While thousands of families left homeless by Hurricane Katrina struggled to get the trailer homes promised to them by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or fought to stay in their hotel rooms, a few architects were busy creating a new kind of emergency housing.
With bright yellow Hardieboard siding, long windows and a tin roof, architect Marianne Cusato’s “Katrina Cottage” measures just 300 square feet. That’s 14 by 22 feet of living space, plus a generous eight-foot-deep porch. But the tiny house finds room for a full bathroom with a shower, a bedroom with four bunks, a kitchen with full-sized appliances, a closet and a living room, plus central heating and air conditioning.
“The house is faithful to traditions, yet it’s ingenious in how the storage is handled,” said John Norquist, president of the Congress for the New Urbanism. For example, the bottom bunk-bed mattresses lift like the hinged top of a piano bench to reveal large cubbyholes underneath.
Thousands of people toured Cusato’s prototype at the Inter-national Builders’ Show in Orlando this January. Several builders are negotiating with Cusato to use her Katrina Cottage in projects ranging from the Gulf Coast to construction worker housing to mountain retreats.
People who lost their homes in the Katrina disaster should be able to put one of the little buildings on their lots for as little as $35,000. That’s about what it costs to create one of FEMA’s trailer homes. But unlike a FEMA trailer, the cottage meets most building codes and is built to last.
After a family’s main house is rebuilt, the cottage will be good enough to stay on as a granny cottage or a home office or even a rental unit, depending on local rules. Or the cottage could become part of a new main house.
Since January, the little house has traveled from Florida to Ocean Springs, Miss., where officials plan to use the design to help rebuild their town. Eventually, the prototype will be donated to a Mississippi family that lost its home to Katrina.
The cottage was just one of the bright ideas that came out of the seven-day Mississippi Renewal Forum held in the ballroom of the Isle of Capri casino in Biloxi, Miss., in October 2005.
Designers at the forum and its follow-up efforts produced nearly 100 designs for emergency housing, more permanent affordable housing, and storm-zone housing raised on stilt foundations.
At press time, The New Urban Guild was preparing to make the plans for dozens of these home designs available on its Web site, including both “tiny houses” measuring about 200 to 800 square feet and “thin houses” measuring 500 to 1,200 square feet. The Guild’s Gulf Coast Emergency Plans book will contain easy-to-follow plans for developers, builders and property owners.
The Guild also provides a wealth of helpful information, ranging from rebuilding checklists to a guide on building front porches. Visit www.newurbanguild.com.