APC members cautious in saying tiny homes and RVs should be used as primary dwellings

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 1 2016

The Advisory Planning Commission (APC) recently discussed whether changes should be made to allow tiny homes, RVs, and travel trailers to be used as permanent dwellings on lots which do not already have a primary dwelling.

Currently regulations only allow RVs and trailers to be used while a primary dwelling is being constructed (a building permit from the Regional District of Nanaimo is required).

Tiny homes, a growing phenomenon in North America, are homes less than 300 square feet in size typically built on some kind of trailer so they can be legally towed on highways.

APC member Bob Andrew said he agreed with those who answered the Housing Survey saying that there should be regulations preventing the tiny homes et al being used as Short Term Vacation Rentals (STVRs).

He cautioned though that, “if you impose lots of regulations, it’s not going to happen. There has to be a balance - find ways to regulate it without making it impossible to fulfill all the regulations.

“I like the part of proving potable water, I think it would be good to indicate we need to allow for cisterns being a primary source of water.”

APC member Jim Prunty said he was surpised at how much support there was from the respondents and his fellow APC members.

“I felt strongly against it. I think there’s good reasons the people in the past came up with a two-year maximum period. To have something to live in while you’re building, with extensions. 

“At least you’re controlling it, and can cut off the extensions. But this, I see it as a can of worms.”

He added that RVs and other portable dwellings, “are a building that will deteriorate rapidly.”

APC Chair Madeline Ani said the proposed change recognizes that not everyone can afford to build a home.

Prunty said, “I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to put these on a property. I think the neighbours will be up in arms to have these plopped around.”

Andrew said, “I don’t think you’ll have more than a few. I lived in a 250 square foot building for two years, and it is still there. The person who has it still cared for it. It is an impossible thing to regulate - how do you enforce someone taking care of a property.

“My hopes are ...people would build what they can take care of. The RVs I have more trouble with it, but the tiny homes I like.”

Prunty asked if tiny homes are subject to building regulations. Planner Sonja Zupanec said there would need to be a way to craft regulations as currently building code regulations don’t apply to tiny homes which are on a wheeled chassis - which also don’t carry the same safety ratings a standard RV would have.

APC member Kees Langereis said some of the opposition to tiny homes/RVs/trailers is the issue with regulating esthetics.

Zupanec said esthetics can’t be regulated in residential zones. “The option is to restrict them [RVs et al] to larger lots with less density.”

APC member Anne Landry asked if the reason for allowing an expansion of the RVs et al regulations is for affordability, “how do you then ask someone to buy a five acre lot?”

Prunty said he appreciates wanting to make homes more affordable, “but I think this may cause the trustees a lot of grief.”

Langereis said, “rural character means that there are going to be places that are run down [and ones which are not]. We need to move away from the aspect of the aesthetics.”