Tiny houses may be part of the answer to the Valley’s housing crisis, according to John Horn.
Horn, executive director of the Cowichan Housing Association, told North Cowichan’s council last week that with winter coming and with many of the local community’s homeless people staying in organized tent sites and hotels, tiny homes could provide an alternative form of housing for these people for the time being.
Construction is expected to begin sometime this fall on approximately 100 supportive housing units, which will be located at 2983 Drinkwater Rd. in North Cowichan and 260 White Rd. in Duncan, for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the Cowichan Valley.
But whether the units will be ready to house the homeless people in the tent communities in time for the winter season is unknown at this time.
“The affordable housing project is coming, but it’s not here now so, in the absence of any short-term solutions, part of the answer might be tiny homes,” Horn said.
“Also, BC Housing is considering the women’s emergency shelter (located on University Way) and it doesn’t want it run like in the past due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Cowichan Women Against Violence Society [which runs the women’s shelter] might consider a tiny home project to meet some of the residential needs. Tiny homes would be very topical and timely.”
A tiny home is generally considered as a dwelling that is approximately 400 square feet, typically the size of an RV travel trailer, with many built on a trailer chassis.
Horn acknowledged that there are questions around zoning and other issues with tiny homes that prevent them from getting permits from local governments to be occupied.
“They are not built on foundations and once you get into movable dwellings, the building code can be very complicated,” he said.
“If we can get past the technical barriers, we might see something develop with tiny homes that meet all the requirements.”
Rob Conway, North Cowichan’s director of planning and building, said the municipality is very supportive of tiny homes, but they would need to comply with the Building Code, which is under provincial jurisdiction, to be utilized in North Cowichan.
He said there are no standards in the Building Code for structures built on a trailer chassis and, in B.C., such structures must meet the standards of the Canadian Standards Association.
“But most are not built in factories or certified as dwellings so we’re not able to recognize them here either,” Conway said.
“The municipality could be on the hook for consequences from health and safety issues if we did. If tiny homes are to be legalized in B.C., it would have to go through the province.”