Harumph!

Before the Christmas holidays I sent a letter out to Mr. Ted McMeekin who is the Minister for Housing in Ontario.  Here is some of what I said:

 

… For the last number of years however, I been heavily involved in the tiny house community as a writing activist. It is due to these cross overs perhaps, that I have come to understand that tiny house communities are a perfect solution for many members of the homeless community. Due to your recent article in the Anvil, I felt that I really must touch base with you.

While many communities now have tiny house communities that serve the most vulnerable sectors of our society, it is the work that has been done in Dallas Texas that I think touches on all of the key factors. I invite you to read this article.
https://www.yahoo.com/realestate/tiny-home-village-in-dallas-1322025837772854.html?soc_src=mail&soc_trk=ma

I am not sure if you have heard, but I recently, I spearheaded the build of a tiny house in Hamilton Ontario for a homeless woman named Fred. This tiny house is NOT a house. What it is, exactly, is a very small insulated room, with no amenities. But the community around Fred’s house has spoken loud and clear, dozens of neighbours came over to thank us as we built this little place for her. They have been supporting her financially since she arrived there months ago and moved under a pile of pallets. They bring her food, gifts, money, cigarettes. …. This “tiny house – insulated room”, with a locked door and a window is not the solution, but it is, at the very least a significantly better solution than having her sleep in a pile of pallets on the ground. You can see more about Fred’s House on my blog, the link is below and most of my posts have been about her for the last two weeks.

The thing is, that this little project to build a $2000 shelter for one, it touched the hearts of so many people. Lowes has let me know that they want to sponsor us for as many as we can build – and this is your riding. This means, materials at cost and some things thrown in. Fred’s house is good, I think, but it is not great. It seems to me that we can find a significantly better solution! I feel that for $5000 per unit, land and cooperation from the city that we could build a community of these houses up to code (except size). Any existing house that has a large yard, that is central – close to shopping and services, and that can be rezoned for multi occupancy would be a perfect solution. The existing house could act as the laundry, office space for counsellors and a spare room for the guests of a community and the community itself could be built around it. 20 or thirty tiny houses would make for a great pilot project. These houses should be 200 square feet (I have attached a sample floor plan), they should be built to code but pigtail off of the existing structure for water, power and sewage.

My questions: What do you think? Can you find us some space? Can you edit the zoning for size and can we do this? Can we strike while the iron is hot?
With kind regards,
Laura

__________________

The response I got back was swift.  In less than two hours he wrote back from his blackberry.

___________________

Thanks so much for your thoughtful aand hopefully helpful note. I will pass it on to key people in my Ministry and our government for their review.

Regards of the Christmas/holiday season.

Kindest regards…….ted

 

___________________

Then this harumph – AKA: brush off letter arrived yesterday.

January 6, 2016

Dear Ms. Moreland:

I am writing to thank you for sharing information about tiny house communities with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Our government believes that every Ontarian deserves to have a stable, affordable home. Stable and secure housing is a key factor that determines social well-being and health. This includes access to education and employment, as well as the resources and supports that people need to thrive. That is why we developed our Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy in 2010; it was the first strategy of its kind for Ontario, and I am proud of the real impact it has had.

Our Poverty Reduction Strategy committed our government to update the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy. Our vision for the updated housing strategy is that “every person has an affordable, suitable, and adequate home to provide the foundation to secure employment, raise a family, and build strong communities.”

Our government is updating the strategy to reflect lessons learned and new research on best practices related to housing and preventing homelessness. This includes exploring a range of approaches to encourage the private sector to develop more affordable housing. The strategy update will ensure that we continue to make progress on a system of housing and homelessness prevention, which meets the housing needs of Ontarians.

I invite you to read more about our update to the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy on our website. The link to our portal can be found at: http://www.ontario.ca/affordablehousing.

In Ontario, municipal Service Managers – such as the City of Hamilton – are responsible for managing local housing and homelessness prevention systems, as they know their communities best. I encourage you to contact City of Hamilton Housing Services to discuss the ideas presented in the materials you have provided. They can be reached at:

Housing Services Division
City of Hamilton
350 King Street East, Unit 110
Hamilton, ON L8N 3Y3
Tel: (905) 546-2424
http://www.hamilton.ca

Once again, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this issue with me.

Best regards,

Ted McMeekin
Minister
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing

minister.mah@ontario.ca

____________________

So…  I wonder if Hamilton Housing Services is interested?

I think they should be given the stats   when you look at these numbers and compare them to other cities you will be that Hamilton is really falling short.

Thoughts…

Tiny houses are not just sustainable and a place that allows people like me to enjoy more free time because of the low cost of living in them.  They are a perfect solution for very low income people.  One can build a no frills tiny house for very little money – If you can hook up to electricity for heat – and also water and sewage systems they are very easy to live in.  We must pressure our government at every single level.

 

Any more thoughts from you?

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Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “Harumph!

  1. I want to thank you for your leadership in making “Freds” home happen and for writing this letter in support of people like her. I did spend time (and wasted it) reading some of the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy as recommended in the response letter although nothing in it spoke to specific solutions. It’s not only about affordable housing, it’s about freedom to choose how we live. I believe that there is power in numbers and encourage every single person to write as well. We need to share our personal stories, beliefs and ideas and I am interested in helping in anyway I can to force our elected government to change this typical response. We need answers to our whys and deserve to be heard. We can’t give in or give up on what we believe in.

    I have been following the tiny house movement for a number of months now and have spent many hours reading, trying to learn and understand what can be done to fight the municipal laws regarding minimum dwelling sizes. I also dream of living a simplified life in a smaller home (currently 1100sqft) without debt. I would like to live small in order to support what’s important to me. I want to work to live and not live to work!

  2. Dave

    I to am very interested in the tiny home movement and would like to offer my time and skills as well I’m a resident of Hamilton would love to talk with ya more in depth if there’s a way I can contact you personally

    • Hi Dave, Awesome! Thanks! The best way to reach me is through the Tiny House Ontario Facebook page.

  3. Happy New Year Laura!

    It’s amusing and very sad at the same time that the government is proud of what they are providing for their city’s needy. Some of the more vulnerable people such as seniors and people with disabilities are being housed with active drug addicts, ladies of the evening and drug dealers. Although the city is very aware of these circumstances, it does nothing to remedy the situation. Putting all these people in one building is really a disservice to everyone.

    Marie

    • Hi Marie, I full well understand what you mean. I have a senior friend who has been to hell and back. I won’t go into detail, because it is not my story to tell.
      Kind regards,
      L

      • monetgardening

        Hello Laura, Thank you for your reply. When the tenants try to deal with a situation happening in their building(run by the government) they are told they are lucky to have a roof over their heads. It can be brutal living in those conditions, seniors intimidated by the youth, sometimes intentionally. A girlfriend of mine who happens to be in her eighties lives in such a building. I visit her often. Have a good night Laura. God bless you for all that you do Laura.

        Marie

  4. susanb2

    My husband Richard is pretty interested in Tiny Houses. We are going to a North End Hamilton Meeting tomorrow night and he hopes to hear more about it then:

    Maybe you could join us?

    • Hi Susan – I am sorry but the link that you send did not work. The only meeting that I know about is the one I posted below and I won’t be attending this. There is no post on the North End news or Facebook page. For some reason I have not received a North End Breezes in months so I can’t check there.

      Kind regards,
      Laura

      HIEA CAP Meeting Notice
      Please join us on Tuesday January 12th
      from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

      in the ArcelorMittal Dofasco Main Office Conference Room A
      1330 Burlington Street East, Hamilton

      Presentation topic:
      PREPARING FOR THE NEW ONTARIO CAP-AND-TRADE SYSTEM
      with
      Sean Capstick from Golder Associates
      Everyone is welcome but space is limited.
      To assist us in planning our meetings we ask that you please register atcommunications@hiea.org if you plan on attending.

      • Anonymous

        So I am a new member of the tiny house movement and thought I would share some information with the group. I reside in Hastings Highlands which is just north of Bancroft in Ontario about two to three hours N/E of Toronto and the township has just past a new by-law that will allow you to build a house with sq. footage of 348 sq. ft. I did not find out yet if the sq. ft. is foot print or total living area but I did find that they will let you build on a slab or piers if you do not want a basement. Frank Mills building inspector for us was behind the push to pass the by-law and he is very helpful when dealing with the building code

      • Great news! Thank you for sharing it! ❤ L

  5. Anonymous

    Keep trudging Laura…your efforts are not wasted. They are starting to hear you and the thousands of others who are slowly starting to see that there is an answer to helping those who need a “tiny” boost. Our society has come a long way on some social issues thanks to social media connecting like minded people who really do care about our fellow man/woman. Don’t ever give up on this one Laura…I currently live in a family size home…but am dreaming to soon recognize my lifelong dream of living small. I want to have the extra time and money to donate back to others and not be stuck in the “dream” of living to work. I want to work to live and share and give back like you do. Thanks for all you do Laura !!!

    Best regards,

    Eileen McCathie

  6. pah

    keep up the good work.

  7. Anonymous

    good for you, I agree with everything in your letter, keep it up

  8. David

    Laura a very valiant effort! You received a cookie cutter answer but also made an impact. I think perseverance is key here and most importantly the support of the community at large. Strength in numbers – maybe rally the surrounding neighbours and businesses – dont give up! Good job 🙂

  9. Jeff Fraser

    While this sounds promising and great hope for the homeless community, I know that here in London people fear allowing these “Tiny Homes” being built would drive down nearby property values and might draw drug and criminal elements to their neighbours.
    A recent article in the London Free Press regards to allowing so called Granny Flats or Guest Homes on a shared property was even shot down sighting the same worries.
    It fear its going to be a long time before we see municipalities allowing these structure being build and peoples attitude changing and snubbing their nose at the thought of these homes. Sad!

  10. Laura, I have been plugging away at the vision of a Tiny Housing Community for 6 years! The first time that I sent a proposal to the Provincial and Federal Governments was in 2009. Our Mayor Jim Watson was the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. I am sorry to say this, the response that you received looks not much different from the one that I received then.

  11. mary

    hi laura
    thank you for what you have done for fred and what you are doing for others…all power to you.

    was it a brush off though? i think you made an impact. i don’t suppose you could summarise their ‘official position’ as i haven’t gone into the link sent. Is that were your perspective is compounded?

    with love from mary xxx

  12. It’s so bureaucratic as i expected, i just effing hate the government official, anything not making money and tax for the riding, they are not interested, even if they allow some sort of pilot program, always some ignorant neighbors complain about this tiny structure will de-value their property value and protest to the authority and you know what is the end result, a letter of removal of existing structure.

    The authority never think about the good side that tiny house communities can offer, for example, we got more time to contribute to the community, we got more spare money to spent on the local shop and economy, the less debt we will be incurred (of coarse banking industry is not happy about that) and so much more, less carbon footprint, less energy consumption so our energy department have a less pressure during hot and cold months, there are just so much more good sides than the bad sides which i can’t think of one, we are not asking for off the grid, I’m more than happy tie to the city services and utilities and paying related taxes for the community, I JUST DON’T NEED THESE DAMN BIG SPACE!!!!

  13. 2BarA

    Well Laura, you wrote to a politician and received a politician’s answer, full of theory and hot air and signifying nothing. Don’t be discouraged. I admire you for your activism so far. Thanks for your efforts.

  14. There are about 80 cities in the US (Portland, Oregon i believe was the first) who have created tiny house communities to solve their housing problems …. read material by Dennis Culhanne…. has been shown to be very effective however Ontario has chosen other routes that do not support “new builds”

    • Hi Susan, I am so glad to hear from you again! Thank you again, for all your help with Fred’s house! I think this response from McMeekin was the ultimate cop out since you clearly have a lot of expertise in this area I hope you will follow up on this with him as well. You mentioned that you have been collecting and presenting material on the successful tiny programs for homeless people and I think it would be as good a time as any to throw some of your knowledge at him.
      With very kind regards,
      Laura

    • Jim

      Perhaps not a ‘tiny house community’ as such, but Ontario is officially empowering municipal officials to change their bylaws to allow ‘coach’ houses in rear/side yards. This is being done in Ottawa. At least some of these could be used for housing homeless persons.

  15. More thoughts eventually, but rt.now, good work, Laura!
    Your physical precedent was/is essential in any area to elicit change. You’ve re-sparked my interest in drawings/plans of more material-efficient tiny-housing examples….even though my focus is rural semi-remote.
    I had always thought that if there is an official objection to the typical 100sq.ft limit, i would just butt another one onto a first one, cut a doorway into both, and use the large-size rubber-foam insulation to “join” them without fastening them….remaining “separate” units. They can also be set in a 4-“square”, leaving a tiny court-common in the middle, for outdoor privacy in season.(even showering)…which eliminates most of the typical humidity factor within tiny.

  16. Keep Knocking Laura!

  17. JoAnn Ross

    Wow! I am so sorry that you got the brush-off, although I can’t say I am surprised. A friend of mine has been on a waiting list for Ontario Housing for 20 years in Mississauga — that’s right, 20 years — and still no relief in sight. She is not homeless but she would be if she wasn’t living with her adult daughter and family. What began as a temporary measure is now her reality. As you can imagine, there are issues. It is not the ideal situation. I think your idea is wonderful! Especially for a community that is already open to the idea. Subsidized housing is great if you can get it — but the reality is that waiting lists are long and people keep getting bumped for “more urgent” cases and there clearly isn’t enough subsidized housing to go around. In this country, there is no excuse for anybody to be homeless. Our governments just need to have better priorities. Thank you for what you do. I hope you will not let this man’s response discourage you. Your idea is sound and very doable with the proper rezoning. God Bless.

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