CBC News, January 24, 2015 - City councillors in Victoria say tiny, modular homes are being considered as a mid-term solution to help move people out of a homeless camp and under a real roof, albeit a small one.
The growing interest comes as Seattle built 14 of the homes — each 96 square feet and complete with insulation and heat — and opened them to residents living in homelessness camps there this past week.
The tiny structures cost $2,200 US to build and residents pay $90 US a month for utilities. Most of the funding for the Seattle project was covered by donations.
Councillors in Victoria are looking for donations as well, but say they will also need the help of the provincial and federal governments.
"It's a much cheaper way to look at it than looking at permanent housing, but there's still a cost." said city councillor Marianne Alto. "Having said that permanent housing is the answer, but permanent housing takes time, and so micro-houses can really fill in that gap."
In May of 2015, fellow councillor Ben Isitt pitched the idea to council, suggesting that $200,000 be spent on a tiny house pilot project. At the time he said Victoria was spending $600,000 a year dealing with campers.
A few months later, in early November of 2015, tents started appearing — and staying — on a patch of lawn at Victoria's courthouse. The land belongs to the province and is not subject to a 2009 court ruling that allows campers to sleep in Victoria's parks as long as they pack up their tents each day.
Now though, the site has grown considerably and has drawn the ire of neighbours and raised safety concerns.
The City of Victoria has already given $25,000 to help Microhousing Victoria, a society set up to figure out how tiny houses could work in the city.
6-bedroom modular homes
"A lot of people can go into transitional or social housing, but there's not a place to move on to, basically because there is no affordable place to rent," said Susan Abells, who works with the steering committee for micro-housing in Victoria.
Abells says the lead Washington State is taking on tiny homes is being watched, but she says Victoria might consider slightly larger options.
"The model that we're currently looking is like a six bedroom home," she said. "Those six bedrooms are in fact private micro-homes for people, but they're all bed-sitting rooms that are connected into a home with a common area."
"They can be built quickly, they can be built off-site, they can be moved onto site once the site is prepared with basic city services ... they can also be moved off."
Abells says the units can be built in six to eight weeks, but the problem now is finding the funding to pay for them, and more importantly the land on which to place them.
"It's a solution, it's not the total solution, but another piece of the puzzle," she said, describing the modular homes as, "a private home space that is dignified."
The goal is to find five sites and put up ten houses by the summer, but Abells says the housing will only be successful if support services are also in place to help vulnerable people who move into the units stay in them.