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Vancouvering

Metro explores the latest trends emerging on the West Coast of Canada.

Living large in a tiny home

With housing costs at a premium in Vancouver, and a trend toward sustainable living, micro-housing is an idea that makes sense.

A tiny home by Mint Tiny Homes.

Courtesy Mint Tiny Homes

A tiny home by Mint Tiny Homes.

From a solar-powered tiny home food truck, to dreams of a tiny home community, micro-sized housing is gaining traction.

With housing costs at a premium in Vancouver, and a trend toward more minimalistic and environmentally sustainable living, it's an idea that makes more and more sense. Still, there are several legal and bureaucratic hurdles to overcome before Vancouverites can move into pint-sized abodes.

Ribs 'N Rockets is one of the first solar-powered food trucks in Vancouver. Resembling a quaint wooden cabin on the back of a flatbed truck, it's a custom-built, retrofitted, 8 foot by 12 foot pine structure.

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Shannon Loeber, president and co-founder of Noons Fine Foods came up with the concept. Inside, despite its small size, it's spacious enough to accommodate three workers. with its emphasis on environmental sustainability, it fits right in at Kits Beach where it was first located,

Hummingbird Micro Homes custom designs tiny homes on wheels. Perhaps their most ambitious project to date is Bluegrass Meadows Micro Village, a cluster of small homes in Terrace B.C., with an average rent of about $800 a month.

John McFarlane, who founded Vancouver's Camera Buildings in 2012, specializes in "creating efficient living spaces." The beauty and ingenuity of his designs is on display in a cleverly constructed tiny home he built for a North Vancouver resident. At less than 190 square feet, the two-level home cost under $50,000 to build.

McFarlane is working on building a tiny house pocket neighbourhood, a group of tiny houses with some shared spaces in a neighbourhood layout, he said. McFarlane attributes the popularity of tiny homes to "a move towards quality of life rather than materialism."

Mint Tiny Homes is a Vancouver-based company run by a husband and wife team, "offering a more affordable option," said director and owner Shannon Persse. Each tiny home is "custom designed to meet the client's needs." Persse has noticed an increase in demand, pointing out that tiny homes "offer freedom in many ways."

The interior of a tiny home by Mint Tiny Homes.

Courtesy Mint Tiny Homes

The interior of a tiny home by Mint Tiny Homes.

According to Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer, the city currently has no policy on tiny homes. But now that Vancouver is in the middle of a large-scale refresh of housing strategy, it's one of the possible options being considered. Staff are working with tiny home proponents to "try and facilitate a pilot project in Vancouver."

While Reimer acknowledged the affordability and sustainability of mobile homes, she also pointed out that "when you take into account land value and construction costs, the economic benefits of gentle building density might not be enough to inspire much of this type of housing in the current market."

Still, there's been a recent surge in the push to legalize tiny homes in Vancouver, spearheaded by  locals Anastasia  Koutalianos and Samantha Gambling, co-founders of the B.C. Tiny House Collective. Their Go Tiny project focuses on promoting the affordability, sustainability and community-building potential of tiny homes. Working towards getting the city to consider bylaws or zoning changes to legalize tiny homes, the Collective recently submitted a detailed proposal to the city.

McFarlane noted that the high land values in Vancouver mean that "comparing tiny houses versus denser building types like apartment buildings is an ongoing question." Nevertheless, he believes that even in Vancouver tiny houses can be a good addition to the housing mix in areas that are lower density, like single family neighbourhoods.

In other municipalities, like Burnaby, the North Shore, and Surrey, tiny homes make even more sense.

"What we need is strong municipal leadership to make this great option possible for the people who live here," he said."

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