Being a voice for homeownership for everyone
The tiny home industry is fairly new. There are numerous TV shows, mostly from the US, which promote the lifestyle and affordability of tiny homes. The building codes standards and construction methods are somewhat relaxed in comparison to Canadian Building Code Standards, in terms of efficiency, construction materials used, and mechanical systems. In Canada, there is a history of mobile home parks, which were very popular between 1950 and 1980. The remnants of these “homes” are still scattered around the countryside. Most were made in the US, where the climate was warmer and of course building code standards were much more lenient or nonexistent for the times. Most of these structures were never meant to be used in our Canadian winters, although there were some models made for Canada. The construction was a simple 2x2 wood frame with 1 ½” of pink insulation. The windows were single-pane mostly and not very warm. The exterior sheeting was thin aluminum and while they were great for summers, they showed their lack of protection as time went on. As they got older, they depreciated in value and became eyesores because of a lack of maintenance and modifications that weren’t really well done. Mostly clustered together, they created a negative impression for people and municipalities. Many townships banned these types of structures from being built or located in their area and put size restrictions in place that effectively outlawed them. Fast forward 40 years and the tiny home movement has come into being. When built to national building code standards, they are a completely different structure than the trailer park models from the ’70s. The municipal size restrictions, however, are mostly still in place, and as a result, keep small or tiny homes from being built legally.
That is all changing now. The reality of life around the world is that there is now a legitimate need for small homes. Our world population has doubled since the ’70s, and people are immigrating around the globe in unprecedented numbers. The middle-class life of the ’50s has eroded to the point of discretionary income being for the wealthy few, and many people in the world cannot afford a conventional home that is 2000 or 3000 square feet insize. The tiny home movement came out of a true need for an affordable home. Whether you are starting out in adult life, or wanting to downsize at retirement age, people don’t want, nor cannot afford a large home. The tiny home fits a niche market and its time has come.
So what do we do with the stigma of the “mobile home” on wheels, when we are trying to legitimize a new industry that can fill a strong void in the housing market? The first thing we need to do is built a superior product. Tiny homes, as of yet do not have a definition under any provincial or federal regulations. Having a clear definition of what constitutes a tiny home and how they are built would be a great start on behalf of the province, in order to help create a sustainable industry of home builders. It is our aim at Redwood Homes, to build homes that are superior in every way to a conventional box built home. Because of the size of a tiny home, we can put more resources into quality materials, workmanship and overall build. The second thing to tackle for our industry is to get the word out to Townships, Cities, and Towns, that we hear the concerns of people not wanting to live near a “trailer home”, and develop relationships that listen and address these concerns. Advocacy for a quality home structure is good for business and good for the neighbourhood. At Redwood, we are committed to working with governing bodies, to design and build homes that will enhance the area and their communities, so that our homes add value to their community. We are also working to create a dialogue between the Province of Ontario, CMHC, CSA, Tarion, and Municipal affairs and housing, to advocate for a building standard that small builders can participate in without exorbitant cost and endless red tape. Currently, there are competing interests in these various agencies, and while all having valuable interests in proper home building, there are some gaps and overlapping that could be addressed to make the industry thrive in a manageable and sustainable model that builders like Redwood can adhere to and fully support. Once the province has mandated tiny homes as a viable and defined structure for residential home use, local municipalities will be more willing to create bylaws that support the tiny home movement. We would like to be part of that dialogue and will continue to work to create that conversation.
Specific asks to the province of Ontario
1. Create a regulatory framework for building tiny homes that define size, construction methods, and materials used to build these homes.
2. Create a regulatory framework for financing that addresses risk aversion for lending institutions, so that more lenders actually create finance programs for tiny home buying and will market openly like conventional mortgages.
3. Create a provincial legitimacy of our industry and communicate its importance to local municipalities as a viable housing alternative.