Canada's first tiny house festival debuts as part of planned tiny housing development

Kimberley Mok
CC BY-NC 3.0 Kimberley Mok

Tiny homes are becoming a big thing, but one barrier to widespread adoption has been finding land to legally site them on. That may be changing here in Canada, though: we visited Canada's first official tiny house festival over the weekend, along with hundreds of curious people who descended upon Lantier, a small municipality an hour and a half north of Montreal, Quebec, which recently approved a sustainable housing development for small homes under 1000 square feet in size, without basements.

Tiny homes for local revitalization

The sustainable housing development project, dubbed Les Hameaux de la Source (Hamlets of the Source) is being spearheaded by Habitat Multi-Generations (HMG), a Lavaltrie, Quebec based social enterprise. The proposal involves smaller homes, which can be prefabricated or self-built, arranged in groups of six 15,000-square-foot lots centered around a communal area, that would be used for shared purposes like community activities or food production/permaculture projects. The municipality, which has a permanent population of over 800, decided to change its regulations to attract more inhabitants to revitalize the area, and to generate more jobs. Lantier's mayor, Robert Forget, explains on Radio Canada:

We know that money is tight. It is not everyone who has a well-paid job. This project will provide young families and seniors a comfortable and safe environment. Many small municipalities like ours are struggling and are on the brink of disappearing. But with what is coming here, we are on the right track.

© Habitat Multi-Generations

Lines, lines everywhere

We checked out the small contingent of tiny home models, which were parked close to the actual site where the first phase of the project will be launched later this fall, with subsequent phases that will eventually accommodate up to a total 200 tiny homes. The crowds were quite large, with lines snaking around each house, filled with people patiently waiting to see "les mini-maisons." One of the first models we visited was this interesting tiny home built by Lumbec, a company based out of Aylmer, Quebec.

Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0

Built out of locally sourced cedar, pine and salvaged barn wood, Lumbec's tiny home is one of the first we've seen with a triangular shaped sitting area. It has a lofted sleeping area with a large bed, accessed by a alternating stair-ladder hybrid. I thought it was the standout model at the festival, well-crafted and weighing about 9,000 pounds, measuring over 200 square feet, and costing about CDN $45,000.

Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0
Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0
Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0
Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0

Another nice looking tiny house model here was built by Ma Maison Logique; the company's designer and builder have experience with Passive House standards. The inside was airy and light-filled.

Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0
Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0

The largest tiny home belonged to Marc Leblanc and Josée Godin, a structure built onsite by HMG, measuring over 300 square feet and costing $50,000, constructed with reclaimed wood. It had a welcoming, rustic feel to it, down to the full-sized clawfoot bathtub in the back. The couple were among the first to buy land here at the Hamlets, after they bid adieu to their suburban mortgage last year.

Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0
Kimberley Mok/CC BY-NC 3.0

Another fine model here this 24-footer built by Habitations Microévolution (we neglected to take a photo, it was a long day waiting in lines. Here's one from their site).

© Habitations Microevolution

Other exhibitors offered prefab options for people who want something readymade: Comfort Design's Micro-Habitation model looked much more suburban and conventional, coming with its own full-sized water heater with its own full-sized closet to store it in -- a bit self-defeating, if you ask me. There was even a shipping container home builder onsite, Maisons Optimum, offering homes at 160, 320 or 800 square feet. A complete list of the exhibitors can be found here.

A unique social experiment

Judging from the interest and strong attendance of young, old and anywhere in between, the project promises to be a groundbreaking one, in more ways than one. For starters, sharing of communal resources in this eco-residential project is encouraged by each lot owner giving permanent easement of 4,000 square feet of their property to be used for the central communal space. There's no required community service as in a cooperative, and small businesses can be run from these homes, and occupation can be flexible (residents can be gone for up to six months a year). Plots of land start at CDN $25,000 for DIYers, and according to La Presse, HMG is offering an "exchange system of working hours against credit toward the purchase of a mini-home. The remuneration and job performance follow the laws of the market, and the tax will be levied." It could be one way for younger and able-bodied people to afford their first home, and HMG is currently in discussions with other municipalities for similar projects in the regions of Outaouais, Lanaudière, Estrie and Mauricie.

For more information, visit Tiny House Festival Canada, and Habitat Multi-Generations (HMG).

Tags: Architecture | Canada | Less Is More | Living With Less | Quebec | Small Spaces

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