Jessica Ocasio understands the frustrations of affordable housing options for young adults. A native of Puerto Rico, she saw the scarcity of student housing as an undergraduate student.

Now, Ocasio is equipping herself with a Master of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture in hopes of easing the housing burden for young adults. Her research explores how microdwellings may offer a creative solution.

“Young adults who have faced economic or financial tribulations have to learn to do more with less,” Ocasio said.

As part of her studio work, Ocasio is designing three types of microdwelling communities: tiny houses, accessory dwelling units and micro unit apartments.

“Now I’m seeing the reasons why people live in tiny houses,” she said. “It’s much more than downsizing – people choose it as a lifestyle.”

Ocasio is working on a tiny house village design for The Farm at Penny Lane in Pittsboro, affiliated with UNC Chapel Hill’s Center for Excellence in Community Health, which provides farm therapy for clients with mental disabilities.

In May, she plans to continue taking steps toward owning her own interior design firm with a focus on tiny houses.

 

Photo of Ocasio giving a presentation.

Ocasio discusses her work at a “Housing Hangout” event hosted by UNCG’s Center for Housing and Community Studies. “Jessica’s work will benefit the work of future students who are interested in sustainability, reducing one’s footprint and designing for users of different socioeconomic backgrounds,” said associate professor Travis Hicks.

 

Photo of Ocasio and Hicks working together on designs.

Hicks (right) said UNCG’s Dept. of Interior Architecture trains the next generation of designers to consider the needs of all communities, including those where resources are limited. The program also promotes the sustainable use of resources and emphasizes the human component. Ocasio’s research is user-centered, focused on the people who will live in these communities and use their resources wisely and sustainably.

 

Portrait of Ocasio in front of the tiny house she designed.

Ocasio continues to work with Tiny Houses Greensboro, where she designed a 288-square-foot tiny house for North Carolina’s very first tiny house community in Greensboro. The community is a permanent affordable housing option for those experiencing homelessness.

 

Story by Elizabeth L. Harrison, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications