Um… have you looked at housing prices recently?
If you’re in the market for a home, you’ve probably noticed that the homes you can afford have… disappeared? And as you surface from yet another panic attack to find a reasonably-priced house listed for sale and think, “If I can get a raise and really organize my budget, I should be able to swing that…”, you realize it’s just the starting price in a bidding war that will end in a price beyond your wildest dreams.
So, the way we understand it is, the Canadian real estate market, spurred on by the pandemic in some feverish chemical reaction, has created this monster. Granted, it’s not a very scientific explanation, but we feel it’s accurate.
So, whether you’re looking to upsize, downsize, or buy your first home, you’re probably finding that you can’t afford anything. The pandemic has inspired people to move to smaller towns and less populated provinces too, but somehow there also aren’t fewer people in the big cities. So, we guess the only people who are happy with these crazy prices are the ones selling their house and not moving anywhere… Is that you? No? Ok, moving on.
According to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), the average house price in Canada was $678,091 in February 2021, up 25 per cent from a year earlier.
If you don’t have that kind of money and don’t want to be in that much debt, which many people don’t, you could consider moving to a tiny home. Compared to the price above, the price range for a tiny home in Canada is about $70,000-$150,000. Very attractive.
Some of the provincial and municipal governments across the country have been eyeing tiny homes as a solution to providing affordable housing options. Tiny homes are awesome from that point of view because they solve several problems at once:
- They are owned by their residents and aren’t subsidized housing that the government needs to pay for.
- They increase urban density, giving people options to live closer to each other within the city instead of increasing urban sprawl, eating up farmland, and requiring more highways and transportation options.
- People just love them. They’re cute and they aren’t eyesores. Where would you rather live, in an adorable tiny home that was built exactly for you and your tastes, or a cookie-cutter home you can’t afford?
The key financial benefit of tiny houses is that they bring the price of the home way down to a level where a single illness, job loss, or basement leak will not cause people to go bankrupt and lose their house. And what about those of us who are retired and on a fixed income? You just know that retired people who can’t afford to live anywhere will riot. Do you want to live in a country with rioting retirees? The only thing worse would be being a rioting retiree… with no place to live.
As the housing prices of Canada keep rising (at a projected rate of 16.5% according to CREA), people will start coming up with solutions. Canadians are creative and resourceful, we always have been. Tiny homes are a natural solution to the “big house we can’t afford” problem. The only thing standing in their way is government regulations: building codes and zoning.
So, let’s take that apart for a second.
Building codes are meant to ensure that buildings in this country are safe and healthy for people to live in. This is great for everyone. However, because these codes were not written with tiny homes in mind, they can sometimes be limiting for no reason. Some of the limitations can be outdated because modern technology and people’s living styles have changed. Building codes are slowly changing to reflect the small footprint of a tiny home.
Zoning and urban planning is meant to ensure a functional and pleasant urban environment for everyone to enjoy. People who are against densification and the introduction of cheaper houses around their homes are afraid of having to live with more people, more garbage, and more crime.
Sure, but. As housing prices go up, lots of people will not be able to afford to buy or even rent a conventional home. Thousands of homeless citizens living in tent camps or banding together into makeshift RV villages will cause… more garbage, more crime. Sending people to further and further suburbs will not solve this problem. There will be more cars, pollution, urban sprawl, and mental health crises from having a 2-hour commute.
However, imagine if that RV village was actually a well-organized tiny home community with municipal services such as water and sewer, garbage pickup, and hydro. And, most importantly, no by-law officers knocking on people’s doors and threatening to tow them.
Given the opportunity to own homes they have chosen and can afford, chances are, tiny home owners would create lovely places to live.
As we mentioned above, governments in Canada are starting to recognize the value that tiny homes can bring in providing people with dignity, financial security, and feeling of ownership. For example, the government of Ontario recently (2019) passed new legislation to allow tiny homes to be built on existing properties and even published a guide to building a tiny home that conforms to the Ontario building code.
Things are moving in the right direction, but there’s more to be done. So, if you run into any provincial or local government officials on your morning jog, be sure to mention tiny homes to them.