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Regional District of Nanaimo looks at possibility of tiny homes

RDN board receives report referencing approaches in other B.C. communities
The Regional District of Nanaimo board received a report on tiny homes this week as it investigates ways to alleviate the housing crunch. (B.C. Housing photo)

The regional district, cognizant of the housing crunch, is looking into the idea of tiny homes.

To address affordable housing concerns, Regional District of Nanaimo staff penned a report on tiny homes, which a recent B.C. Housing report described as “a permanent ground-oriented dwelling that is detached, movable and non-motorized, under 500 square feet and tailored to compact design.”

Such dwellings are not currently allowed in the RDN and directors voted to accept the report for information at their Dec. 7 board meeting.

RELATED: Director wants RDN to examine tiny homes

Erica Kavanaugh, Vancouver Island Real Estate Board’s president-elect and an Oceanside-area agent, said her board is in favour of bringing more housing to market and is pleased the report is being considered. The Island is seeing “one of the worst inventory situations” and lack of affordable housing for home buyers and is absolutely reaching a crisis point throughout B.C., she said.

Kavanaugh said purchasing tiny homes shouldn’t be complicated.

“It’s challenging to get a mortgage on them,” she said. “I don’t think any of the banks are actually lending on them. Financing would be an issue, that’s my only concern … it’s not a matter of having the house, but how are you going to get into it and afford it.”

RELATED: Tiny home demand up during COVID-19 pandemic

The RDN has a pair of initiatives that could lend itself to tiny homes, according to the report – a land-use bylaw and a regional housing strategy.

Tyler Brown, RDN board chairperson, agreed that tiny homes could help to alleviate housing shortage pressure.

“My understanding, from a lot of people that push for that, is that they’re an affordable style of unit that would help provide housing inventory for a certain segment of the population: those that are interested in what a tiny home has to offer, or may not be able to find a traditional home for rent or for purchase,” he said.

Kavanaugh said she would like to see clear guidelines, standards and areas where tiny homes would be permissible, which would allow for a “foundational framework for people to move forward.”

RELATED: Housing affordability not keeping up with RDN growth

The RDN staff report referenced, as an example, the City of Grand Forks, B.C., which has amended zoning rules to allow residents to use “tiny homes on wheels” as a principal dwelling provided it is on a supporting foundation. It also issues temporary permits to allow tiny homes as principal dwelling units. The report added that the City of Terrace has the country’s first legal tiny home village in its vicinity, consisting of cabins and tiny modular homes between 100-500 square feet on permanent foundations.

Kavanaugh said she is willing to advise if called upon by the RDN.

“I would love to listen in on what their thoughts are on it and then if I got commentary regarding the real estate side of it, I’d be more than happy to chime in,” she said.

RELATED: Big interest in tiny homes in Nanaimo

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Karl Yu

About the Author: Karl Yu

After interning at Vancouver Metro free daily newspaper, I joined Black Press in 2010.
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