The tiny home situation in Saint John, NB is looking pretty grim. However, this may soon change.
Leo Girouard, the co-owner of Wee Bitty Builders based in Saint John, has been seeing a marked increase in inquiries about tiny homes since the pandemic began. “We’ve found there’s a lot of young people, first-time home buyers that are looking [at tiny houses] as a more affordable way to have that first home,” he told the CBC.
With new demand for tiny houses on wheels comes demand for parking spaces. Unfortunately, right now, it’s very difficult to find one.
Many communities, even rural communities, do not allow structures under a certain size and also do not allow moveable structures.
Lyndsay Rolheiser, an assistant professor in urban and regional planning at Ryerson University, said zoning often makes it impossible to add tiny homes. “Many communities, even rural communities, do not allow structures under a certain size and also do not allow moveable structures,” she told the CBC.
This is certainly the case in Saint John. According to their zoning by-laws, “a main building containing a dwelling unit in any zone shall have a continuous length and width of at least five metres.” That’s 16.4042 ft x 16.4042 ft, which rules out the tiny homes on wheels that are intended to be road legal.
If a building were to be exactly that long and wide, it would be 269 sqft, which is quite acceptable as a tiny home. However, higher minimum building footprints are stipulated per individual zone:
- Low-Rise Residential (RL) Zone: 89 m2 (958 sqft)
- One-Unit Residential (R1) Zone: 89 m2 (958 sqft)
- Suburban Residential (RSS) Zone: 100 m2 (1076 sqft)
- Rural Settlement Residential (RS) Zone: 90 m2 (969 sqft)
- Rural Residential (RR) Zone: 90 m2 (969 sqft)
These minimum footprints pretty much rule out building a tiny house as a “single dwelling”.
Saint John does have a definition of a “mobile or mini-home” in its by-laws that seems to apply to a tiny house while excluding recreational vehicles:
“mobile or mini-home” means a detached dwelling containing one or two dwelling units having a length or width of less than five metres, but does not include: (a) A detached dwelling comprised of two or more sections with a width and length of five or more metres at all points; or (b) Major recreational equipment.
This definition of a mini-home allow the dwelling to be less than 5m wide. However, mini-homes are only allowed in a “mini-home park” zone, and a couple of rural zones. Even in these zones, mini-homes are subject to minimum footprints of 55-60m2 (592-645 sqft).
We hear Wee Bitty Builders have actually met with the owners of the Glenfalls Mini Home park in Saint John and tiny houses will be allowed in their park. Check it out here!
So, what if the tiny house was not the primary dwelling, but a secondary dwelling unit on a lot? There is some hope here, and this is why Saint John did not get a score of zero on our “Tiny Home Friendliness” scale.
“garden suite” means any secondary use to a one-unit dwelling or a mobile or mini-home containing one dwelling unit, where another dwelling unit is established in a separate building on the same lot.
In Saint John, a garden suite can be a mini-home, unlike in some other municipalities in New Brunswick (Fredericton, we’re looking at you!).
A garden suite in Saint John is permitted in almost all residential and commercial zones. Unlike some other provinces and municipalities, it does not look like there is a “rezoning” required to build one. Simply a building permit.
Finally, a garden suite has a maximum gross floor area of 70m2, so it cannot be BIGGER than 753 sqft. Easy!
Some other considerations for the garden suite: It will need to be hooked up to services from the main building, have its own parking spot, and appropriate setbacks from lot lines.
Also, once there’s a garden suite, no other “extras” are permitted on that lot – bed and breakfasts, daycares, home businesses, basement apartments, etc.
Here are all the zoning by-laws of Saint John for your careful study: