What’s the city of guelph’s take on ‘tiny house’ boom

My husband and I have been daydreaming about some day downsizing to a tiny home.

Not a small house, generally thought to be anything under 1,000 square feet, but an actual tiny home — 500 square feet or less.

All around the world, people are abandoning the idea that a big home is better. It’s become enough of a movement that there are at least two TV series dedicated to it — Tiny House Nation, now in its second season, and the newer Tiny House Hunters.

Modern architecture and design magazine Dwell recently devoted an issue to “Clever Living Solutions for Homes Under 1,000 Square Feet.” The issue also profiled a heroine of the tiny-house movement, Idaho designer Macy Miller.

Almost seven years ago, in the middle of a divorce and facing foreclosure on
her 2,500-square-foot house, Miller built herself a new home for just $11,400. It includes radiant floor heating, composting toilet, and modified green roof — all in just 196 square feet.

Today, she shares it with her new husband, baby and the family’s Great Dane.

A little closer to home, we have Kat Walters and Matthew Davey. Last July, the Mercury ran a great little story on the Guelph couple, just as they’d started to build a tiny home on wheels.

They’d budgeted $20,000 and planned to rely heavily on reclaimed materials. Their 20-by-eight-foot space — built on a trailer, so they can travel with it — includes two loft-style bedrooms, solar panels, a composting toilet, and a water tank under the stairs.

If that sounds like a lot to cram into 160 square feet, you may be underestimating how smart tiny-house builders can be about space. One couple built a 204-square-foot home with a climbing gym, while a family included a pink castle for their daughter in just 172 square feet.

That seems a little much — or, rather, a little too little — for my husband and I.

But we really like the 500-square-foot “Rocky Mountain Mansion” one couple built after fire destroyed their larger house. They both work from home and each needed an office. Plus they wanted space, ideally a room with some privacy, for overnight guests.

Something like that, or perhaps a tad bigger, might be ideal for baby boomers like us.

We love the home we now own in Guelph’s old university neighbourhood. My in-laws built it in 1959, and we married in the backyard. But three floors, four bedrooms and a large family room are really more than we need. And much more than we’ll want to care for as we age into our 70s and 80s.

The property also includes a decent enough side lawn that our real estate agent has suggested we could sever and sell for an easy six figures. And we understand we could sell our house to someone wanting to build something bigger.

But we would, instead, prefer to go small.

We dream of building ourselves a new home — more likely small rather than tiny, built on a permanent foundation, and easy to maintain in our golden years — while renting or selling our existing home to a nice, young family.

But that’s down the line, if ever. And in the meantime, I’m wondering if the City of Guelph would support our offering our side lawn as a temporary home for someone else’s tiny house.

An online search of “tiny house Guelph” last weekend found two Kijiji ads from people looking for a place to park their tiny homes. One is from a couple looking to rent land within 45 minutes of the city. The other is from a mature student starting at the University of Guelph next fall, who would like to be within 15 minutes of campus.

Would the City of Guelph let someone park a tiny house on a sufficiently large private lot? I would expect the initial answer to be no, if only because of concerns for people forced to endure a Canadian winter in nothing more than a trailer.

But Guelph has a reputation for leading in several progressive areas. So maybe, just maybe, it’s an ideal place — an ideal home, if you will — for a movement that’s about living with less and making home ownership more affordable.

Michael Strickland lives in Guelph.

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