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Sarnia studying feasibility of affordable ‘tiny homes’

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Troy Shantz

A citizen group that wants to bring ‘tiny homes’ to Sarnia is one step closer to increasing the city’s affordable housing options.

City council directed staff to prepare a feasibility report following a Feb. 10 presentation by SMALL, or Sarnia Making Affordable Living in Lambton.

“We’re starting this to give people a step up. We’re thinking of seniors who can’t afford their rent,” said member Jennifer McCann.

“There are so many Millennials that cannot afford to purchase a home… This would give them a chance to save money to purchase their first home.”

SMALL, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, has asked the city for a rule change to allow up to four, 500-square-foot homes on a single standard housing lot and sharing one service.

Habitat would manage the mortgages and property ownership and residents would pay based on incomes, local Habitat CEO David Waters told council.

The tiny homes would resemble a cabin or a cottage but include the amenities of a larger home at a fraction of the cost, estimated at $40,000 to $50,000.

They would also be permanent structures, not on wheels or fashioned from cargo storage containers.

The move comes at a time of growing homelessness in Sarnia. Rents are soaring, subsidized housing wait lists have never been longer, and many people are scrambling to find a decent place to live.

Giving the concept a green light would require a “tiny homes amendment” that would be specific to a chosen lot, said Stacey Forfar, the city’s director of community services and standards.

Councillors sounded supportive.

“As this trend has spread across North America in recent years I think it was only a matter of time (before it reached Sarnia),” said Coun. Brian White.

Chatham is currently eyeing a proposal that would see 30 homes of 600-to-1,000 square feet constructed on a 2.6-acre piece of land.

Kingston and Hamilton have small home developments and Calgary opened a village of 15 tiny homes for homeless veterans last fall.

McCann said she and fellow SMALL members Lisa Melanson and Michelle Parks received many emails and calls from residents asking how to get on a waiting list after The Journal first reported on the initiative last year.

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