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Vancouver groups build tiny home for homeless to convince City to allow them

Last Updated Mar 9, 2021 at 12:57 pm PDT


A 'tiny home' has been built at Cordova and Dunlevy Streets, across from Oppenheimer Park

Local builder says a tiny home could be built in about two weeks

A tiny home could cost as little as $15,000 each, says builder

VANCOUVER (CityNews) – Groups serving the Downtown Eastside have teamed up with a local builder to demonstrate how tiny homes could fit into the City of Vancouver’s plan to address homelessness.

It’s currently not legal in the city to build a tiny home on vacant land and actually use it as a dwelling, but Lanefab, along with the Overdose Prevention Society have built one at Chapel Arts, across from Oppenheimer Park, in the hopes City officials can be swayed.

“We wanted something that would work on a tight urban site,” said Bryn Davidson,city co-owner of Lanefab. “So these are designed kind of like row houses where you can have shelters lined up right next to each other. We also wanted to capture a bit of that extra space. So we have a bonus locked space upstairs, which could just be storage or it could be an extra bed.”

Davidson tells us a unit like the one at Cordova and Dunlevy Streets, right across the street from Oppenheimer Park, could be built in about two weeks. It would include heat, power and lights, and with enough space for up to a family of four.

“The City is always going to have vacant lots that are awaiting development or reuse. So these things can exist in every neighborhood in Vancouver, we hope,” Davidson said.

“If you’re doing a village of these, each one would be about $15,000 for the building itself. And then you’ve got all the wraparound services,” he added.

Related article: Vancouver builder suggests tiny home villages to house homeless

But right now in Vancouver, it simply can’t be done legally.

“Land is scarce and permitting is difficult,” Davidson said. “So one of our first barriers is to get either an emergency allowance from the City, or to get them to actually change the building and zoning code to allow these.”

Trey Helten with the Overdose Prevention Society says there is plenty of space for this concept.

“There’s lots of space in Vancouver that’s not being used, currently, where they could put a few tiny homes — perhaps even a tiny village,” Helten said.

He says it’s important for people to have a place where they feel at home.

“I think tiny homes would be a solution, in the sense that it could end SRO — or be an option, as opposed to living in an SRO — where there’s a lot of things happening. We’re trying to get the message out there that tiny homes are available. It is a possibility, it’s just a legal legal issue at this point,” Helten said.

In a written statement, the City of Vancouver says in October, council did instruct staff to investigate a tiny homes village pilot project.

Staff are considering conducting this work and are considering factors such as:
– The availability of suitable land;
– Vancouver Building Bylaws which currently require residential properties to have utility connections including sewer, water and electricity;
– Vancouver’s zoning by-law which regulates the minimum size of a social housing unit to be 320 sq ft, or 250 sq ft for micro dwellings; and
– Funding sources and opportunities