City needs to pave the way for small housing option
If Tiny House Hunters, the compact-sized spin-off of HGTV’s hit show House Hunters, is anything to go by, tiny homes may be coming to a neighbourhood near you. That is, if the neighbourhoods near you are in the United States.
Up north, however, the question of whether tiny houses will be fully embraced by Calgarians is up for debate.
With their limited size – usually around 400 sq. ft. or less – tiny houses often come at a fraction of the price of their traditional counterparts. Though prices vary from builder to builder, Kijiji listings for tiny homes for sale in the Calgary area range from about $17,000 to $39,000.
According to Ashley Baptiste, partner and construction manager at Carseland, Alta’s Serenity Acres Tiny Homes, “the beauty of a tiny house is that it really is what you want to make it.”
Baptiste and his business partner Mark Kirk make all of their tiny homes custom, with no two houses being the same. However, he says, there are some general guidelines as far as dimensions go: their houses tend to cap out at measurements of 8.5ft. wide by 13.5 ft. tall and 40 ft. long to accommodate the lengths of trailers that are required to transport the homes to their final destinations.
Despite their varying sizes, the one constant that Baptiste promises on behalf of the tiny house movement is an innate sense of minimalism.
“With the tiny house movement, and the mentality of living with less, we find freedom,” Baptiste says. “We’re no longer trapped by our things. If we have just what we need to survive, we can spend so much more time enjoying our lives, and we can retire a lot sooner if we don’t have to pay a 35-year mortgage.”
“If we have just what we need to survive, we can spend so much more time enjoying our lives…”
Thought it may seem radical to some, Baptiste says that the tiny house movement appeals to a wider array of Albertans than he would have imagined. In his experience, the demographics of Albertans interested in owning a tiny home – whether for use as a primary residence, or a holiday home – range from travelers to families, and from widowers to young couples “who are just not ready to be tied down by a mortgage.”
And in the year since Serenity Acres first opened for business, he says that he and Kirk have been receiving an average of three calls and six emails a day.
While this trend does seem to be taking off – to the delight of minimalists and environmentalists alike – it may be a while before we see tiny homes affecting huge change in our city.
Because tiny homes are a newer phenomenon, the question of how tiny homes inside Calgary limits should be classified and appropriately regulated by the City is a concern that City Council is just starting to explore, leaving the trend in a grey zone.
“I’m supportive of finding ways to make tiny homes fit either within the current boxes we have, or within a new box. I don’t know where they [tiny homes] fit from a regulatory perspective,” Councilor Gian-Carlo Carra says. “I think that’s a big question mark that we need to clear up…and it’s definitely something we are starting to look into.”
Currently, Carra says that Council doesn’t yet know whether tiny homes need to be classified and regulated as mobile homes, ancillary units, or as something else entirely.
Facing a similar plight as legal secondary suites in Calgary, tiny homes require an added layer of bureaucracy and regulation, and like the issue of secondary suites, it’s unknown exactly when the question of regulated tiny homes will be discussed in full and put to rest. However, Carra said that he will “enlist the will of Council to direct administration that comes to some answers on that in the not-too-distant future.”
Still, it’s a work in progress, and only time will tell if Calgary will be the next tiny home mecca.