Are tiny houses the solution?

For lower-tier, and small, municipalities like Collingwood, housing is a challenge, more today with high-interest rates and housing prices. Affordable housing is under the jurisdiction of the upper tier (in our case, Simcoe County). The province provides few if any tools or powers by which the municipality can encourage or force developers to build anything specific that might qualify as affordable or attainable. Even getting multi-unit apartment buildings built can be an uphill battle. There are not a lot of incentives for developers to build them right now.

One of the very few tools we have is development charges, but altering (lowering, eliminating or deferring) them for specific developments can run counter to regulations against bonusing in the Municipal Act.

Many municipalities are exploring alternative ideas, including “tiny houses:” small residences that may be 50 to 60 sq m (550-600 sq ft). Such homes sell for considerably less than the average single-family home, are often modular or prefab, can be made of recycled materials such as storage containers, and several can be placed on a single lot. There are a lot of creative ideas about building and placing tiny homes on the Net.

Several tiny homes on a single lot, or several lots of them together could become one or more condominiums.

Allowing tiny homes may also require changes to local bylaws that require residence to be at least a minimum size (such as 92 sq m or 1,000 sq ft) and changes to density and zoning laws. I’ll explore that further.

Tiny homes could also be added to existing properties (where large enough) to create secondary housing. They may not be “the” solution to our housing crisis, but they could be one of the solutions to help mitigate it.

Would it be possible for our town to create or encourage “tiny house” developments, perhaps as part of larger developments? Could the town itself buy the land and become the developer? It’s an idea worth considering by the next council. In the meantime, I will explore the idea and see if there are local or regional opportunities for tiny homes.

And keep in mind: housing IS a regional issue. the problems around affordable and attainable housing don’t end at our municipal borders. We need to work collaboratively with our neighbours and the counties (Simcoe and Grey) to develop solutions. not least in part because counties also levy development charges that can affect housing prices and construction.

Typical tiny house

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