Small homes have a big appeal

Published: 7/10/2019 10:53:22 AM

Consider the small home. They cost less to build and maintain than large ones — and may be the right size for those who don’t need a lot of living space.

And building one earned a Greenfield woman a prize from Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity as part of its Big Enough Project.

The local chapter of Habitat gave a Small Home Hero Award to Janet Obermann as well as the city of Northampton.

The award’s purpose is to recognize efforts to increase access to home ownership through a number of ways, including building and designing small homes.

As Megan McDonough, executive director for Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, said, “We’re promoting homes that are affordable, efficient and promote home ownership.”

Obermann’s new home, which is less than 500 square feet, will enable her to live independently as she ages and be relatively maintenance free.

Acting as the general contractor, she worked with a company that used a computerized design to build the components, which were then assembled on her piece of land. And not surprising, the home’s construction included a bit of sweat equity — with Obermann, her family and friends undertaking some of the work.

We can recall the era of subdivisions consisting of homes 3,000 square feet and more that were designed to give the appearance of wealth — those so-called McMansions. Although there are likely exceptions, these homes weren’t built for energy efficiency. Nor were they cheap to buy.

Still, there is a great appeal for those who want a home built just for them — or find that buying an existing home, even a fixer-upper, would be too expensive.

As anyone who has recently undertaken a building project or repairs around the house has discovered, the cost of materials and tools keeps rising. That would put building a large home — and owning one — out of reach for many.

But Obermann’s building project cost $127,000. Likewise, she figures she’ll have low bills for heating and cooling in the future.

Of course, not everyone could live comfortably in a home as small as hers although its open design does make it feel more spacious. Certainly, it would take a person or couple committed to this kind of lifestyle to make it work.

But we see such designs as a way for young adults to own their first home or older ones on fixed incomes to continue living on their own. Or for those who are dedicated to building affordable housing, how about small homes clustered on a piece of land?

Small may be the smart way to go.


Some clarifications are required for the editorial “Clock is ticking for Deerfield’s wastewater system,” which ran July 5.

There are two projects necessary at the South Deerfield Wastewater Treatment Plant. One is to replace a clarifier – the tank that treated water goes through before it makes contact with chlorine. Voters appropriated up to $1 million for this.

The other project involves building a headworks, which would remove trash and debris from a stream that flows into the plant, as well as other upgrades. Seventy-five percent of this project’s cost will be covered by user fees; the remaining 25 percent will be covered by all town taxpayers. However, this work is contingent on a debt-exclusion vote, which was rejected by voters at an election June 24.

A new debt-exclusion vote has been scheduled Sept. 9. Selectboard Chairman Trevor McDaniel said its passage would help the town secure a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for the work.

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