Author Archives: Laura

About Laura

Laura is best described as a creative, engaged citizen and has come to the point in her life where she has earned the opportunity to do at least some of what she wishes. Currently, she lives in her remote, off grid, tiny house on an Eastern Ontario Escarpment. In the winter, she lives in Hamilton Ontario. Laura is a working writer who is progressing on the first, and second, of what she hopes will be many novels. She is also a painter who concentrates mostly on Kingston Area as her canvas. She is interested in societal equality, architecture, philosophy, feminism, people watching, dogs, animal rescue, ecology, as well as the generational ties between people. Laura has always been interested in peace and is a vegan, motorcycle driver with some daredevil tendencies. www.tinyhouseontario.com

Artist Drying Rack for Paintings

Have you ever priced one of these things???  UGH!  If you ever thought about buying a rack for this purpose, you will know they cost between $250 and $700 largely variable for size and quality.  On a scale of 1-10 on how hard this was to make, this one is a ONE.  All you need is a saw (or someone to cut four 6 inch long pieces), and a drill.

This drying rack has 8 three foot long bars so I can dry anywhere between 8 and 24 paintings at a time, depending on the size of them.  Cost for this was $0 and the time it took me to make it was 20 minutes.

I got the side rails for the crib from someone who turned the rest of theirs into a bed when their child outgrew the crib.  One man’s garbage is this girl’s happiness!  These two sides, and the  four pieces of 2×2 cut to SIX inches in length were all it took.  I drilled holes through the sides into the 2×2 (to keep the 2×2 from splitting, screwed them together, and that was it.

The only drawback to my free one is that it can’t be folded up and tucked away… but you could hang a blanket on it and leave it in your bedroom or use it for a magazine rack.  it is only 7 inches wide so, it does not take a lot of space and so it could even go in the hallway.

Mine will always be in use!  I am glad to have one and happier still because it was FREE!

FREE, FREE, FREE, FREE, FREE!

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 6 Comments

Safe House!

Tiny House Ontario is made up of one tiny house, one blogger and a Facebook page which now has two admins.  Me and Lulu.

The plan here is not to make money (We don’t) but to promote tiny living as a viable option for Ontarian’s.

When I first started blogging it was just about my house, but as more of you started reading and asking questions I started talking more about movement itself and of course the following grew when I expanded my horizons.  I am just about to hit 600K who have put their eyes on my blog, which feels big.  It would be nice to have a dime for every one though, right?  HA!

Tiny House Ontario’s Facebook page has about 6000 followers now but Lulu and I have about 8000 people who we reach a week, so you are a pretty loyal following!   Thank you – it is numbers like this that make me think that we are doing something right here.

But going back a bit… as more eyes started looking at what I was writing about, I decided that I would not advertise and I would try to have all those fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants wannabes at bay.  This was largely to do with three very negative experiences in the very early days.  One from a guy who can only be described as a stalker that went on to ask a lot of people for personal information to build a community, another from a “business” that was threatening me because I would not promote after I had some bad feedback and another from a known accused pedophile (who got off on a technicality because his trial was not expedient enough) that wanted to start a tiny house community… Clearly, with these three cases, I believe that I would not be acting in good faith if I were promoting them, I stood firm and shut them down.   Though one of them is still out there exploiting the hopes of tiny house wannabes by pretending to be a viable option for those who wish to live tiny in Ontario… and the complaints about him are still coming in to me.

So, what do I do with negative comments about these folks?

When I get negative feedback from any sources about anyone who has involved themselves with the tiny house community in any way, shape or form then I am not going to share or promote them.  I also delete comments about them from our Facebook page.  This is not just because I think it is unethical to promote those who I understand to be maleficent.  Frankly this is a new movement – we don’t even have the ability to live in most municipalities yet, but there are a lot of people who think that they can grow cash quick by building and selling houses or by starting a community.  We owe it to ourselves and the community to make this way of life as safe as possible, do we not?  We owe it to those who come after us, to keep this community credible.

Am I right?

I hope so!  I would like to think that this vetting makes the sources that I give as being trustworthy.  I guess, what I see my role as, is that of a dispensary of the people’s information, and because I can only depend on the sources that give me information, I might not always get this right.  But rest assured, that at the very least I try!

Why am I sharing this information now?

Recently the audience here has grown and new people may not have read previous comments and posts where I give warnings.

I am just reminding you all not to spend your money or give out your information to anyone who claims to be a tiny house builder, community or voice of the community before you have fully researched what and who they are!  I was reminded just today that not all tiny house sites take their roll as a mentor as seriously as I do, so use your heads and do your research please!

Stay safe! ❤ L

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Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 1 Comment

Exact Cost: Phase 7, Year 6, 2016

Over the past six years I have fully disclosed all building and update costs at Tiny House Ontario.  I believe that I was the first tiny house blogger who chose to do this.  I was able to because I am organized about what I spend so I had all my receipts.  The reason I posted them though, was not just for my own purposes of keeping track.   I also hoped to give a clearer picture to those who are thinking about building tiny, so that you know what, generally, to expect.  For this reason I also include my failures or lost money, I hope by doing this, I might prevent others from making my mistakes.

My other reason for disclosure though, is that a lot of people comment on tiny house pages what show houses that are for sale… “too expensive” (and some are).  But tiny houses cost a lot of money too and many tiny house followers think that keeping the cost of the house at nothing is the whole point.  I call BS on this.  Unless you have endless time and skills to DIY and lots of resources handed to you then you really can’t build a tiny house for next to nothing.  Resources cost money!  Plus as a rule of thumb, when you think about material cost you need to times this by 2.5 to include the labour costs if you are not doing it yourself.  Labour is expensive!

FACT: Tiny houses cost way more per square foot than McMansions because space is cheap to add… but the catch is, those added feet are what cost you for as long as you live in your house.  You have to fill them, update them, heat them, pay taxes on them and deal with the carbon footprint of them… Space might seem cheap, but it is not.  So now you know the secret, the point of tiny houses is to avoid paying year after year for space.

When it comes to my home, I am a cheapskate, who does not need to have the very best of everything to make me happy… Tiny House Ontario is, by design, a rustic little cabin in the woods.  It is off grid, it is humble, and there are quite a few used and or surplus items that went into it.  Plus, the house is nowhere near complete!  Yet here I am in the 6th year, and I have invested over thirty thousand dollars into the place and this does not include the cost of land.  PLUS… I paid very little for labour because I did a lot of the work myself.  I also made $3800 in mistakes*.   It is not done either!  There is no running water (or cistern), so I still have to carry in all the potable water I need, and the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen are not yet finished.

In short, resources and money do not grow on trees.  And despite what my sister thinks of my handiness, I cannot spin straw into gold – as much as I wish I could!

2016 was not a big year for expenditure nor accomplishment.  Still every little step costs something.  This year I picked up a few things late in the season and have not yet had the opportunity to put them to use.  Here is the breakdown.

2016

Materials for corner bench for the cloth porch. $112.

New surplus solar panels (not yet hooked up) $240.

Antique chamber pot for the (temporary bathroom fix) in-house. $50.

Dickinson fireplace heater and extra chimney (not yet hooked up) $1133.

Picture window (not yet installed in the cloth porch)  FREE

2016 Phase 7 $1535

2015 Phase 6 $5354

2014 Phase 5 $0

2013 Phase 4 $2419

2012 Phase 3 $5,124

2011 Phase 2 $8,839

2010-11 Phase 1 $11,740

Total, To date (on building, driveway, homesteading, improvement & taxes) – $35,411

Land – $67,000

Investment in THO and Property $102.411 —–

This year, all that I crossed off my to-do list was building seating for the cloth porch and purchasing a new heating system which will be installed in January.

As for what I wish to work on next year:

  1. Hook up the Dickinson fireplace.
  2. Install picture window in the cloth porch so that in the winter we can see out instead of having the view blocked by the tarp.
  3. Update the bathroom so that it works
  4. Turn the garden into a little green house so that the critters can’t steal everything I grow. Alternately, I thought I might plant just herbs and Helianthus tuberoses. These are native species alternately known as sunroot sunflowers, or Jerusalem artichokes and they should do well in the sunny spot there as well as produce food for me that perhaps won’t all be eaten.
  5. Install the floor on the second level.
  6. Finish the stone work patio and walkways
  7. I would also like to move the shed from my Hamilton house to the land at THO. It would be good to have it there so I could store spare wood, equipment such as maple tree tapping, and outdoor stuff. I think I would also put off season clothes in bins there. We will see if time and energy permit.

 

Future Expenses

  1. well and pump
  2. kitchen
  3. bathroom
  4. loft (flooring and built-ins)
  5. shed (move or build)
  6. stonework

 

*MISTAKES – totalling $3,800 (breakdown below)

  1. $2800 I was ripped off by the cement contractor (Phase 1)
  2. $800 Culvert issues (Phase 1 and 2 – still not resolved)
  3. Roughly $200 bathroom materials which had to be removed because of mice.

 

THO now

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Tiny House Ontario 2016

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 9 Comments

Let’s talk about who is breaking the law

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In my last article I pointed out correctly that sustainable housing is NOT illegal but simply non-compliant to outdated building codes.

Lets get even more real here today.

The Strong Communities through Affordable Housing Act, 2011 requires “municipalities to establish official plan policies and zoning by-law provisions allowing second units in detached, semi–detached and row houses, as well as in ancillary structures” and those municipalities that have not made these allowances are in fact acting illegally and contrary to the law.

Furthermore, from the tiny houser perspective, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is not doing anything about this.

Lets get this straight… this law does not help those who want to live on wheels, but it does not hinder in any way those who simply want to live in a tiny house in the city or community of their choice.

I personally lived in a house like this when I was in Germany.  It had a separate yard and parking from the main house, we had a lovely little fence between us as well as shrubs to give privacy.  We did not own the house but we rented it and when we did it was explained to us, by the owners of the house that ours had a transferable 99 year lease with the owners and a clause that if the owners did not renew the lease that the house had to be purchased at market value by them.  A very good contract for both parties.

What can we do to force municipalities to follow this act?

We rally together!

Please take some time to WRITE A LETTER and CC  it to a lot of people!!!  (all the addresses are provided below)

The issues are:

Strong Communities through affordable housing act is not being followed by any communities except for Ottawa and we the citizens of Ontario demand that tiny houses be allowed not just as secondary dwellings but as communities for those who wish to live sustainably.

Tiny houses are a viable option because they are inexpensive to build and more importantly they are exceptionally inexpensive to maintain, and live in.  They have a very small carbon footprint, they do not require citizens to live to work but rather just to live.  They are perfectly safe and can easily be built to the same codes as long as these codes are not mindlessly obsessed with size… because this alone is the only restrictive feature.

Demand that communities allow for 1000 square foot lots for tiny houses with an equitable rate for taxes based on value.

Demand that all housing being built be forced to comply with environmental standards beyond insulation, such as layout and structure that will allow for passive solar heat ,south west facing windows for breeze and solar panels to take care of the needs of each home.

Demand that tiny house communities be planned and developed in every community based on need.  I expect, based on my numbers here that there are thousands who wish to live in tiny houses if the government were actually following their own laws and making it possible for us to move forward.

Demand that those who wish to live in tiny houses on wheels be included in the code books and be allowed to be lived in, after all these are HOUSES, they are not RVs and they are perfectly safe as well.  In the USA there is a code already in place and this code allows citizens to live safely and comfortably, and this is what the codes are for, is it not?

 

If you are reading this, and you are a municipal leader and you also understand that what we ask for is our right, then I suggest that you get in gear and get it right.

 

Your letter should be addressed to:

1.YOUR OWN MUNICIPAL LEADER

2. YOUR OWN MUNICIPAL BUILDING DEPARTMENT HEAD

3. YOUR OWN MPP

________________

4. Hon Chris Ballard
Ministry of Housing / Ministry Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy
17th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
Tel  416-585-6500
Fax  416-585-4035

E-mail: minister.mma@ontario.ca

 

_____

5. Hon Kathleen O. Wynne
kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Room 281, Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A1
Tel
416-325-1941
Fax
416-325-9895

____

Because this is not just a housing issue but an environmental one!

6. Hon. Glen R. Murray

Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Public Information Centre
2nd Floor, Macdonald Block
M2-22 – 900 Bay Street
Toronto ON M7A 1N3

____

Because this is a municipal issue (even though, in my opinion it should not be)

7. Hon Bill Mauro
Ministry of Municipal Affairs
17th Floor
777 Bay Street
Toronto, Ontario M5G 2E5
Tel
416-585-7000
Fax
416-585-6470

AND because this should be a country wide mandate!!!

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau

Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Fax: 613-941-6900

 

You might also wish to copy this to other agencies that are to do with the environment, justice, landowners, poverty ect.

Do you have suggestions?  Have I missed anything?

 

Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 10 Comments

NOT ILLEGAL

I cannot count the hundreds of times that people use the word “illegal” to describe the act of living in a tiny house.  This word is being used incorrectly, over and over again, and I think this needs to stop… today!

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There is NOTHING illegal about living in a tiny house in Canada.  Tiny dwelling is not like like driving impaired, beating up on your wife or robbing a bank.  The police will not come and charge you, arrest you, handcuff you and put you in jail.  Using the word illegal is not just inaccurate, it also serves to undermine the credibility community and those who are interested in living sustainably.  It makes us appear as though we are all deviants.  I want everyone to STOP using this word today.

So… if living in a tiny house is NOT illegal… then what is the problem?

Building codes are the problem… And moreover, the problem is a duel one.  

First, these codes were set a long time ago and they are hanging on to antiquated notions that heating a small space is dangerous… and when room sizes were established a fifty years (or more) ago this would have been the case.  Old heating systems needed the breathing room.  But today this is no longer the case.  Little heaters like the Envi (and any hundreds of other choices) can be plugged in and heat a tiny house with absolute safety.

Secondly, the newer updated codes regarding size  were set in the last 50 years… when the economy was good and people did not really understand the true environmental and community costs of living in McMansions.   The thinking was (and still largely is) that bigger is better.  But today, the environmental reasoning behind why many want to go tiny  is crystal clear… just look at the heating and cooling bills and think about the STUFF that has to fill those big rooms.  Tiny houses are NOT cheap alternatives and this is not why living tiny is so attractive.  It is the fact that once you have it, that is it… there are no updates needed and even in ten years when you wear out your furnishings, replacement is… well…  it is a TINY expense… so too are heating, cooling and living.  Tiny living is simply a good fit for a lot of people, hundreds and thousands of us want this, if my stats here and on Facebook are any indication of the numbers.

This brings me to my other point.  Tiny dwellers are infect better citizens AND not just because our homes use less resources either.  When people live tiny, they have WAY more disposable income.  This means that they have the gift of time and money.  Many tiny housers use this extra time to take up hobbies, volunteering and really living in their community.   This disposable income gets used in their community.  They don’t spend money in the shopping mall, true!  But like me, they spend time in cafe’s and restaurants, and like me, they volunteer in the community.  Tiny houses allow people to be more engaged citizens and because we are more engaged, we are better citizens.  There is nothing illegal about that.

When we write about or speak about the problem with living in tiny houses, we must put the blame where the blame lay.  We must say, outdated building codes are making our way of life very difficult, if not impossible and we citizens MUST be given the right to live sustainably!   We demand it!

I also see many commenting that the reason that these houses are blocked is because of the taxes… but of course this could EASILY be resolved by setting a minimum amount for taxes that has nothing to do with square footage and everything to do with the fact that tiny housers are members of the community and should be paying taxes just like other people who own homes.

Some people say that they don’t want to have tiny houses next to their McMansion because it will bring down their property value.  Which is total nonsense!  There are so many downright ugly looking and rundown homes in just about every community… we don’t have that much control over how our neighbours live.  And besides, every tiny home I have ever seen has been as neat as a pin.  We are all minimalists after all!

This is a call for all building inspectors across Canada to get it together and change the codes in the area that they are responsible for!  Moreover, set things right for those who are already there hiding.  We really should not have to!

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Categories: Tiny House Ontario | 17 Comments

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