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At 22, buys & customizes lofted home in Pocket Neighborhood on a budget

Christian Curry was the first of his friends to buy a home. At just 22, he bought a 600-square-foot starter home within biking distance of downtown Tempe (Arizona). His is one of 13 “humble homes” that make up Tempe Micro Estates, developed to help address the lack of affordable housing in this college town.

Priced at $170,000 to $210,000 apiece, the single-family homes share a central courtyard, but are owned by their residents who lease the land (with renewable 99 year leases) through a community land trust (CLT), the Newtown Community Development Corporation. Owners can build equity, but when they choose to sell they have to sell back to Newtown to ensure that the prices remain affordable.

Curry appreciates how his small space makes experimentation more affordable; he has installed recycled quartz countertops and smart light switches and blinds. With his private side yard he laid down a turf lawn and vines to cover the back wall.

The homes are “very, very efficient”, explains Curry, who says his winter electric bills are about $25 and in the summer, despite consistent 110 degree weather, it is about $65. Architect Matthew Salenger, of coLAB studio, used passive solar and natural daylighting to help achieve such efficiency.

Each home has just four modest windows, including a glass front door, which are placed to capture maximum light, but shaded by overhangs to avoid summer heat gain. The homes’ roofs capture rainwater which is used for watering the communal fruit trees, and future community gardens, and the graywater from the communal laundry is also used for irrigation.

Curry expects to own here for at least 5 years before reselling to the CLT and taking his homeowner experience on to other projects. “Because it’s small it gave me the opportunity to do a lot of the stuff that I dreamt about like making it a smart home. To test some stuff out here so when I do purchase a big boy home I can kind of use some of what I learned here.”