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CHAMPAIGN — In an effort to reduce homelessness and find uses for its vacant lots, Champaign has found organizations to build tiny homes on two of its lots.

One home passed its final inspection this month and a resident is expected to move in any day, said John Ruffin, neighborhood coordinator for the city.

The other was completed about a year ago.

“We’ve been working with a local ministry, Restoration Urban Ministries, for the last several years, and in 2014, the Rev. (Ervin T.) Williams came to us with the idea about doing mini homes in order to meet some of the permanent housing needs of our friends without addresses,” Ruffin said.

The mini homes fit well on some of the smaller or oddly shaped vacant lots, Ruffin said, and two lots were donated to Restoration Urban Ministries.

“They were able to complete a mini home on one of the lots,” Ruffin said, and the other one was donated to First Mennonite Church in partnership with CU at Home.

“These mini homes are small, but they have space for a living area, a sleeping area, a kitchen area, plus bathroom facilities,” Ruffin said.

When the city acquires a vacant lot, whether through donation, forfeiture or other means, it first tries to find a private developer.

“But when that is not feasible, we try to identify and work with local nonprofit organizations to identify the next best uses,” Ruffin said.

He doesn’t know if more mini homes are on the way, but was optimistic considering the estimated $35,000 cost of construction.

“We certainly think this price point is a good price point, and we are exploring the opportunity with local affordable-housing developers and development organizations to see if this is a concept that folks might want to undertake,” Ruffin said.

In a separate vacant-lot project, the city worked with University of Illinois students competing on the Solar Decathlon project.

The students and faculty used green building techniques and designs to try to reduce the home’s carbon footprint.

“They used a solar roof, cutting-edge building materials and processes,” Ruffin said. “They’ve got an innovative gray-water system in use in the house in order to capture and reuse drainage water throughout the house.”

The home was then handed over to the Champaign County chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

The solar home is located at Bradley Avenue and Walnut Street.

“The solar home is more of an attraction and something we want folks to drive by,” Ruffin said.

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