By staff writer

Laneway houses have become accepted as new forms of housing to counter sky-high property costs. What about tiny houses? The folks at Westcoast Outbuildings may have a solution. It’s called downsizing. Why buy 3,000 square feet when you only need 300?

Geoff Baker at Westcoast started off building sheds, studios, cabins, and other “outbuildings” for the back yard. Then, recently, other builders started to build and sell laneway and carriage homes to meet the growing need for any kind of affordable property. He is now producing “micro laneway” houses for singles and couples that can’t afford a full size home.

Typically a laneway home will cost around $250,000 to $300,000 to build, provided you already have the land on which to build it. Baker will build you a micro home for half that cost, including electricity and plumbing. If you want, he can even put it on wheels so you can park it wherever you want. The only problem with a “home on wheels” is that it’s currently illegal to live in one in North Vancouver, which may change in the future if there is enough demand.

P1310914-OPTNorth Vancouver city regulations forbid parking mobile homes on private property, but decking can be added to hide and improve the trailer, according to city planners. The tiny house would need staff but not city council approval to park. According to planner Michael Epp, the city is looking for innovations on housing affordability and staff is interested in helping people looking to start small. But where to start?

According to Baker, the cities of Portland and Olympia in Oregon allow micro homes to be built and installed on private property, but it’s an issue that is new to Vancouver. However, the skyrocketing cost of living is causing many people to come up with new ideas. Baker thinks the city should allow micro suites to be placed on pads, like RVs, and connected to the main house’s plumbing and sewer. Such homes are ideal for young people who can’t afford a new home of their own, or for older folks who want to sell or rent their main house and live in a cottage-like atmosphere in the back.

His main market to date has been for 300 to 600-square feet, single level, one or two-bedroom units – no stairs, easy access – complete with kitchen and bathroom, that are built at his North Vancouver factory and typically trucked to laneways in North Vancouver, or shipped by barge to the Sunshine Coast or the Gulf Islands. Baker claims he can get a house built and delivered in as little as 60 days from the time a building permit is issued. All homes are built to rigorous CSA certification standards. Models start from $99,700 plus site servicing, which can run from $50,000 to $80,000 depending on the property.

Those interested in learning more on the topic can google “micro houses” or log on to Westcoast Outbuildings to see the variety of models available.

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