More homeowners thinking small
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.