Pint-sized dwellings could help ease city’s housing crisis, women say

Cathy Dobson 

A trio of Sarnia women want City Hall to snip the red tape and allow construction of “tiny homes” as an alternative to rising rents and big mortgages.

Jennifer McCann, Lisa Melanson and Michelle Parks plan to work with Habitat for Humanity creating new homes of less than 500-square-feet of floor space selling for under $50,000.

But first, they need city council to pass a bylaw allowing multiple houses on a single serviced lot.

“The need for affordable housing is huge here and tiny homes can help address that,” said McCann.

The women, who call themselves Sarnia Making Affordable Living in Lambton, or SMALL, are getting positive feedback from city and county representatives, they say.

To make the homes affordable, they envision four per building lot, each serviced from one source.

Tiny homes are ideal for single parents with one child, Millennials, seniors, college students and other individuals having difficulty paying for housing, said McCann.

“These mixed communities can uplift a neighbourhood. They should be considered an enhancement, not a negative,” she said.

Habitat has an empty lot on South Christina Street that could handle Sarnia’s first four tiny homes, said CEO Dave Waters.

“We want to work out a partnership with SMALL and provide our land and expertise, but a lot depends on this bylaw,” he said.

City council is set to discuss a bylaw about secondary housing units on Dec. 9. SMALL and Waters hopes an amendment can be added permitting multiple homes per lot.  It will hinge on the city’s willingness to allow for one service charge for all four buildings, Waters said.

“Tiny homes are a growing movement in other parts of the county and I’d like to see Sarnia be more progressive in its thinking.”

The move comes at a time when wait lists for subsidized housing have never been longer and many people are scrambling to find a decent place to live, he added.

“I’m glad these ladies are taking up the fight and bringing the discussion to the forefront. The city needs to open the door to change.”

Tiny homes can resemble a cabin or a cottage but include the amenities of larger homes at a fraction the cost.

The tiny home movement has grown the past two decades. In October, a village of 15 tiny homes opened in Calgary for homeless service veterans.