A shortage of affordable housing in Ocean County for veterans, seniors, and people with special needs has prompted Ocean Community Economic Action Now (Ocean) Inc., to propose building micro houses and renting them to reduce homelessness, according to Ted Gooding, President and CEO of the nonprofit. 

O.C.E.A.N. Inc. President and CEO Ted Gooding

OCEAN Inc. provides rental housing units to low-income families in Ocean County, and Gooding said one of the dilemmas he runs into is that many of them can not afford to pay the standard rents. Building micro houses is a solution to reducing rents without incurring exorbitant construction costs, he said.

"I drew a sketch and figured I could get a house that's about 250 to 300 square feet, large enough to have a bedroom, a nice sized bathroom, and a living and kitchen area with open space," said Gooding.

Ocean Inc. would purchase the "tiny homes" from a modular manufacturer in Pennsylvania, have them delivered, and then outfit the homes on site, according to Gooding.

A replica micro home is expected to be ready for public display by June 1, at Ocean County College in Toms River, adjacent to a child care center OCEAN Inc. operates on campus.

"The exterior will require no additional work. The interior will require a bathroom, a kitchen, and a bedroom area, and a few tables and chairs. I already have some folks who are willing to give me all that," Gooding said.

Bed, Bath and Beyond also supplies OCEAN Inc. with linens and pots and pans on a monthly basis for families throughout Ocean County, according to Gooding.

"So, we will be able to use those donations as part of the initial fit-out for the homes, depending on the family needs. Our goal is to have them come in and have the units be furnished and all they have to do is bring their clothes and pots and pans," said Gooding.

OCEAN Inc. would be be able to use certain funding streams that it currently has to purchase the micro-homes, including federal funding, or CDBG (Community Development Block Grants), given to municipalities. Gooding also said they could borrow money from banks.

"There's several avenues for funding that we will be trying to access in order to make this happen," he said.

Gooding is in the process of trying to secure land from municipalities for the micro homes.

"I do have to go town by town and I have to convince municipalities this is a very good product. Depending on the size of the lot, in most cases the towns wonder how they tax it, how they zone it, and so forth and so on, but I can give them directions and recommendations as to how we do that. And actually, at the end of the day, the towns make out much better with my micro homes then they will with a conventional home, depending on location,"Gooding said.

Gooding recently pitched the idea to Tuckerton officials and has visited Atlantic and Cape May Counties, where he also met with municipal leaders. "The reception has been very positive," he said.

Ocean Inc. is looking for undersized or vacant lots that don't currently generate money for municipalities. The nonprofit also owns some property in Ocean County that Gooding said they are looking at developing.

"I think this is an excellent alternative to the motels, or to the shelters that folks don't want to live in anymore, and let's get them out of their cars and the woods. This allows them to have a safe, clean, affordable place to stay at a reasonable amount of money," said Gooding.

Gooding said studies have shown people Ocean Inc. serves have between $500 and $1200 a month in income, but they can not afford to pay for a conventional apartment and they don't want to stay with anybody. He added, individuals and families who rent micro-homes would have access to whatever supportive services they need.