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Davenport 'tiny homes' will be a duplex
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Davenport 'tiny homes' will be a duplex

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Stakes are in the ground and building permits have been issued, but the two "tiny homes" that the faith-based nonprofit One Eighty expects to construct this summer in Davenport won't be quite as originally envisioned.

The homes — each around 400 square feet — will be built at 1117 and 1119 W. 7th St., and the goal had been to sell them to graduates of the One Eighty program as a way to promote independence and the neighborhood stability that comes with home ownership, Rusty Boruff, founder and director of One-Eighty, said.

Zoning had been a concern because most cities have minimum requirements for lot size and square footage. But when Davenport enacted major changes to its code in January of 2019, it eliminated square-footage and lots size requirements for single-family homes, so Boruff thought his "tiny home" plans would be in compliance.

He later learned the lot is zoned residential multi-family and new construction cannot be single-family. So, One Eighty is now proceeding with a duplex — two adjoining tiny homes, one facing north and the other south.

The project still will provide new housing, but the units will be rentals without the opportunity for home ownership that Boruff had hoped.

"Home ownership is vital," he said. "This defeats the purpose of what needs to be done in this area. This is an area that desperately needs it (home ownership). But one battle at a time." 

Matt Flynn, senior planning manager for the city's planning and economic development department, said that while the vast majority of the city between Washington, Locust, Harrison and West 5th streets allows new single family construction, the area where One Eighty wants to build does not.

That area is zoned residential-multi-family, or R-MF, and "the City believes it is important to maintain these areas already zoned R-MF to support a variety of housing types and promote higher density development as well as single-family home ownership," he said in an email.

One Eighty owns a lot on West 8th Street that Boruff hopes will be the next "tiny home" location, although he doesn't know yet whether it will be free-standing or another duplex.

Meanwhile working through the process of building a house from scratch — new construction as opposed to renovations of existing structures — has served a great instructional purpose so that next time, One Eighty employees can be their own general contractors, Boruff said.

New construction is much different from renovating because it has different and more numerous code requirements. "New construction is a whole different game," he said. "There are plants (that have to be planted), water run-off issues — this is something we want to learn to do."

Steve Baumann, vice-president of Russell Construction, and Josh Arguello, of Streamline Architects, have been donating time to get the project off the ground and  "showing us the ropes," Boruff said.

Both have devoted "countless hours," Boruff said.

All told, the "tiny homes" duplex will cost about $25,000 in out-of-pocket expenses to build. Everything else has been donated.

In addition to the donation of time by Russell and Streamline, the Iowa Quad-Cities Rotary pledged to raising $15,000 "that got this thing kicked off," Boruff said.

"We needed an initial commitment to pursue this."

Wells Fargo also gave a monetary grant.

Other companies donating in-kind include Getz Concrete Construction Co., for the concrete slab upon which the houses will be built; Lowe's Home Improvement, for donations of lumber, windows, doors and appliances; Metal Sales Manufacturing Corp., for the metal roof; Knilans' Furniture & Interiors, for everything relating to interior furnishings; Petersen Plumbing & Heating Co.; Iowa-American Water; Crawford Co., for the HVAC system; Shaw Electric; The Green Thumbers for landscaping, and Strauss Electrical, for lighting.

Housing is an integral component of One Eighty's mission because unstable living conditions can lead to back-sliding into old ways of homelessness, addiction, incarceration or domestic abuse, Boruff said.

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