Take a look inside Fort McMurray's 1st tiny home

Mackenzie Zimmer’s home is easy to miss, or mistake for a shed, which many have done. It’s a 227 square foot tiny home; the first of its kind in Fort McMurray.

Owner says multiple people have confused his home with his neighbour's shed

Mackenzie Zimmer finally moved into his tiny home five years after his home was destroyed in the Horse River wildfire. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Mackenzie Zimmer's home is easy to miss, or mistake for a shed, which many have done.

It's a 227-square-foot tiny home —the first of its kind in Fort McMurray. 

Zimmer lost his previous home in the 2016 Horse River wildfire. He said he couldn't rebuild right away because he was under-insured. He spent years trying to figure out a housing situation that would suit his needs.

He had four housing deals fall through before he finally found Teacup Tiny Homes. 

The company builds custom tiny homes and Zimmer thought it to be a good fit. It took almost two years to design, get the permits, put the home on his property and hook up to the municipal services. 

He said the home needed to be designed for the same permits as a mobile home. 

Now he's getting ready to paint his siding, grade the yard, put in a driveway and build a fence. 

"It was definitely a marathon," said Zimmer. "To actually be back here in my old neighbourhood, it was totally worth it."

Zimmer lives in Ptarmigan Court, built on one of the municipality's flood plains. Ptarmigan was one of the areas most affected by the 2020 spring flooding in Fort McMurray. 

Above Zimmer's computer is a guest loft. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is currently offering buyouts to homeowners who live in Ptarmigan Court.

There are 69 properties in the area, and 48 owners are opting for buyouts, according to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo spokesperson Greg Bennett.

But Zimmer said that option didn't make sense financially for him. 

"I would've got undervalued… I was losing money by moving." 

He also said he wants to stay in the area. 

"I don't go home to roommates or a messy kitchen. It's my own mess," said Zimmer. "Just the thought of being able to get a dog again in the future… and just come relax in my own space. Nothing is going to take that feeling away." 

Zimmer said his home isn't built quite to the 1-in-100-year flood level, but he feels safe because he built the home higher than ground level. 

"I feel like I made the smart choice by putting it up higher," said Zimmer. 

The 227-square-foot home has a full kitchen, loft bed and shelving. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

In an email, Bennett said the build was delayed because Teacup Tiny Homes needed to have the CSA label, which is a mobile home inspection certification. 

Jennifer McCarthy, owner of Teacup Tiny Homes, said Zimmer's home was a first for the company. Many tiny homes don't have the CSA certification, because they are on wheels or trailers. But Zimmer's was a foundational tiny home.

"It was a huge undertaking for a very tiny home," said McCarthy. "It was so worth it. He's so happy in there." 

She said the company is much better prepared to build a tiny home for people in Fort McMurray, because they've already done it. 

"The day he moved in … I think I had a tear or two for him. It was a long process and it was certainly worth it," said McCarthy. 

Zimmer said he's already had another person approach him, interested in building their own tiny home. He said he feels now the process should be easier for others. 

Zimmer says now he has to paint the siding, grade the yard and build a fence. (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)