"I’m 23 years old [and] decided not to go to college. That puts me in a very competitive pool where people have done more than me academically... I’m pretty much betting my whole life on this." – Franallen Acosta

Franallen Acosta envisions transforming shipping containers into affordable homes. Mi Casita—my little home—is designed for families to own their own piece of the American Dream in Lawrence, Massachusetts -- the 170 year-old "immigrant city.” The homes, slated to be located on vacant city lots, will be surrounded by vegetable gardens. And the monthly mortgages could be half the city’s rental rates.

 Fran talks change with a resident in downtown Lawrence

Fran talks change with a resident in downtown Lawrence

Fran has made Mi Casita his mission. Last February he told the City Council, “We cannot wait for a savior… we have to address our own problems with our own resources.” A consummate networker, Fran brings together millennials and baby boomers to a shared dream of sustainable living. It’s more than just housing, Fran says: it’s “a complete package with a system of support.”

Fran’s unlikely sidekick in the Mi Casita venture is Sam Facella, a third-generation steel manufacturer and Trump supporter. Yet Sam's support for Mi Casita shows his commitment to revitalizing Lawrence. Together, the towering 6'7" Franallen and the short, stout Sam aim to rekindle the fires of manufacturing in Lawrence with eco-homes and local construction jobs.

Fran has recruited architects, a project manager, a lawyer and an energized mass of volunteers. He’s networking with innovative community organizations across the country to inform his pursuit of a profitable social enterprise which addresses the community’s most pressing issues – housing, environment, jobs – in tandem.

A once vibrant hub of manufacturing, Lawrence is now one of the poorest in the state. Lawrence families earn half the average income of Massachusetts families, with 40% going to housing. Eight of ten in Lawrence are immigrants (64,000), and 75% are Latinos. On top of the housing crisis, jobs are too few. Fran knows the issues first-hand; raised in poverty by his Dominican single mother in Lawrence, today he cobbles together gig work to get by.        

Our film team has full access to Fran, Sam and Mi Casita’s team, mentors, and friends who Fran sees daily. We’ll follow the full arc of Mi Casita’s development as Fran strives to actualize a utopian vision amidst bureaucracy and cut-throat capitalism.

Launching Mi Casita may take longer than expected. Pending approval of the vacant property sale, the team will need to raise significant funds. To build political clout and to effect local change moreover, Fran hopes a run for city councilor this fall will be successful, but the campaign could lead Mi Casita astray.

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We plan to film until the first families are settled in new homes; or, until a business pivot or life development causes Fran or his team to change course and retool. As Fran says, “I’m pretty much betting my whole life on this."

As American cities grapple with deindustrialization, as housing costs increasingly outpace Americans’ incomes, as climate change looms and as racial tensions intensify, Mi Casita presents a story where these issues collide.  We plan to create a robust outreach/impact campaign with community organizations and national networks that work to empower immigrant, black, brown and Latino youth. Mi Casita is a story with national resonance and with strong potential for impact.