Affordable housing is a concern on many people’s minds these days, but one organization is aiming to solve the issue.

At Tay’s recent committee of the whole meeting, Tiny Town Association founder and director Ed Peterson told councillors about an initiative being introduced to municipalities across the province.

“We’re a federally-incorporated not-for-profit. Our focus is on developing affordable tiny home communities,” Peterson explained. “These are not what you may have seen as far as tiny homes on TV, et cetera; they’re permanent housing.”

The information was presented by means of a video from the Tiny Town Association website for Tay committee members, which was a densely-packed 10-minute pitch by an AI presenter; Peterson admitted it had been over half an hour with side anecdotes when he’d handled it previously.

The two main concepts were: Pocket communities of half-acre or greater serviced urban properties with between 4-12 micro, tiny or small homes; and tiny town communities in suburban/rural areas with over 32 micro, tiny, or small homes in serviced or unserved properties.

“By replacing a single residential property with a pocket or tiny town community, the municipal tax base is increased and new affordable housing is built,” said the AI presenter, ‘Jade’. “We plan to offer three house models all based on a 384-square-foot (Ontario Building Code)-compliant home design. These homes will include a one-bedroom, two-bedroom and an open-concept design.”

The proposed affordable housing would include rentals, rent-to-own and affordable purchase options. Land would be leased from a housing land trust, and the tiny community would manage the property under its charter and bylaws. Municipal integration was called simple due to there being one address for one tax bill, with one utility account for each service connected.

Also proposed would be a communal hub in some of the tiny communities that would host a large number of social, health and work accommodations on multiple serviced floors. 

“Where several developments are planned in a region,” said Jade, “it makes sense to set up a centralized manufacturing facility to build locally. A minimum of 20 acres of development ensures enough volume for the factory to establish itself. As part of the local economic benefits, the facility will employ 70 full-time and skilled people and we are excited at the prospect of our associate community builders providing training programs in the construction trades.”

The presentation mentioned several municipalities where presentations were also made, including a density project for the United Way in Huntsville to increase density from four people to 24 in an existing duplex; a 6.8-acre concept in Elliot Lake for 96 homes; and zoning details of the ‘12 Neighbours’ community project of Fredericton, New Brunswick.

“We found this to be a simple but effective way to enable the community. They used a comprehensive development district, or CDD, zoning that allows multi-residential, commercial, and institutional mixed used on a single property,” said Jade.

While not being a formal request for Tay Township, an example of what the association would do was provided, starting with meeting with municipal staff for a high-level plan before asking for letters of support to apply for Federation of Canadian Municipalities and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation seed funding. Once approved, the association would make a detailed plan and budget with planning and building departments, package it together for council consideration and approval, to finally apply to CMHC for development funding.

Many in the Tay committee of the whole had no questions, as there was no associated slides or document within the agenda package and they only had the dense video to take in.

Coun. Paul Raymond, a self-described supporter of tiny home initiatives, had followed along and shared his concern on three aspects of affordable housing projects playing against each other: the cost of a project, the return for investors, and affordability for those in need. 

“Affordability means a lot of different things to different people – we’re a capitalist society,” Raymond stated.

“This kind of thing is where our well-intentioned directives will be misused by somebody down the road. While I understand that we can’t protect against all of it, I do have questions surrounding how ownership would be structured of these units individually, if we were going to get in a situation where landlords would be allowed, if anybody controls that aspect of it?

“In relation to how we would actually term this affordable at the end of the day, I look at it as being wage-friendly, which might not necessarily mean the same thing,” Raymond concluded.

Peterson replied that by looking for government funding, no investors would be involved in development. He added that the business model moved the land into a land trust once development was completed with the houses moved into a cooperative.

“In that way, the cooperative will be structured so that there are requirements and guidelines for its operation, but it will provide potentially long-term affordability and also local management of the community. And that’s our model,” Peterson stated. “Houses from the community will never become available on the open market and be sold at market rates.”

Later in the committee of the whole meeting, council had an opportunity to further discuss Peterson’s presentation. Raymond offered that staff could explore “the tiny home scenario without committing to anything specific” from a Tay perspective to see if it would be something that fit for the municipality.

Information regarding the Tiny Town Association, including the presentation video and associated documents, can be found on their website.

Tay council meets for committee of the whole meetings every second Wednesday of the month, and regular council meetings every fourth Wednesday of the month. Archives and livestreams of council meetings are available through the Tay Township YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 12, 2023 at 11:46

This item reprinted with permission from   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated