Are tiny houses coming to Vancouver? Advocates hope so
Tiny houses can be part of the solution to unaffordable housing costs in Vancouver say advocates
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Imagine owning a 250-square-foot house, fitted with a compost toilet and a loft bed for a one-time payment of $30,000 – it may not be for everybody, but one advocacy group wants the City of Vancouver to make it legal for those looking for an affordable place to call their own.
People started building tiny houses in B.C. several years ago, but tiny-house owners – there are at least a handful in Vancouver – haven’t been able to convince the city to allow its residents to live in them.
Samantha Gambling, co-founder of the BC Tiny House Collective, was buying paint to put the finishing touches on her 320-square-foot house when Metro spoke with her Thursday.
“It’s just a matter of normalizing [tiny houses] and having conversations with policymakers to make those changes happen so that it can be a viable housing stock.”
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Gambling says one possibility is to let landowners divide up residential plots, making it possible for people to buy a small plot of land for their tiny houses. It would also allow people to buy and sell standalone laneway houses.
Many tiny houses, which often look like shrunken down versions of a single-family house, are built with wheels on the bottom. This qualifies them as trailers or RVs, allowing tiny-house residents to live in them in trailer parks.
But Vancouver bylaws don’t allow people to live in their vehicles, forcing tiny-house residents in the city to move their homes every few weeks to hide from city staff.
“It’s a stressful way to live because you put so much into the house that you’re living in and we sincerely want it to be a regulated,” said Gambling, who holds a Masters in land and food systems from UBC.
“I would happily contribute to property taxes.”
She admits the diminutive dwellings are not for everyone – BC Tiny House Collective co-founder Anastasia Koutalianos told Metro she does not have any immediate plans to live in one, for example.
But adding tiny houses to the range of housing options for Vancouverites would diversify the city’s housing stock at a time when most first-time homebuyers are only able to afford condos.
“Tiny houses are not going to solve all the systemic problems that exist in our society,” said Gambling.
“But it will fit alongside single-family dwellings and high rises and microsuites and the whole spectrum.”
The pair say they are in preliminary talks with the City of Vancouver about a proposal to set up Gambling’s tiny house on an empty plot of land destined for development. Gambling plans to both live in and work from the unit, hosting engagement workshops and a community garden on the site.
A city spokesperson could not confirm whether staff had received the proposal but said current zoning bylaws regulate the minimum size of a dwelling unit to 398 square feet.
The city does allow 250-square-feet microsuites under the recently approved Downtown Eastside plan.
Gambling and Koutalianos say they are optimistic about the future of tiny houses in Vancouver.
“We’re really excited. We want to partner with cities,” said Koutalianos.
People can learn more about the tiny house initiative at a BC Tiny House Collective volunteer meeting Feb. 20, at CityStudio at 6:30 p.m.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that a tiny home can be bought with a one-time purchase of $10,000. The correct figure is $30,000.