Volunteers in Issaquah finish a tiny house last December before donating it to the Low Income Housing Institute’s newest village for homeless residents in Olympia. The 8-foot by 12-foot house featured insulation, electricity, heat, windows, and a lockable door. Evan Pappas/Staff photo

Victoria one step closer to tiny homes

Mayor Lisa Helps wants to see them in backyards everywhere within three years

Victoria is one step closer to allowing tiny homes in the city. According to Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps city staff have been directed to look at various housing options including tiny homes as part of the strategic plan.

“Hopefully we’ll see tiny houses in backyards sooner rather than later,” says Helps.

In Victoria movable tiny homes are not allowed but garden suites are, meaning any one with a single family dwelling can build a suite in their backyard – excluding duplexes or homes with secondary suites.

RELATED: City of Victoria looks to permanently approve bike vendors

“I think what we’ll see over the next three years, hopefully, is a really solid policy that makes it easier for people to build all forms of housing including tiny homes and movable tiny homes in backyards,” says Helps.

Marian McCoy, spokesperson for Tiny House Advocates of Vancouver Island (THAVI), says no municipalities in the CRD allow for movable tiny houses with wheels to be lived in full time but says the need is increasing and municipalities need to exert more effort towards authorizing them. She says the goal of THAVI is to have movable tiny homes be recognized by all municipalities as valid housing that can be lived in full time.

McCoy along with others at the THAVI are working with the City of Victoria to explore what is needed to allow movable tiny homes as an alternative to garden suites and says she’s pleased to see movable tiny homes in the city’s draft 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

RELATED: The City of Victoria considers a $500 rent cap for tiny homes

Helps says she hopes to see recommendations from the initial stages of the strategic plan brought to council by the end of 2019 so people can begin building in 2020 depending on public input. According to Helps the citywide Infill Housing Strategy is aimed at filling the gap of middle housing in Victoria.

“Basically we want to try and get as much housing in the city as possible,” she says.

The THAVI say that some RV parks might accept tiny homes that are certified as RV’s but the organization doesn’t know of any currently. Adding some representatives of local First Nations communities expressed interest in renting land to tiny home owners, and they know of at least one person living on First Nations land in their own tiny home.

McCoy says the THAVI knows of at least a dozen movable tiny homes that are owned a lived in by singles and families within the Saanich Peninsula — “nearly all these people live with the worry of a bylaw officer knocking on their door and telling them that they have to move their home,” she says.

Helps says while there has been some push-back to the idea of tiny homes she thinks it’s the best idea to help solve the housing crisis.

“Victoria is a very compassionate place and our citizens say over and over again the number one priority is affordable housing,” says Helps. “If we can fit a little bit more housing into each backyard … I think there’s a real opportunity here.”

RELATED: Tiny homes but not yet legal in most of Greater Victoria

Black Press reached out to all 13 capital region municipalities to understand their bylaws surrounding tiny houses and here’s what six of them had to say;

Langford

Matthew Baldwin, Langford’s director of planning, says he doesn’t know what tiny houses are and could not provide further information on the subject.

Colwood

The City of Colwood’s director of long range planning and sustainability, Iain Bourhill, says it’s supportive of small-scale residential developments through policies contained in the Official Community Plan calling for small single-detachment units – garden suites or small houses in the rear of existing lots — as infill opportunities in established neighbourhoods. Colwood’s Land Use Bylaws also provide regulatory support for the construction of accessory dwelling units up to 60 meters squared, however these units must meet the requirements of the BC Building Code.

Oak Bay

According to Oak Bay Mayor, Kein Murdoch, there is no zoning for tiny houses in the municipality but several small lots have been created ‘by various circumstance’ where the current zoning for equivalent larger lots apply such as floor-area-ratio, setbacks, heights.

Esquimalt

Jodi Grahm, executive assistant for the Office of the Mayor in Esquimalt, says there are no laws nor reports related to tiny homes in the township as there has been limited interest in Esquimalt, citing the real interest lay in coach homes.

Highlands

According to Laura Beckett, municipal planner for Highlands, there are no specific rules regarding tiny homes. At this point in time, the vast majority of zones in Highlands do not permit accessory dwelling units or secondary suites. This is a topic Council is currently looking at. 

Saanich

According to Kelsie McLeod, communications manager for Saanich, says while there is currently no minimum size restriction for a dwelling in Saanich, however any new or renovated structures must meet B.C. building code.



kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca

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