CVRD obstructing people who want tiny house living

I have concerns about CVRD’s bizarre position in regards to tiny houses.

CVRD obstructing people who want tiny house living

As a citizen who is concerned about affordable housing, I have concerns about CVRD’s bizarre position in regards to tiny houses.

It’s not news to anyone that housing costs on Vancouver Island, like much of the rest of Canada, are now out of the price range of a growing percentage of people. The tiny house movement is one response to the market demand for affordable housing, not simply in terms of construction costs, but also in terms of reduced household consumption, lower utility bills and maintenance costs. Tiny home living gives people hope they can achieve a sense of home and place without being tied to an unbearable mortgage.

Add to this the remarkable inroads tiny home innovations have made to lighten the load on the environment, with green solutions to energy and waste (here’s where you will typically see smart solar applications, an array of energy saving solutions and ecologically friendly composting toilets), the potential to create intentional caring communities and the possibility of freeing up resources so folks who are not rich can live with a measure of independence and dignity.

These issues have not escaped our local governments. VIU hosted a conference on affordable housing, kicked off with an inspiring talk by internationally acclaimed architect Avi Friedman, who offered examples of brilliant housing innovations from around the world, including tiny houses. He emphasized (to the bureaucrats in the packed room) that builders and regulators must work together, not against each other, to find sustainable solutions to our housing crisis.

Last year, the Cowichan Housing Association hosted another great presentation by Mark Lakeman, a visionary architect from Portland, Oregon, who clearly argued the economic and social merits of tiny houses, adding that tiny houses also prevent vulnerable populations from becoming homeless.

Our elected politicians are listening; the CHA is working towards a pilot project of tiny houses, recognizing the B.C. building code is ill-equipped to deal with the rapid innovations of green technologies and innovations, most of which are led by individuals and entrepeneurs who can’t or won’t wait for bureaucrats to sort out their codes to address the pressing issues of climate change and housing resources. Indeed, municipalities across Canada are trying to catch up, and the good news is local governments are getting behind tiny houses by revising their regulatory environments.

As a taxpayer, I applaud our local government’s interest in following best practices of other jurisdictions regarding tiny houses. We taxpayers are paying for these kinds of solutions. We in the Cowichan Valley like to see ourselves as socially and environmentally progressive. So why on earth are some CVRD staff — apparently all caught up on development permits — evicting people from their tiny homes? Our tax dollars are being spent on pursuing tiny house projects, and then our tax dollars are being spent on rounding up individuals who live in them! I think the official answer is “the regulatory structure at present does not recognize tiny houses”, but that is a lame response given the afore-mentioned initiatives from the same body.

Here is what CVRD’s intransigence looks like, in real terms. “John” is a man of limited means, but he had saved enough to purchase a small piece of land, on which he placed an aesthetically pleasing tiny home. It’s a model of environmentally-conscious living, code approved composting toilet, solar panel for off-grid living, and his neighbors admire the elegant simplicity of his affordable life. But CVRD inspectors moved in before he could hang his hat, demanding his house be moved off his land. Or, he must pay a penalty of $1,000 per day to live in his house on his land.

This is but one example of the mind-boggling approach CVRD has taken in regards to tiny houses, and it contradicts their very own presentations on housing affordability. While CVRD sorts out how to deal with tiny housers, they should be collaborating with these inspired builders to develop productive policies. CVRD, get your rhetoric, actions and policies in line, lest you turn any more decent people into homeless statistics. “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem”.

Oline Luinenburg

Lake Cowichan


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