Local man says Kawartha Lakes should allow tiny houses
With local real estate prices spiralling into the stratosphere, Peter Wallace wants Kawartha Lakes to allow the construction and full-time occupancy of tiny homes.
Wallace argues it should be both tiny homes on foundations or on wheels as a partial solution to the lack of affordable housing in the area. He would also like to see tiny homes permitted as both secondary dwellings on properties with existing residential homes and as primary dwellings on vacant land.
As part of their strategy to make this bylaw change a reality, he’s petitioning the city, and plans to present to council in the near future.
According to the Kawartha Lakes Multiple Listing Service, which compiles data for the real estate industry, the last 12 months has seen the local housing market heat up considerably. Largely driven by individuals who are able to work from home leaving the GTA, Kawartha Lakes has become an in-demand area.
In April 2021, the average price of a detached home sold in Kawartha Lakes was $706,767. Houses on average sell in only 13 days for at least 8 per cent over list price. Housing prices have increased 58.6 per cent in just 12 months with a typical three-bedroom home that sold for $466,000 in 2020 selling for more than $754,000 in 2021 — a 62 per cent increase.
This market has shut out singles, young couples and families where both individuals work, but do not earn enough to come up with a down payment that could be over $100,000 in the current market. The Royal Bank of Canada estimates that a $600,000 mortgage, even with today’s extremely low interest rates, would cost $2,685 a month to carry, pushing many potential buyers right out of the market.
Wallace argues that in the current real estate climate, tiny homes make sense in Kawartha Lakes for the following reasons:
- Homeownership is no longer an obtainable goal for a significant portion of the population.
- The inability for many to achieve home ownership is eroding the middle class.
- Tiny homes will never be the entire solution, but they offer a meaningful option for those interested in this form of living.
- Tiny homes should exist as a legal option for those that want to build them safely.
- Municipalities can benefit from the increased tax revenues by allowing tiny homes as accessory dwellings or on their own.
- There may be an infusion of young adults in the community, a welcome boost to the local economy for any town with an aging population.
- Increased access to affordable housing options particularly for single people or “empty nesters” who do not require a traditional family sized home.
- There may be an increase in the supply of rental housing in the community.
The provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing sees the value in the tiny home movement writing, “Not only are (tiny homes) a great way to save on housing costs, they are also cheaper to build and maintain than a regular house.”
The government re-worked the building code of Ontario in 2019 to address the issue of tiny homes and wrote, “A tiny home is a small, private and self-contained dwelling unit with living and dining areas, kitchen and bathroom facilities, a sleeping area and is intended for year-round use.”
“A tiny home can be a primary home or a separate structure on a property that already has an existing house,” the code states. “Campers, recreational vehicles, cottages and other structures used on a seasonal basis are not considered tiny homes.”
The ministry points out that the size of a tiny home can vary from municipality to municipality, depending on standards set out in zoning bylaws. Some municipalities have minimum size requirements while others have maximum size requirements.
Some municipalities have effectively circumvented the tiny home movement by limiting primary home construction to edifices over 700 square feet. Across Ontario, the only tiny home constant is that in all cases, a tiny home cannot be smaller than the minimum required size set out in Ontario’s Building Code, which is 17.5 m2 (188 ft2).
Currently in Kawartha Lakes, there is little to stand in the way of the tiny home movement beyond the minimum requirements listed in the Ontario Building Code. That could soon change.
In an e-mail, Ryan Cowieson, communications, advertising and marketing officer for Kawartha Lakes and the designated public spokesperson for the building and planning department shared, “There are currently no regulations on tiny houses (in Kawartha Lakes). This issue is being reviewed through the Rural Zoning By-Law Consolidation. More details on that project are available on the Jump In Kawartha Lakes online engagement tool.”