More home­own­ers think­ing small

The Prince George Citizen - - News -

Amelia Jasper-Lau­rin dreams of liv­ing in a com­mu­nity of tiny house own­ers, where like-minded neigh­bours all pitch in to share chores and prop­erty main­te­nance.

Ka­rina Ja­cob­sen, an artist, would like to live in a ve­hi­cle that com­bines a stu­dio and liv­ing space so she could travel to dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties to vol­un­teer and learn new artis­tic tech­niques.

And Amelie Guertin, 37, toys with the idea of leav­ing be­hind the big city and big mort­gage for a simpler life close to na­ture.

The three Mon­treal-area women are all among those con­tem­plat­ing the idea of es­chew­ing big­ger spa­ces for tiny homes, spurred by a rising cost of liv­ing and an in­creas­ing fo­cus on min­i­mal liv­ing that min­i­mizes one’s eco­log­i­cal foot­print.

Ken­ton Zerbin, an Ed­mon­ton­based sus­tain­able liv­ing ex­pert who teaches about build­ing tiny homes, said there’s been a grow­ing in­ter­est in the topic, and that the cost of liv­ing is the most im­por­tant fac­tor.

“At the end of the day, when you have to get into a quar­ter mil­lion, half a mil­lion dol­lars to get into a prop­erty, for many peo­ple to­day in an un­cer­tain time, with un­cer­tain wages and un­cer­tain jobs, it’s just not fea­si­ble,” he said.

Over the week­end, Zerbin led about 20 peo­ple, in­clud­ing Ja­cob­sen, Guertin and Jasper-Lau­rin on a work­shop that cov­ered the el­e­ments of build­ing a tiny home, from plan­ning and de­sign to tan­gling with lo­cal of­fi­cials.

In a vast Mon­treal ware­house turned com­mu­nity space, he as­signed them ex­er­cises in­clud­ing out­lin­ing a blue­print of their dream homes on the ground with tape.

In a lunch-break in­ter­view, Zerbin said there’s no ex­act def­i­ni­tion of what makes up a tiny home. Most peo­ple agree it’s a dwelling rang­ing from roughly 10 square me­tres to 45 square me­tres – or 100 to 500 square feet – al­though he per­son­ally dis­agrees with such a rigid def­i­ni­tion.

“If you’re a fam­ily of seven, you have dif­fer­ent needs than a fam­ily of two,” he said.

While they can be built as cheaply as $10,000, he says that be­tween $40,000 to $80,000 is more re­al­is­tic, while some of the fancier mod­els can cost much more.

He said the main draw of tiny homes that their smaller price and size al­lows own­ers to fo­cus their money en­ergy on other things, such fam­ily, com­mu­nity, or travel.

“A tiny home en­ables you to live your life, versus liv­ing for your house,” he said.

Zerbin said that while in­ter­est in tiny homes is high in Canada, es­pe­cially in Al­berta, Bri­tish Columbia and Que­bec, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have been much slower than their Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts to ac­cept them.

Many set a min­i­mum square footage re­quire­ment, while oth­ers have by­laws that go so far as to spec­ify the colour and type of build­ing ma­te­ri­als.

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