City of Tucson announces finalists for casita model design contest, aims to expand affordable housing options

Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:31 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - A casita means little home in Spanish, but for Tucson, it means a potential solution to increase affordable housing across the city.

Casitas are also referred to as accessory housing units – they serve as a secondary or mini home located on the same property as an existing residence.

The mayor and council changed the city code in 2021 to allow for casitas to become a possibility. The design contest opens the doors for homeowners to choose the best casita for them through a simplified process.

“How do you go about doing this, you’re not a developer necessarily,” said Manisha Bewtra, the planning, mobility and development advisor for the City of Tucson.

“Creating model plans is not only a way to reduce costs but also to make it a lot easier and more accessible.”

One designer who actually won the People’s Choice Award for one of the most popular designs is Micaela Machado.

Machado and her partner, Ray Clamons, designed their casita with sustainability in mind; to that end, their ideal casita is made out of hemp.

“Hemp can really save the world, but as a building material, there are so many benefits to industrial hemp,” said Machado, who also owns Old Pueblo Hemp Co.

“But one of the best ones is that it creates a non-toxic home, and a super high-performing home, so we can create a home that takes a lot less energy to heat and cool.”

Machado says saving energy is one of the most crucial parts of affordable housing so that a home or casita owner doesn’t have to do as much maintenance throughout the years, which saves money down the line.

For Clamons, he wanted to make a difference. Clamons is the founder of Natural Building Works, where he focuses on more climate-focused methods for construction.

Along with his focus on climate sustainability in housing, he took on the project to hopefully lower the homeless population, something he says seems to increase every day.

With casitas, he hopes this can be the answer that many have been looking for.

“This is a great opportunity for a single family to add some room for a family member or friend that needs some help, or could use a home to get on their feet.”

If you are interested in submitting your own design to make your casita come to life, click here.

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