400-Square-Foot Tiny Homes Start at $100K in This Florida Community
Tiny homes are often escapist fantasies, with small footprints in larger-than-life settings. For others, they’re an opportunity at a more dignified life. But tiny home builder and developer Escape has its own big idea: that going smaller can provide a means of homeownership in a metropolitan area, even within a housing market that’s heating up.
The company opened its first tiny home village in Tampa Bay, Florida, in 2021, and now, it’s opened a second. The Oaks, as its known, is in essence a shrunken-down neighborhood set on three-and-a-half acres. Homes are positioned a football toss away from each other, with driveways and small landscaped patches creating separation. "Virtually the entire community is green space," says Escape founder Dan Dobrowolski, noting its palm trees, native grasses, and old oaks.
The units, designed by architect Kelly Davis of SALA Architects, are all less than 400 square feet, with the smaller ones starting around $100,000. On top of a mortgage payment—say, a 30-year fixed term at $830 a month after a 20 percent down payment—would-be owners are responsible for a monthly $625 lot rental fee, which covers parking and utilities. Those figures combined beat out the median cost to rent in the Tampa area, which Zillow estimates at $2,286.
And that figure could keep going up with the swift arrival of crypto and tech in the Sunshine State’s city centers; tech salaries in Tampa are now rising more quickly than in Silicon Valley. "Housing is a crisis throughout our nation, but specifically in the Tampa Bay region, one of the fastest growing in [the country]," city mayor Jane Castor told the Florida Phoenix earlier this year.
It’s an exciting moment for Dobrowolski, who sees the influx of newcomers as an opportunity to introduce tiny homes as an alternative to sky-high rents. "Amazon built a new facility right down the street, tech is moving in, and the University of South Florida just round the corner is growing exponentially," he says. "It is like a tidal wave of new people and energy."
There might be a lot of new faces in town, but the village has already attracted long-time Florida locals. After Hurricane Ian destroyed the Fort Myers home of 70-year-old Mark, he started looking for options in nearby Tampa. (Homeowners in the community asked that their last names not be used.) "The style of the homes, plus the beauty of the community made my decision to move here very easy," he says of The Oaks.
Others are coming from a little further away, attracted by the lifestyle. "Tiny living has been a dream of mine since Covid started," says Stephanie, who’s in her 50s and commuted to work in the Washington D.C area from northern Virginia. The area hadn’t yet adopted zoning legislation for tiny homes, and housing costs were becoming less reasonable, so she started looking elsewhere and found The Oaks online. "I was trying to simplify," she says about her search for a new space. "My company is allowing me to work remote and my unit has the perfect loft space for an office."
Out the front door of Stephanie’s tiny home, walking paths lead to shared spaces and a pool, an amenity she didn’t have access to while living in Virginia. "In a crazy world, there is a lot to be said for a little piece of heaven," says Dobrowolski.
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