Tiny house = affordable house

Given Tofino’s longtime agonizing over our affordable housing crisis — played out for years as summer staffing shortages, now escalating to the threat of school closure — it’s interesting that tiny houses have not been looked at as part of the solution.

As far as i know, there’s a minimum square footage requirement on habitations in the district. (Can anybody confirm that?) Which, combined with the price of land on the West Coast, pretty much guarantees that truly affordable housing cannot be achieved within the free market paradigm. Hence the resulting contortions of the Tofino Housing Corporation, now five years and some $300,000 into its mandate (per this Westerly News article), with groundbreaking for the first units now set to start early in 2010.

I see it as a “rung” effect: For an affordable-housing strategy to be effective, you can’t just build a handful of units and fill them up, because then everything comes to a stop and the affordable housing issues reappear. Affordable housing has to be seen as the introductory rung on the accommodation ladder. The idea is that, once people have built up some equity in the affordable house, they can use that to move up to market housing, thereby freeing up their affordable unit to enable others to hop onto the ladder.

But with entry-level market condos starting at $265,000, and houses at $349,000 (figures from realtor.ca), it seems that most Tofitians — with a 2006 median income of $22,696, per the community facts page from BC Stats — will find even the lowest of existing rungs out of reach.

I’m not being critical here, just pointing out that the system the THC is working within does not lend itself to quick solutions. It does lend itself to ghettoized affordable housing, clumped  together in one area, and not spread out through the village (which strikes me as a superior approach).

Tiny houses have evolved into a well developed field of  design, and can be eminently liveable for one or two people. There are a slew of websites devoted to the subject. One of the best is TinyHouseDesign.com. From that site, here are the free plans for an 8′ x 16′ Tiny Solar House (4.9 Meg PDF download) — a 128-square-foot gem that (the plans say) could be built for $4-8,000 US. That would go a long way toward getting some people, at least, off the money-pit of renting and onto the escalator of ownership.

More sites: TheTinyLife.com …  SmallLivingJournal.com

Urban chic, with a side of Toff

So i’m walking back from the book launch at the planetarium and i think, Hey i should blog this for all those poor saps now staring at their TVs in Tofino for lack of anything better to do, late on a Friday night.

I’m on the corner of Broadway and Kingsway and lo, there before me is the Our Town cafe, open late (Are you listening Tofino? Are you listening Ucluelet?) with free wireless (Are you listening, etc.). So i pop in for a $1.80 (Are you …) ginger vanilla tea and sit at a funky table watching Broadway roll by and blogging about the Vancouver launch of Margaret Horsfield’s Voices from the Sound — Chronicles of Clayoquot Sound From 1899-1928.

Margaret gives good slide, and the planetarium theatre was over half full with, at a guess, 150 people. It was a weird experience to sit in the city, watching a historical picture show of my sorta home town a world away with a room full of … well, who were these people? Grey-haired to a man and woman. Margaret seemed to know several of them so maybe it was the home-town crowd. Maybe it was all those absentee owners whose rampant appetite for condominiums is turning the town upside down. There seemed to be no lack of ready money, for at least a third of the attendees bought a copy of the book. The evening’s proceeds went to The Land Conservancy, more power to Margaret.

And now the tea is drained and i’m off to Commercial Drive, theredown to stroll. Who says you can’t have both urban and rural?