Advertisement

A tiny house without a home

Article content

A tiny house built by youths as part of an employment-training program is without a home because it fails to meet municipal building inspection requirements.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The house was built in a Brockville warehouse last winter as part of a marquee program by the Employment and Education Centre to give nine youths hands-on training in the construction trades.

Once completed, the 440-square-foot house was to have been moved this spring to Athens, where it would have replaced the tumble-down mobile home of an elderly widow.

But the project hit a roadblock when the home failed to conform to Athens Township’s building inspection requirements, according to Heather Brisebois, project co-ordinator, and Athens Mayor Herb Scott.

Neither Brisebois nor Scott wants to point fingers at where the blame lies for the mix-up. Scott views the problem with “a great deal of sadness” while Brisebois called it “very unfortunate” and “disappointing.”

Scott said that he, Brisebois and building inspectors have worked hard to resolve the issues, but the bottom line is that the tiny home can’t be placed on the lot in Athens.

Part of the problem appears to lie with differing interpretations of the provincial building-standard rules when it comes to construction.

Normally, when a house is built outdoors on site, municipal building officials will inspect the construction at various stages to give their approval.

The tiny home was built by the youths under the supervision of an engineer and trade professionals in a warehouse on North Augusta Road in Brockville.

Brisebois said the tiny home was originally going to be placed in Brockville, but when the project was unable to find a suitable lot in the city, they looked for another location in Leeds and Grenville.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Scott thought he had the perfect spot. An elderly woman in Athens was on the verge of homelessness because her trailer on a small lot in Athens wasn’t fit to live in.

The idea was that old trailer would be demolished and the tiny home would replace it, Scott said.

The deal was made. The centre agreed to donate the house to the woman and the tiny home was bound for Athens when it was finished. Scott said volunteers were lined up to build the foundation and connect the utilities.

The snag came when the township’s building inspectors said the tiny home didn’t meet the municipal building-code rules, saying it either had to be Canadian Standards Association-certified or have been inspected during construction by the municipal inspectors, Brisebois said. (Athens, a small township of just over 3,000 residents, farms out its building inspections to the Township of Rideau Lakes.)

A provincial government guide for potential owners of tiny homes warns of the requirement of factory-built tiny homes to meet necessary CSA standards.

“The building code requires all buildings to be inspected during construction. In the case of factory-built buildings, quality control inspections and monitoring occur during the assembly of buildings and building components. A tiny home built off-site without CSA certification will likely not have had the appropriate inspections. This may become an issue as you apply for a building permit to locate your tiny home on your property,” the government guide says.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

Brisebois insists that the tiny house meets all building code standards and it was inspected during construction by the supervising engineer, who also took pictures during the construction phases.

The participation of the engineer negates the need for CSA approval, she said, and she pointed to a section of the Ontario Building Code that appears to back her up.

Scott agrees that the house appeared to be built to code, adding that the province’s regulations are the stumbling block.

Brisebois said the problems with locating the tiny home are peculiar to the Athens situation and that the Employment and Education Centre is in discussion with other Leeds and Grenville municipalities that are willing to provide a home for the house. She said that other municipalities have different rules and they would be willing to accept inspections certified by an engineer.

In the meantime, the tiny home sits on North Augusta Road in front of the warehouse where it was built.

Sue Watts, executive director of the Employment and Education Centre, said the tiny-home project has been a stellar success, despite the location problems.

The job of the centre is to train and find employment for job seekers, she said. In the case of the tiny-home project, the youths received hands-on construction training and all of them now have jobs, most in construction, Watts added.

Watts said a mini-documentary by the students quoted the participants about how the project was transformative and life-changing for them.

Advertisement

Story continues below

Article content

The centre now has recruited a new batch of youths who are busy working on a second tiny home.

That one, and another one after it, will be located in Brockville. Brisebois said the project team is working closely with the city and its inspectors.

Habitat for Humanity will partner with the project to find candidates to own the Brockville homes under its program, according to Habitat spokesman Martin Van Andel.

Habitat would sell the two Brockville homes to the selected owners and provide them with an interest-free mortgage. He said Habitat was initially involved in the Athens project but it bowed out as the deal didn’t fit with the Habitat rules because the house was to be donated mortgage-free.

Scott said the fate of the tiny home is tragic, particularly given the shortage of affordable housing in the United Counties and the plight of the woman in need in Athens.

He said he has nothing but respect for the tiny-home participants, organizers and all the supporters.

“The house was built with all the best intentions both by the people who were building and the people in charge, and it was coming to someone in need,” Scott said.

wlowrie@postmedia.com

Latest National Stories

Advertisement

Story continues below

News Near Brockville

This Week in Flyers