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“Pocket neighborhood,” tiny homes planned for Kennedale TX

North Texas residents 55 and older may be getting a novel housing option that emphasizes green space and community involvement.

Sharon Arnold, a developer for the firm Kara Casa, plans to turn six acres at 439 Mansfield Cardinal Road into a “pocket neighborhood.” The area would hold 48 houses, divided into a series of community pods that open into communal parks, gardens and lawns. The cottage-style homes, ranging from 800 to 1,200 square feet, would include porches and an enclosed parking space.

The houses will sell at around $185,000, Arnold told the Kennedale City Council, offering empty-nesters and people looking to downsize an affordable housing option more personable than an apartment complex.

“They don’t encourage the community, even though they set out to do that,” Arnold said, referring to apartments. “The end result is it’s not for everybody.”

For comparison, the median home price in Tarrant County was $218,236 in 2019 and over $269,000 in Dallas-Fort Worth in early 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The layout of the homes, Arnold said, is reminiscent of 1930s and 1940s design concepts, which centered on smaller neighborhoods and starter homes.

Pocket neighborhoods have gained popularity around the country, with the movement starting in the Pacific Northwest and finding its way to Texas in recent years. Ross Chapin, the architect who coined the concept, has designed several micro-communities in Washington state.

Chapin said cities have adopted his design idea in almost every region of the country.

“The typical community that we have laid out by our zoning laws is automobile-based, it’s on your own, it’s the American dream,” he said. “In time, it often leaves people alone and lonely.”

The Cardinal is not the first pocket neighborhood in Texas — a luxury project by the same design principle was proposed in Waxahachie in 2018. Pocket neighborhoods have also emerged in Houston and Austin. But Arnold said it is the first mini-community in the region for older adults.

“There’s nothing like this in North Texas that we’re putting together. You won’t find it,” he said.

Grant Warner, an architect for the project, said the plan addresses the country’s growing senior population, which has often been without affordable housing. Census data projects that people age 65 and older will account for 1 billion of the world’s population by the end of the decade. Data also suggest that over 14% of Kennedale’s 8,649 residents are 65 or older.

“The housing crisis for this has been upon us for a while, but unfortunately we just haven’t been able to meet that demand largely because of cost,” Warner said.

Kennedale has bulked up its traditional single-family housing development in recent years, said Melissa Dailey, the city’s economic development and planning director, and the city has fielded more requests recently for affordable senior housing.

“It’s really important to have a whole spectrum of types of housing,” she said.

City council members unanimously approved the proposal during their Sept. 15 meeting after one resident voiced support for the project and several wrote in support of the plan.

One speaker asked the council to push the project back to planning and zoning. Kennedale Planning and Zoning Commission members recommended by a 3-2 vote that the council deny the plan, which initially included designs for houses on wheels. City council members noted that Arnold removed the plans that included wheels, and sending the proposal back to planning and zoning was unnecessary. The council then approved the plan.

Arnold said he hopes to pre-sell houses in the first few months of 2021. In the next several months, his firm will finalize design and begin looking for people interested in the downsized living community.

Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a Report for America corps member. Report for America is a national nonprofit program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered cities and issues. To support this reporter’s work, and to support local journalism in Arlington, consider donating here: https://bit.ly/3gYyuOQ

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