At different times, Jesse Lammi and John Louiselle have received the same bittersweet update: Their sick relative was healthy enough to leave the hospital.
The bad news: Their family had to track down a safe, affordable and local place for their still-fragile family member to convalesce in just a few days.
The young entrepreneurs created New Brighton-based NextDoor Housing to help families avoid that dilemma.
In a twist on the “tiny homes” trend, their company sells and rents out 240-square-foot, handicapped accessible trailers designed to sit temporarily in homeowners’ backyards when a family member can’t quite live independently.
“Really, the goal here was to provide time and sanctuary for people in need,” Lammi said. “A spot where you can be near family but still have that privacy and independence.”
A new bill passed weeks ago allows parking the 8-by-30-foot structures — called Drop Homes or granny pods — on single-family home lots for six months with a $100 permit, unless barred by a local ordinance.
“The nexus of NextDoor Housing really is just trying to add another option to the current ones,” Louiselle said.
Rep. Roz Peterson, R-Lakeville, and Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, sponsored the bill.
Lammi and Louiselle crafted a “relatively complicated” bill — the Temporary Family Health Care Dwellings Bill — mostly on their own, Peterson said, an impressive feat.
Peterson was also taken with the idea of Drop Homes.
“I have a 96-year-old father and personally experience the challenges,” Peterson said. “People need to have some choices and this is just one other … tool in the toolbox.”
Lammi and Louiselle grew up playing hockey together in the northern suburbs. They reunited after college and came up with the NextDoor Housing concept, drawing on college majors in health care and economics.
“It really was a combination [of both of us],” Lammi said. “I kind of had modular housing ideas, and John brought the health care side into it.”
The business began in 2014 and leapt forward when the two received a $340,000 grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
NextDoor Housing contracts with a company in north-central Minnesota to construct the homes. Each Drop Home plugs into a 50-amp outlet and has heat, air conditioning, heated water and a bathroom with a shower. They can be pulled with a one-ton pickup truck, making them mobile.
The homes cost $45,000 to $70,000 to purchase or $1,250 a month to rent through NextDoor. Combining that rent with in-home health care would cost about $3,500 a month, the same or less than a spot in assisted living.
“The price of nursing home care has skyrocketed in the last five years,” Louiselle said. “A lot of people need that, but there are individuals who land in nursing homes that don’t necessarily need or want to be there.”
A lot of interest has come from rural Minnesota, Lammi said, where there are already a few Drop Homes sheltering people with medical problems. So far, three have been sold and two rented.
Since the law takes effect Sept. 1, the real kickoff will be at the Minnesota State Fair in August, where they’ll “go full-scale launching our rental operation,” Lammi said.
The goal is to sell or rent five Drop Homes by the fair’s end, Lammi said.
New Brighton Mayor Val Johnson, a Lammi family friend who has advised both partners on their business, called their brainchild “brilliant.”
“When people have a good idea and they work diligently to make it happen, it’s important to support them,” Johnson said. “It’s not always about experience but more about drive.”
“We’re the only company around doing this,” Lammi said. “We really believe it’s the wave of the future.”