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Planning a tiny house community in Quebec - with support from the municipality  RSS feed

 
Heidi Hoff
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I serve on the strategic planning committee for a little town in Quebec (population approx. 1,400), working with our mayor who is a true advocate of the tiny life and greener living in general. I’m hoping the permies community can give me some advice and perhaps put me in contact with the right people in the tiny-house movement.

We have been working with a consultant on many aspects of the future of our village, including the establishment of a tiny-house neighborhood. At our last meeting, we realized that the technical aspects of designing a truly innovative and ecological tiny-house neighborhood was a very complex task. The suggestion was made that we attempt to find an urban planner, architect or landscape designer (or a group or individual with expertise in all three fields) who would like to use our village as a showcase for their expertise. Ideally, we would like to find someone in Canada. (The people in our area are almost entirely French-speaking, but I’m American and a professional translator and interpreter, so language should not be an issue.)

A proposed site has been identified. It is partially wooded, adjacent to an existing family neighborhood. The mayor and the rest of the committee are agreed that the goal is to create a truly innovative residential site with a number of important features:
1. Smaller lot size (relative to current zoning and codes)
2. Smaller houses (relative to current zoning and codes)
3. Large green spaces for individual and community gardens (permaculture-inspired, food forest, etc.)
4. Shared ecological sewage system (e.g., Ecoflo biofilter, from Premier Tech)
5. Shared wind, solar or biogas energy system (although the neighborhood would not be off-grid)
6. Shared common space (kitchen, dining, recreational, etc.) to build community and fight cabin fever in our long winters
7. Technologies and approaches inspired by the transition movement (e.g., shared workspaces, innovative waste management, community-building events, classes for the public)
8. Rewritten housing regulations to allow all of the above!

In short, our mayor really wants to create a model that will wow people, attract a lot of attention and inspire others to create tiny-house communities within their towns and cities. We would love to find a designer who could consider our village their playground, their “field of dreams.” Because we are convinced that if our town sets up the right conditions, we will find a way to build it, and if we build it, people will come.

Thanks for any input you all can give us!
 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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While I don't think "tiny houses" is a new concept, Jay Shafer did a lot to popularize them with his Tumbleweed homes and now Four Lighthouses.   He is working on a small "village" concept HERE.



I am sure these exist in a lot of communities but I know in Sacramento we have at least a half dozen 40x160' lots that had double rows of small 1 bedroom houses on them, most are darling, all of them bring a premium and increase rather than decrease the value of the surrounding properties, all good things to use to "sell" the idea.    If you want pictures, I would be happy to provide them.   3400 H Street, Sacramento, CA is one you can google, 3932 M Street, Sacramento, Ca is another one.

LOVE WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!!
 
F.O. Delzenne
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I would do a proper permeability test before going directly to the Ecoflow option.. IMO they are to be avoided if possible. They are only profitable to the contractor who installs them (since they cost at least twice of a normal system), and to the manufacturer who will charge you a yearly fee..
In addition, Ecoflow and all the similar products (bionest etc..) give "rewards" to contractors for installing them... often in the form of credit for future installation.. so you can draw your own conclusions...

Not to say the product is bad.. but there is a LOT of money in secondary treatment of water...



 
Heidi Hoff
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Thanks for all the input, everyone! Keep it coming!

Property values in our area, unlike those in Canada's large urban centers, are very reasonable. Our goal is to keep total cost under $90,000 per property, including land, house and access to shared spaces. Our village already has two low-income housing buildings, with a total of 16 units, I believe.

Our situation is not urban: think small country town surrounded by farmland and forests. Gentrification is not a very real threat because we simply would not attract folks with the kind of money that gentrification implies. The people who have already expressed some interest are young couples who see tiny houses as ideal starter homes, people who do not want to carry enormous debt to own their dwelling, and retirees who are ready to significantly downsize and simplify their lives.

Does anyone know the status of Jay Shafer's new village? It is an interesting model, but we are trying to avoid the RV park or mobile home park zoning. We would like these small houses to be built on foundations (or, more likely, slabs), with permanent electrical and water hook-ups. These will probably not be houses that can easily be moved on trailers.
 
Michael Bushman
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Location: Sacramento, CA
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Heidi Hoff wrote:Thanks for all the input, everyone! Keep it coming!

Our situation is not urban: think small country town surrounded by farmland and forests. Gentrification is not a very real threat because we simply would not attract folks with the kind of money that gentrification implies. The people who have already expressed some interest are young couples who see tiny houses as ideal starter homes, people who do not want to carry enormous debt to own their dwelling, and retirees who are ready to significantly downsize and simplify their lives.



If you are trying to attract young people, make sure their is high speed internet and things to allow telecomuting as well as home based businesses as many work online.

Heidi Hoff wrote:
Does anyone know the status of Jay Shafer's new village? It is an interesting model, but we are trying to avoid the RV park or mobile home park zoning. We would like these small houses to be built on foundations (or, more likely, slabs), with permanent electrical and water hook-ups. These will probably not be houses that can easily be moved on trailers.


I linked it because it is a similar concept, the addresses I posted are ones that are built along the lines of what you are seeking to do.  The one problem with tiny homes is the infrastructure cost, even shared is quite similar to a larger home so keeping the cost down is a challenge but its a beautiful idea and i will follow the thread closely.
 
Heidi Hoff
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Thanks, Michael, for the two addresses. One seems to be a series of cottages that are available for rent as apartments, which is not a model we wish to adopt. The other seems to be a single family home of considerable size. Perhaps the house number was erroneous or google maps made an error.

The reason that I am seeking input is that we really want to do something that can only be done with the full cooperation of a municipality. Our mayor keeps saying that we have to be looking at completely new ways of doing things, using future technology, creating a new model, not simply replicating what other towns have allowed in terms of ecovillages and tiny home parks.

As for infrastructure, we are very aware of the cost of typical utilities. We are located very close to the international headquarters of the company that makes the Ecoflo systems and are already in contact with them regarding some new potable water and sewage treatment technologies they are developing. If we are extremely fortunate, we will convince them to use our development as a showcase for their products, and give us a significant discount in the process.

The village already has quite good Internet service, and I have been told by our ISP's technicians that fiber-optic lines should reach here next year. My husband and I work from home (outside the village per se), and although we occasionally have some issues with our connection, those problems never interfere with our ability to serve our clients online. I think that younger folks will find that the service is pretty good.


 
Terry Ruth
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We have been working with a consultant on many aspects of the future of our village, including the establishment of a tiny-house neighborhood. At our last meeting, we realized that the technical aspects of designing a truly innovative and ecological tiny-house neighborhood was a very complex task. The suggestion was made that we attempt to find an urban planner, architect or landscape designer (or a group or individual with expertise in all three fields) who would like to use our village as a showcase for their expertise. Ideally, we would like to find someone in Canada. (The people in our area are almost entirely French-speaking, but I’m American and a professional translator and interpreter, so language should not be an issue.)


I’m too busy with my own designs right now or I’d take this on. The architecture and building design alone is very complex, if you want the wow factor and several specs to choose from. Maximizes spatial designs is challenging. Add the complexity of renewable energy, eco-sewer and water, more complex, add permaculture even more. If you’re looking to exchange free design experience for bragging rights you may be hard pressed to find a knowledgeable designer/engineer. You might check your local universities, otherwise, the design cost will substantial, better done by a local firm for starters & educate yourself to provide guidance.

In the US Spur, TX is the tiny home pioneer and there are many following: http://www.spurfreedom.org/

They have boosted their economy well in the past two years.  They have no codes. They require city hook-ups not interested in transients. Others have written new codes to change the lot minimum square feet to ~1000 , lower minimum building widths, set-backs and easements. The designer will need this info along with a map of existing utilities. Do yourself a favor if the city does not require it take that to a qualified civil engineer to do your plat layouts. Look for designers with errors and omissions insurance that are registered with a legal office.

Average cost here in US is ~ $40,000 with lots. Your cost to develop land should be far less than mainstream designs if it is not your design and financing is incorrect. Large struggle with the community, codes, etc....

Its one thing to design these, seems like everyone and their mother are, another to design them well and fit them into a community, especially urban. Micros are better there.

Here is one look at the community page, they have a back log of orders, offer lease purchase, renting lots for trailer pulls, or purchase. City sewer or compost, etc.  : https://www.habitatstinyhomes.com/




 
Heidi Hoff
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Excellent information, Terry! Thanks for the links.

We had two tiny house building firms represented at our last meeting, so there is (fairly) local expertise in designing and building small structures. What we are looking for is the expertise in putting the supporting infrastructure in place, so builders and developers will have a great set-up to slot a great house into. I think you are right about getting a civil engineer involved early on.

Here in Quebec, as elsewhere, many people are interested in tiny houses, but few municipalities allow them due to rules on minimum lot and house sizes. We are a highly, highly regulated province, so there are limits on what we can do as a town to change the rules of the game, but we are going to try to push the limits.

I'm compiling all the information you all have been sharing so generously. I even contacted the property management company that handles rentals of the McKinley Villas (small cottage development) in Sacramento. They were extremely helpful and will try to find out who designed and built the villas and why (they are not very recent, so this is going to take some research).

 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 207
Location: Quebec, Canada
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Hi Heidi,

Very interesting project!  I have been following the movement about tiny houses & tiny house communities for the last 6 years.  Is it a definite that the municipality will change zoning laws to accommodate a tiny house community? Things can happen when the zoning laws are changed. To me that is the first step.

 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 207
Location: Quebec, Canada
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There is another tiny house community project in the development stage in  Lantier, Québec, Canada. If you have not done so, maybe connecting with those in this project can give you some guidence with your project.

They also just had a tiny house festival this past weekend.

Tiny House Festival - Quebec Canada




 
manfred everly
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Michelle Bisson wrote:There is another tiny house community project in the development stage in  Lantier, Québec, Canada. If you have not done so, maybe connecting with those in this project can give you some guidence with your project.

They also just had a tiny house festival this past weekend.

Tiny House Festival - Quebec Canada






Members of our aspiring ecovillage project attended that event in Quebec. We have a limited liberal situation here in Ontario, as we are intending to acquire land in an unorganized region. So, we're not required to be so structured, currently. Nor do we need building permits , but only for hydro and septic which we'll have for the main community centre. Of course we'll abide by the code anyway,...but also welcome tiny houses on wheels .  We almost got a deal last month, and have tons of interested people , but need a couple dozen more folks with at least 5k ea. to make a deal with the seller...hopefully well before winter.   http://communikindred.wixsite.com/communikindred
 
I'm not dead! I feel happy! I'd like to go for a walk! I'll even read a tiny ad:
FT Position Available: Affiliate Manager Who Loves Permaculture & Homesteading
https://permies.com/t/69742/FT-Position-Affiliate-Manager-Loves
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