eugene, Oregon and the Other Side Village in Salt Lake City, Utah, have created “sanctuaries” for people who couldn’t otherwise afford homes. 

Grace Landing is still in the early phases of development, but already, the Look Up Center has renderings for construction and plans to employ locals who trained at the center’s Skilled Trade Employment Program (STEP). 

The Look Up Center launched STEP about five years ago to train locals in construction and electrical trades and is ready to bring those residents back to work on the six tiny homes.  

Former mentees of the STEP program can advise and craft the electrical elements of each tiny home, Hubble explained, giving back to the community that built them up. David Stinehelfer, a journeyman electrician and recent STEP graduate, will lead that effort. 

The organization plans to host another neighborhood meeting to discuss the tiny home village and provide answers to concerned residents. 

Grace Landing is just the latest service the Look Up Center hopes to offer residents after 20 years of serving Licking County. Since it launched in 2004, the small nonprofit has provided community members with daycare, low-cost household goods, dental services and rideshare programs. 

Services like these go a  long way, fulfilling needs during difficult times.

“Some of my family have used the dentist when they were unemployed,” said Perry. 

This Saturday, Jan. 20, the nonprofit will be celebrating its 20th anniversary with a pancake breakfast fundraiser.

Noah Fishman writes for TheReportingProject.org, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation and donationsfrom readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.