Teacher launches tiny house company in Durham

Teacher launches tiny house company in Durham

DURHAM, N.C. — For almost one year, a Durham County teacher has been working to make housing more affordable by building tiny homes in people’s backyards for them to rent. His efforts have been so successful that he now has his own company, called Coram Houses.


What You Need to Know 

A Durham County teacher founded Coram Houses in March 2021 

The goal of the tiny house company is to address affordable housing

Topher Thomas says there are almost 20 other people interested in building a tiny house in their yard 

“The one tagline is community driven affordable housing,” Thomas said


Coram Houses was formed in March of 2021 after Thomas built one tiny home in his backyard in 2019.

“I am a teacher. My wife is a birth doula. We live in the west end in Durham, and we wanted a way to make it some extra income and also do something good,” Thomas said.

The concept gained traction, and now he’s in the process of building four more.

“If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think there was something to it,” Thomas said.

The homes range from 300 square feet to almost 500 square feet. Rent is no more than $1,000 dollars a month, designed for people making between 30% and 60% of the area’s median income. In this case, that’s no more than $37,000 for a single person.

“If people didn’t have to worry about rent. ‘I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to buy food or pay rent.’ If that question was off the table then what does that open up people for? So that’s what I’m really excited to see more than anything else,” Thomas said.

As an educator and now a tiny home business owner, he feels he’s doing his part to make his community a better place.

“As a teacher I read a lot of books, and I think and I teach and it got to a point where I have to just stop thinking and talking about these things and try,” Thomas said. “This might not work. But we are trying to do something, and we are partnering with people and we are exploring. What could housing look like if we all took a little bit less and we all partners in this work? What could happen?”

As for the future of Coram Houses, Thomas hopes to expand to other towns near Durham. He says he has a list of almost 20 people interested in building tiny homes in their backyards.

According to Durham city officials, there have been more than two dozen small lot permits issued in the area since October 2019. The city defines houses on those lots as having a footprint that’s less than 800 square feet and the maximum allowable square footage is 1,200. They anticipate the number of permits for those types of lots will continue to grow in popularity.

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