Hello, and welcome to the “Mobile Home Park Broker’s Tips and Tricks.” This is the podcast where we talk about mobile-home-park investing, because that’s what we’ve been involved in for the last decade. Let’s dive into today’s episode. Here’s your host, Maxwell Baker.
Maxwell: Hey, y’all. Maxwell Baker with the Mobile Home Park Broker’s Podcast: Tips and Tricks. I wanted to welcome will Johnston. He is the founder of the MicroLife Institute here based out of Atlanta, Ga., and was the very first tiny home community developer that was allowed here in the state of Georgia. That’s a pretty big title, Will. I wanted to give you an intro here on that and kind of lead off.
To jump right into it, if that’s all right, what was it that made you jump into the tiny home community? I’d love to hear your story on how you got into it and we can kind of go from there. [01:03.3]
Will: Awesome, Maxwell. Thank you so much for having me on this program. Everyone listening, it’s Will Johnston. I am, like Maxwell said, the executive director of the MicroLife Institute. I founded it about seven years ago and it’s been an evolution.
Ladies and gentlemen, seven years ago, right now, I hated my job. I had everything that society told me to go get. I had the car, the life, the nightlife, the friends, the existence of what an urban city-dwelling person was supposed to have. [Inaudible] told me that society said, Go get these things and you will be happy. I was not. I was dead inside.
Will: I was so dead inside. I was just like, What the hell? Can I say hell? Is that okay?
Maxwell: Yeah, say whatever you want.
Will: Okay. I was just like, This can’t be. I’m 33 at the time and I’m climbing the corporate ladder. I had a great job. I was going places, expanding my roles, but I was just like, Why is this life not connecting with me? [02:10.0]
It’s not that I am spontaneous and just create a huge change in my life, but thought goes into it. I knew in 2013, okay, not connecting with my life. How do I do something different? That just kept churning throughout the whole year and I’d talk to people like, So, what do you do for fun or what do you do for a job? I’m like, Do I want to do this? Do I want to do that?
It came down to me quitting my job in October 2013 and it was the longest two weeks because it ended up being like, I’m quitting at the end of the year. I was like, Look, my last day is December 31, 2013, and they were like, What are you doing? I didn’t know at the time, but on September 21, 2013, still was like, I don’t know what I’m doing. Took a plane trip to go to my cousin’s wedding in Pittsburgh, sat next to this dude and we started talking. [03:12.4]
He was like, Yeah, I just joined the Peace Corps, about to go here for two years. I’m like, Whoa, that’s pretty cool. Can I do that at 33? Do I just stop my career? Is that something people do? Then, of course, anxiety started bubbling up. I’ll lose all structure and security that society tells me to go get.
Then we kept talking and he said, “Hey, have you ever heard of the WWOOFing program?” I’m like, What the hell is the WWOOFing program? It’s Worldwide Opportunities for Organic Farming and, basically, the whole concept is it’s a global network. You create a profile, just like a social media platform, and wherever you’re traveling, you go do farm work and they will give you room and board for free. You can extend your travel much longer than a week or two spending a thousand dollars. [04:07.1]
I was like, Where the hell do I want to go? Oh, yeah, I want to go to New Zealand. That was it. September 21, the plan started to form and I said
Maxwell: Congratulations, by the way.
Will: Thank you. Thank you. I’ll just do the Queen wave. Thank you. Thank you. Again, the whole purpose was just to find purpose. I was like, I know I can go be successful in whatever I do, but I’d like to have a little bit more heart into it.
What also I didn’t realize was that this was going to teach me how to be an instant minimalist. I decided to sell everything and put what little I kept into a storage unit, and even so my brand new car. Hindsight, bad idea. I really wish I still had that car, but you live, you learn. I sold most of everything, got out of my lease, and December 31, I was on a, X amount of a plane ride to New Zealand to go. [05:04.8]
Now, I just didn’t want to work on farms. I found vineyards. I thought, You know what? I’ll go work on vineyards in New Zealand. That sounds fantastic.
Maxwell: Hell, yeah. That sounds great.
Will: The whole point of this trip was not, they were like, Oh, that’s where you found the tiny house. I’m like, No, that’s where I found delicious Pinot noir, and so for three months, I backpacked. I worked on vineyards. I drank a lot of wine. What I realized what I was doing was deconstructing from the nine to five that our society tells us this is life. Do the nine to five for your whole life and then maybe go on a couple of vacations, get sick and then die.
Maxwell: Who wants to sign up for that? Yeah.
Will: Who wants to sign up for that? All right, I knew I needed a new platform for my life, so I went to New Zealand, had an amazing time. I recommend everyone go to New Zealand, go camp, go. Just be free there. It is an amazing country. [05:58.5]
After three months in New Zealand, I was like, Huh, all right, do I keep traveling? I knew I would always travel throughout my whole life. I have the bug. I want to go places. It’s great. But I knew I wanted to start something. I knew I wanted to be bigger than who I am and so I knew I needed to go back to Atlanta because that’s where my network was.
And Atlanta is that amazing city that if you get on a soap box and you start talking to people, people will listen. It’s a completely different type of city. You can’t do this in New York. You can’t do this in LA. You can’t do this and even in Seattle. But in Atlanta, for some reason, people are like, Hey, that guy’s talking, Hey, he’s got…oh, I like what he’s saying. I’m going to go over there and hang out with him for a little. That’s exactly what I did. I started a meetup group after I came back from New Zealand. [06:51.2]
Before the meetup group, I just started seeing on my social media and my news channels things about tiny houses, tiny houses on wheels, and I was like, Ooh, this is interesting. What is this? I was like, Who else is doing this? How else do I gather these people who want to talk about this? Hence, found Meetup, Meetup.com, a great tool and platform to find people who are interested in the same shit. The original 11 people came together at Wrecking Brew or Wreck—oh, shoot.
Maxwell: Wrecking Bar.
Will: Wrecking Bar in Little Five Points where they’ve got amazing French fries and all those dipping sauces. There’s a little shout out to them because I love them.
So, the original 11, we met and we talked about tiny houses and we talked about everything we’re still talking about, How do we finance them? Where do we put them? and all this other stuff. That 11 grew to 50 organically. That 50 grew to 500, and by that time, my mantra was you don’t have to be an expert to create change.
Maxwell: That’s right. [07:52.7]
Will: You just keep one foot step in front of the other. Keep going. Because anxiety was flaring, my rollercoaster, my parents were like, What are you doing? Everyone else was watching all my other friends become vice presidents and presidents and CEOs. I was like, Oh, crap, this is bad. I disrupted my whole life and I could be in a cushy job, not liking it, but I would know where I lived.
Maxwell: It was a hell of a drug, man. [Inaudible] is a hell of a drug.
Will: Yes. It also made me reckless. I kind of pulled back from my friends. I wasn’t ready to hang out with all these people who were successful. In hindsight, I should have surrounded myself with those people more in the beginning. Now I do it all the time. Not right now because, hey, COVID, but, all right.
Started Tiny House Atlanta as just an organization. We got together monthly, found experts to talk about things, everything from solar to compost, where it’s just like, This is neat. It’s shrinking your footprint. Then I met my business partner, Kim Bucciero, and we hit it off and she joined on and one other gal, Meg, and we became Tiny House Atlanta. [09:02.8]
Tiny house Atlanta, we decided we were just right now just getting people together and talking about tiny houses. That evolved into Kim and I really taking the organization, and funny enough, when I bought TinyHouseAtlanta.com, I also bought MicroLife Institute. It happened at the same time. For some reason, I just really liked that name. I think it speaks to exactly what we do and in the spectrum that fits within our wheelhouse.
As we were growing Tiny House Atlanta, I was realizing, Oh my gosh, there’s so much housing advocacy that needs to be done, not just on the wheel-based model, but on the whole spectrum, the whole missing middle. We need to bring all that back.
So, four years ago we decided to change our name permanently to MicroLife Institute, because even though we have a huge following on Tiny House Atlanta and it’s the people that want to see the cute little houses on wheels—and I hate it when people call them cute and I didn’t mean to say cute, but they’re cool. They are cool—but then I always hate the people that are like, Oh, this is where I just put my shoes. I’m like, Oh, my God, get out of my face, because I’m like, Honestly, you’re just here to be negative. I don’t need you in this space. Obviously, this is not meant for you. Why did you come to my event? [10:12.3]
As Tiny House Atlanta, we were like, How do we get the word out? My background is in event marketing. I know how to put logistics together. I know how to put a good show together. Let’s have some festivals. We started doing festivals, educational programming, growing it to the full.
Wil: Yeah. I mean, it just grew organically very quickly. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do our tiny house festival this year. It would have been our fifth year, which is fine. We actually are doing a micro homes tour virtual edition, tiny house edition, on November 21, but again, just like everyone, we have to pivot and be inventive during these weird times.
Really to just fast forward, MicroLife Institute, once it became that, my pilot or my pitch, my elevator pitch, I say we educate, advocate, do research, pilot projects and events all around the micro-built environment. We consider the micro-built environment 1,000 square feet or smaller. [11:08.1]
Why that? The national average of a house size right now is 2,600 square feet and the national average of what a household size is is 2.5 people. That makes no sense. Why are we sticking one to two households into 2,600 McMansions? We are not building the right mix of housing options for the different types of families that are out there now. Yet we all got all hail single family zoning and that bull malarkey, so we used that zoning to red line, use racist practices and really divide our cities and our country that’s like, White people over here, everyone else over here. It’s so frustrating.
I am a big advocate of buy right. If you buy that property, obviously I want you to build a quality product, but if you want to build a duplex, by golly, go build that duplex because it will add housing options to that neighborhood. [12:04.4]
We really believe, and over the seven years, more beliefs and mission and vision really honed in on [this that] we believe in building community through the built environment. Whether that be modular, on wheels, how can we make sure these structures that will become homes interact with each other in a way that still creates privacy, but allows for that ability of connectivity?
Whether that be gardens out the side, I always tell people like, you need to think outside your front door as well. Not just the structure itself, what do you want when you immediately step outside? Is it an outdoor kitchen? Is it an outdoor gathering area or is it a privacy fence? It’s up to you, even though I’m not the biggest thing about privacy fences because I think that also distracts from neighbors actually getting to know each other. I think a really big epidemic in our country is that we’re so afraid to get to know each other now, we don’t even knock on each other’s front door. [13:00.2]
The MicroLife Institute right now, like we said earlier or actually before you started recording, we took on some pilot projects, and so that’s where the Cottages on Vaughan in Clarkston, Ga., comes in. This is a pilot project. It’s on a half-acre, eight houses, all under 500 square feet on foundation.
We’ve used and we are using Ross Chapin’s pocket neighborhood methodology around how to design a pocket neighborhood, because he’s one of my mentors and actually one of my close friends. We got to know him. We flew him out for our first innovative housing summit in 2018 and the gentleman is just fantastic. He is bigger than each project.
He really helps people talk through the psychology of connectivity, as well as the design, and we really want to see that happen because cities are all about cookie cutter, and so are developers. If they can save costs on a certain design that’s already been pre-approved, they’re just going to crank it through. [14:04.3]
Cities need to know that they are shooting themselves in the foot by thinking that they are creating ease, when actually they are pretty much demeaning and tearing their cities apart by not allowing for this walkability and density that actually so many people are looking for.
Sixty percent of Americans say that they want walkability. They want to be able to walk to things, walk to coffee shops, walk through their third space. That space that’s not home, not work is that third space. Where do you hang out? Yet we only have access to about five to 10 percent of walkable neighborhoods and areas in the United States. We build for the car. We do not build for mass transit and we keep thinking single-family homes is the way when they are actually bankrupting most cities. They’re too expensive.
Obviously, this knowledge, I have just been through osmosis for the past seven years and, I have to say, it has been very intimidating to me because I jump in and there are all these experts who have been doing this for years, and I’m just like, Hey, I’m the guy about micro spaces. Could we…? [15:09.1]
Then what’s been great, though, is I can ask those questions like, Why do we do it this way? Why did we create this policy, so no one else could build something innovative? So, it’s poking the bear, which I like to do, and it’s allowing us to come in as a different type of expert, and now we are. We can wave that white flag of truth and just say, Hey, let’s just take a step back and let’s have this conversation.
As an Institute, as a nonprofit, there is an ease, so we can have a bigger conversation because, again, if we are a for-profit, then people just say, Oh, these money-grubbing LLCs, and I’m like, No, no, no, I truly want this to be the best project for you. We can’t just say, and I always say this a lot now, there are no housing solutions. We can only build to the best policy that is written. [16:01.9]
Maxwell: Yeah, I’m with you.
Will: People are always like, We need housing solutions. I’m like, There will never, ever, ever, ever be a housing solution. There will always be ways we can react to the policy that is written. We can come up with innovative housing practices. We can build amazing structures, but unless we allow for a change in our building codes and our policies, and our zoning policies, we will not have solutions. We will always have ever-evolving structures that can adapt to the policy that we have to adhere to.
Maxwell: I’m going to ask you a question, if I may.
Will: Okay. Yep.
Maxwell: Going back to your statement about doing a non-profit versus for-profit. I know a lot of the listeners here are going to be millennials and people that are in the younger crowd. They’re going to ask you, Will, why did you do that? What’s the premise behind all of that? If you could go into that a little bit. [16:56.5]
Will: Into that, I say, trade-offs. There are always going to be trade-offs, and when you are your own business, you are you yourself and you. As a nonprofit, I have a board of nine that I report to. There are definitely rules and regulations that you do not have to follow as an LLC, just to a private entity versus a nonprofit, a 501(c)(3) especially, you’ve got rules. There are rules to grants. There are rules to how you do things.
I took a step back and said, Okay, what is the purpose? What are we bringing to the market? What are we bringing and what conversation do we want to be having? I have to say, and I know for some people this might be a weird statement to say, money does not motivate me. I wish it did. Then I’d probably be a stock market person or pursuing some other career, but I want to create a better change. [17:54.1]
When you want to create something for the better of society and the better of the world, I think education and programming is a huge part of what you’re going to do and I consider that a nonprofit, and I would feel bad and I wouldn’t feel it would be right if I was anything else but a nonprofit, because it gives you a… How do I phrase this? It just gives you a different characteristic when you come into a room. You’re not there because of the money that you can make. You are there because you want to make a difference and you are there for a higher purpose.
So, when you are choosing whether you want to be a for-profit or nonprofit, you have to ask yourself, What is the end goal? Now, don’t get me wrong. Just because you’re a non-profit doesn’t mean you don’t make money. That’s the myth that people think like, Oh, I’m never going to make money. There are amazing nonprofits that bring in a ton of money. You’ve just got to spend it all by the end of the year. It’s that whole budgeting system and, again, it’s a learning process. [19:01.6]
My advice though, is don’t do it alone. Learn. Read. Interact. Reach out to other nonprofits that you think would mirror who you want to be or would be close to what you want to do. It just feels right to be a nonprofit, if that makes sense. Did I answer your question? I don’t know.
Maxwell: No, you totally did, Will. As far as the grants are concerned, did you get any kind of grants or how did that process work? How did that go?
Will: That’s a different beast. We’re still, I’m still learning. I mean, I’m seven years in. We’ve gotten a couple grants here and there. Some of our main sponsors are actually corporations that have products in tiny houses, like Mini-Splits or also AARP actually is a huge sponsor of ours because generations, older generations don’t have any places to downsize to in their neighborhoods. Think about that, folks. [20:02.4]
Perfect example, my grandparents lived in Columbus, Ohio. They lived in their same house for 50 years and when they were ready to say, You know what? We’re 80-something. Let’s downsize. There was nothing available on a single-floor platform or a single-floor a product in their neighborhood, and so they had to leave their community, their faith-based community, their friends, their neighbors that they have known for decades, and then they moved an hour and a half away and my grandmother was dead in a year.
That sounds blunt and brutal, but I was just like, I think it killed them. I think the fact that removing them entirely in their situation, there are studies that we do not know how to go after right now about doing that. The fact that you’ve been in this one place where you’ve created your life, and then, suddenly, you upend it just because there’s nothing there for you in the market to downsize to is pretty sad. [21:00.9]
Again, we need variety in spaces, rural and urban, and yet we get in our own way because we’re [unclear 21:09.4] and we’re greedy, we want more money, so we let single-family zoning outweigh progress and a real pathway forward for housing options.
Maxwell: All right, my next question is with the Clarkston project. How did that come into play? How did you find the land? How did you find the money? What made you choose certain homes? Because I know there’s several builders out. Mustard Seed is one and there are several other ones out there. I just want to hear that journey, that deal story.
Will: So, backup one. We actually tried to start another project in East Point and it was the Eco Cottages of East Point, and that was going to be a 40-home tiny house on foundation, ranging from 500 square feet to 1,000 square feet. That scared the crap out of a lot of government people. [22:05.5]
Maxwell: I saw it. It’s big.
Will: It is. But they put a lot of parameters and conditions on us, and it just created a more expensive product right off the bat, and we were like, This isn’t attainable, and so we needed a group, a city to actually come to us and say, Hey, we like what you’re doing. We want to help, and that’s exactly what Clarkston did. Mayor Ted Terry reached out to me and said, Hey, we’re interested in you looking at our cottage court ordinance. That’s another term for pocket neighborhoods, again, being able to utilize land, houses around a common area.
We looked at the ordinance, helped rewrite it. Took it through a six-month rewrite process, and they voted on it and passed it. During that time we found this small little parcel of land, like I said, 0.56 acres, only half-acre really, and we started and that was three years ago. I mean, this is a labor of love. Most development projects should not take this long. [23:08.3]
Also, DeKalb County, I think, had a moratorium on new buildings because of the sewer testing or something like that, so there were a lot of things that just delayed this project and I think other people felt that pain. It’s not just like, oh, woe was us, but there were a lot of other obstacles that many people were dealing with.
Anyway, Clarkston did embrace this and they said, Hey, we want this. We worked with our architect and we brought in focus groups saying, Do you like this? Do you like that? Do you like the way this looks? At first, we were going very modern and they were like, Eh…let’s pull it back and maybe embrace some craftsmen styles, so that’s what we went with.
Again, as a nonprofit, this is where you need to learn how to be a speaker. You need to learn how to talk to people, and you need to learn how to present your idea and speak it with passion, because people will follow the passion and if you are timid or not able to get your point across, they will just say thanks, but no thanks. But you need them to believe in you, not necessarily your project, not necessarily your organization. They need to believe in you. [24:13.5]
That’s what I’m so thankful for, which is that people are believing in me and people are believing in what we’re doing. With Mitsubishi and others, and now we’re starting to work with banks, people are believing in what we are doing and it’s because I’ve been able to talk to these people, mono, mono, and really give them the understanding. I’m like, Look, we’re not in it for anything else besides helping everyone else. Imagine us adding more options to your portfolio, more housing for you to give mortgages to. You have to think of it in their shoes. What do they get out of what you’re doing? [24:51.6]
Clarkston, again, just embraced us and we were able to just start working on it, and we submitted plans. We went through all of the hullabaloo of so many proposals, permitting, all that fun stuff, land disturbance permits, and it was a slow process. It has been a slow process, but it’s also been a great learning for both of us because we’ve never done this before.
My business partner, her half is or her previous life was cell tower development. She has been used to putting something in places people don’t want. It’s been great for our two sides to come together, me in marketing, the face, the vision and the push, and her in the weeds, the details and making something like this come to fruition.
Again, it’s just been a slow drum beat and getting louder and faster as we approach February, but we’ve partnered with Citizens Trust Bank. They gave us an infrastructure loan and we got the infrastructure done, and then what we have done is brought a new type, and it’s not necessarily new, but we did construction to permanent loans. [26:02.3]
That allows a small developer like us be able to do a larger project because we’re not bringing the capital, but our buyers are, so basically each buyer becomes an investor in the product in the end product, in the end product. Again, like I said earlier, I’m putting my money where my mouth is. I’m buying one of these. I’m so excited.
I mean, we’ve already started, a sidebar. My neighbors were so excited. We’ve already started. Every two weeks, we get together and we chat and we’re laughing, and we’re building bonds. The whole point of this, again, is to build community and I think it’s going to shine through of how close we are without even having our houses built.
All right, so we’ve got our infrastructure done finally, and we are using Fortis Homes as the builder, and so he draws all the different buyers’ construction loans in the different phases that he’s building the houses, and then the homes are two months away from being done. They flip over to a proponent of mortgage at that time. [27:02.5]
Maxwell: To the end buyer.
Will: To the end buyer, yes. Again, we were going to work. COVID did throw a wrench in our plans. I mean, I think it threw a wrench in everyone’s plans, but we were still able to land on our feet and move the project forward.
We sold five and we have three that we’re going to spec build. We have an interest list of over 800 people. But I think also with COVID, a construction loan is a little bit different than a mortgage, getting a mortgage. We do have people interested in these remaining three and we’re not worried. I think the fact that we got five bought and moving forward during this pandemic is a huge accomplishment.
Maxwell: That’s pretty big, yeah. One thing that’s unique about your deal that’s a little different from a mobile home park is that you’re selling it really like a land home package.
Maxwell: Because you’re selling the land and the home. [27:57.2]
Will: And I would think you need to add a little bit more to that, the community. People who want this lifestyle will buy into it. It’s not that I’m saying I’m putting a value onto it like, Oh, we got tagged on another $20,000—we did not. We actually undersold these—but people are looking. Like I said earlier in this, 60 percent of Americans want walkable neighborhoods and no one is building them, so if we start building these, those people who are looking, the ones that want to know their neighbor or want to ask for that cup of sugar, or “Could you watch my kid while I go to the grocery store?” type of mentality, that’s the type of people that are coming to us.
Maxwell: It’s funny you say that because, in the mobile home park world, the sense of community, meaning there are people watching out for each other and there are no drug dealers walking around doing stuff, those communities in my arena are trading for way higher pricing than just a regular old money-making kind of deal. [29:04.0]
It’s just because, like you said, they have a great community, and also the ones that are in high demand are where they have little convenience stores and walkability, exactly what you just described. It’s funny that you say that because everything that you’re saying is really kind of turning on my “Discovery Channel”, like I was talking about earlier.
I don’t know why I’m going on this tangent here, but I just wanted to harmonize with you just saying like, Look, yeah, this is mobile home park world. Everybody’s looking for community and it’s the reason a lot of people enjoy living in these mobile home communities, a lot of especially the inner-city ones, with which I think there’s a huge opportunity for what you’re doing in these. I can think of a dozen mobile home communities that are in the city that could be converted over to what you’re describing. More than likely, the investors would want to keep it where it’s a lot rent. [30:02.2]
I sold a park out in Colorado that was converted from a mobile home over to a tiny home community, and I literally went to a coffee shop to go sit down with the park owner and we mentioned tiny home community right in front of the barista, and she literally would stop what she was doing and asked us where it was. She was like, I want to live in a tiny home community. I want to live in a tiny home.
I really feel like there’s a huge demand and a huge push for minimalist living, and I’m really excited that you’re saying that because I’ve been thinking that for a long time, and I think that more and more people as they get older, especially in our demographic, the big house and the massive everything and more and more is better, I see that as going the way of the Dodo. It’s going to eventually [die out].
Will: I think, also, COVID is challenging families to get bigger right now. Everyone is like, Oh, I need my own Zoom room, and it’s just like, Oh, my God. It’s all about learning how to live with people, too. But the whole minimalistic thing, I think you are right. It’s quality, not quantity. [31:06.9]
Will: A consumeristic nature, I think we’re changing. Happiness is experiences in people. I’d even called my cousins and be like, Hey, you know what? I don’t really want to see you guys at a funeral or a wedding next. Could we actually maybe do something as a family before that happens?
Maxwell: Yeah, I know, totally.
Will: I mean, same with friends. It’s just like, I know you’ve got kids, but, I mean, I know you can give me an hour. Come on, let’s hang out. It is trying to find those people who mean something to you and also this experience is that you want to [have], because we’ve got one life, folks. If you really think that you need that sports car—don’t get me wrong, I bought the sports card in my twenties—but check it off your list and then also realize, take a better trip.
Maxwell: Yeah, exactly. No, I mean, everybody’s goals are different.
Maxwell: We’ve just got to kind of ride by, but I really do agree with you that the new arena of minimalistic living is going to increase in demand and the younger crowd especially, especially when funds are tight and you want to live in the city, I mean, you’re not going to go buy a land and home. [32:15.1]
Will: And you’ve got to think about the silver tsunami that’s about to happen in the next 25 years, over the next 25 years, where you have a ton of Americans, older Americans are baby boomer or retirement people who have invested a lot in their homes, and they’re worth, quote-unquote, now “$700,000 to $800,000, maybe even a million,” and when all of those hit the market at the same time and all the millennials will be like, Uh, we don’t want them and we can’t afford them, the jobs don’t match the housing stock that’s about to come available.
It is going to, I would even imagine, be worse than 2008 because, again, we are not paying the people to have the money to upkeep those McMansions that are constantly being built. It is going to be fascinating when our parents and the older generations are just like, Where did the money go? and you’re like, Yeah, you spent it all. [33:12.4]
Maxwell: Yeah, totally. Another question and this will kind of wrap it up. Where do you see the MicroLife Institute in the next five years?
Will: My five-year goal is that I want a warehouse basically, and I know that sounds weird, so I should not be taking up more space, but I want to be able to demonstrate space utilization. Maybe a mobile park builder or a modular builder comes to us and is like, Hey, we need to help come up with a better configuration. We’ll partner with architects designers. How can we create 500 square feet, 1,000 square feet, 750 square feet, and show different models where it’s really, again, take people through that see, feel and touch experience, because people sometimes can’t not or most people can’t visualize. They need to see it to believe it. [34:00.0]
Then we allow these architects and designers to build these different styles. Let people tour. Do more educational programming. We always want to be doing pilot projects that push the envelope. This year, we are doing our Cottages on Vaughan and we actually just partnered with a homeless organization called CHRIS 180. Folks, if you were interested in this, please reach out to me. We are building actually a single-family home.
People at first were like, We’re going to build tiny houses to help transition homeless mothers to permanent homes and, again, it goes back to what I said before. There are no solutions. Don’t shoot at us. Let’s figure out the best use for this parcel of land and come up with the best project. If it’s a single-family home, great. If it’s tiny houses, great. If it’s an accessory dwelling unit in the backyard, awesome. Is it a pocket neighborhood?
What we felt was the best project was creating a single-family home with basically three units inside it. It’s still considered a single-family home, but the main dwelling will have a consistent grandmother figure living there for the other two bedrooms, for the other two mothers and their children. [35:09.8]
Will: The mothers and children have their kitchenettes. Again, it’s still a single family home. That’s what it’s zoned for. That’s what we’re building. But the use is like a woman renting her bedrooms out, which is totally legal.
Again, MicroLife Institute wants to be on the forefront. We are starting to get on the national scale. We are teaching a lot of pocket neighborhood courses, how to develop them, what the signs are and how you could start moving your project forward. We really want to be on the forefront of education policy, and then, also, like I said, making sure we’re on a pilot project that could push the envelope to change policy for the better.
Maxwell: Tell us how to get in contact with you. Tell us about what you can do for people that are interested in converting their mobile home park over to a tiny home community. Give us your pitch on kind of what you can do for them. [36:00.5]
Will: Yes, the MicroLife Institute can definitely be an advisory role. We do consulting, as well as we could just do a general blessing on the project, meaning, one of the things we are working towards is having the credentials of saying, Okay, if you tweak this, this and this, we will consider this a MicroLife community, meaning, it’s kind of like EarthCraft Homes or whatever.
It’s really helping you all think through how your micro structures interact with each other, create that walkability, create that community, and then we will put you on our website and push people to you. We want to be a partner. We definitely want to be a group that advises you to help you come up with the best solution for your project, instead of just saying, Yeah, just go do it.
Again, we are a 501(c)(3). We operate on donations, revenue, events, so if you see our work, support us, but also there are ways to hire us and we can be a part of your team.
Maxwell: Awesome, and is there a phone number or email? [37:00.0]
Our website, like you said earlier, is MicroLifeInstitute.org, and you can also find us on Meetup, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all that fun stuff. Please follow us. Again, our biggest thing is, if you need help changing the policy, that’s where we’re some of the best at to be brought in.
Maxwell: Awesome. Hey, guys, I wanted to thank Will for coming on and giving us a little bit of feedback on his journey on how he’s created the MicroLife Institute. A lot of this stuff was brand new to me, very excited to hear about it. I’m really excited to see what Will can do with this because I think it’s big time really needed in the industry. Will, thanks for coming on the show, man. I appreciate it. I’m grateful for you being here.
This is Maxwell Baker with the MHP Brokers podcast with tips and tricks, and we will be signing off and talk to you soon. [38:04.2]