Do tiny homes make sense for Mission? Municipal staff have been sent on a fact finding mission to find out.
Coun. Cal Crawford brought a motion to council on May 17, requesting that staff review the model used by Kitchener, Ontario, and see if it could be integrated here.
“I think it could go a long way to do something bold for our housing crisis,” Crawford said, noting the idea has been on his mind since he was elected.
“The housing crisis has gone on for years and years. It’s building, it’s building, it’s building. We continue to, I think, look at it in piecemeal items that just kind of dampen the fire.”
The City of Kitchener passed a bylaw amendment in late April which allows just under half of their detached properties to obtain a permit for tiny homes.
If Mission were to adopt the same parameters, and apply it to the same percentage of properties, 4,000 lots could take advantage of the program, according to Crawford.
He admits the calculation is a “very loose look at things,” but said council has only been able to achieve small housing fixes, and not enough to impact the market to reduce rents and increase vacancy rates.
This could be a “stepping stone,” he said.
The District’s planning department is working on applying a blanket zoning on single-family residential properties, which have built basement suites in violation of municipal zoning.
Crawford said tiny homes could be a part of that zoning expansion.
“It would take the community’s buy-in, but in Kitchener, there was overwhelming community buy-in,” he said. “People who did not have as large of incomes could buy an affordable property in their community and start investing.”
In Kitchener’s case, a specific lot size, access for emergency responders and off-street parking are all required. Crawford said this is the same criteria they’re looking at for basement suites.
Coun. Danny Plecas, although he supports a review of Kitchener’s model, urged caution.
He said implementing tiny homes can be very complex, specifically for zoning considerations, building codes and safety and sanitary concerns.
“Look into, but be mindful of the fact we also provide coach houses on lots people can build, they can put in secondary suites as well … So there may be other options,” Plecas said. He also reminded council that Ontario has a different building code.
The District of Squamish’s tiny homes made sense because of the seasonal workers in Whistler’s tourism industry, Plecas said, but he’s skeptical of the application for Mission.
“I don’t know if it’s going to satisfy the marketplace other than someone that’s a single person,” he said.
There needs to be a broader conversation across the region on expanding housing options, according to Plecas.