Tracey Harris, a sociology professor at Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, included the Cass model in her 2018 book, The Tiny House Movement: Challenging our Consumer Culture. “One of the really amazing things is that once you have that [homeowner equity], you can make decisions about your life that you wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do before that, to live in your house the rest of your life, to sell it, to put it in your will, to break that cycle of poverty.”

To make the concept work, Cass Community Social Services uses a rent-to-own formula that charges one dollar per square foot. At 250 to 400 square feet per home, that’s a rent payment that is actually affordable on the minimum $7,000 annual income allowed by the program.

Residents must pay their own utility bills, meet once a month with a financial coach, and take part in a community watch program. And then, if all goes according to plan, after seven years, the home and land on which it sits are deeded to the tenant, mortgage free.