Big barriers to tiny homes

By Rachel Fraser

Despite doing away with the Regional District’s minimum first-storey floor area last year, tiny homes still technically aren’t legal within McBride, Valemount or the Regional District at large. They don’t even exist as a regulated category of permanent dwelling in the National, BC or regional/municipal Building Codes or zoning bylaws. 

These and other barriers challenge the pocket communities envisioned by RDFFG Area H Director Dannielle Alan, a force behind scrapping the district’s square footage minimum. A pocket community, or pocket neighbourhood, is a grouping of homes intentionally clustered around a shared outdoor space to encourage interaction and community among neighbors, a concept that in this case could be made up of tiny homes. 

Alan admits this is a step process. 

“I find it frustrating because we’ve seen this housing crisis coming for 10 years,” she said. “First step is not putting unnecessary regulations in place.”

The District’s previous minimum ground floor area was 40 m2 or approximately 430 s.f. The current BC Building Code allows for a minimum total square footage of approximately 323 s.f., or 30 m2. Both, in fact, could accommodate a “tiny home,” were it code-compliant in other ways that can be difficult to achieve in compact design, such as meeting minimum clearances for egress in the case of fire.

According to Village of Valemount CAO Anne Yanciw, the standard definition of a tiny house refers to those built on wheels. She says the problem with tiny homes is twofold. One, most do not meet building code regulations because of egress requirements in case of fire. The ladders many have for accessing an upstairs sleeping area are not legal egress. And many do not have a sufficient window in the sleeping area for egress. Two, because tiny homes are mobile, access to power, water

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