Small space, big impact: Tiny homes could soon be coming to Edmonton properties

The city is updating zoning bylaws to eliminate minimum size requirements for structures, clearing the way for tiny homes in Edmonton communities.

'It would bring life to an area that is usually not utilized'

The two-storey garden suite in Roslyn includes a two car garage and a 600-square-foot apartment on the upper level. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

The City of Edmonton is ready to turn over the keys to tiny homes to some Edmonton yards.

This week council's urban planning committee tabled a motion that would update zoning bylaws making way for tiny home additions in Edmonton communities. 

Garden suites up to 1400 square feet are already allowed in the city and Ashley Salvador with YEG Garden Suites said the city's plans to lift minimum size requirements will clear the way for tiny homes too. 

"Previously you'd have to have at least 30 square metres," Salvador said. "That has since been removed … some of the other changes were around allowing mobile home type garden suites to be dropped down in a backyard as a tiny home."

In a report to council, city administration recommended allowing tiny homes on foundations for now but delay zoning amendments for tiny homes on wheels until the province updates building codes to accommodate the unique structures.

Tiny homes, usually under 400 square feet, can already be built as single-detached homes or garden suites in the city as long as they're constructed onsite and meet building standards.

'Interest has just exploded'

4 years ago
Duration 1:10
Demand for affordable housing sparks interest in tiny 'garden homes' in Edmonton.

Salvador said the number of garden suites in the city has more than doubled over the last two years, jumping from 150 suites to around 350. She expects there will be high demand for tiny homes.

"I think that there is absolutely demand, it's just that our regulations haven't quite caught up to that demand to really allow that market to flourish," Salvador said.

The living spaces might be small but the investment is anything but — according to Salvador garden suites start at around $150,000.

YEG Garden Suite president Ashley Salvador is thrilled to see the growing interest in lane way housing in Edmonton. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

"There are conceptions that 'Oh, it's a smaller space' or 'It's just a backyard suite, it can't cost that much," she said. "You have to remember that you still need utilities. You still need electrical, plumbing … it literally is a house, so those costs do factor in."

German Antonio Gomez Decuir has designed and built a 600-square-foot garden suite just off the back alley of his Roslyn area home.

There were tenants interested in the space immediately, he said, but his neighbours weren't sold at first.

"They were a little bit afraid of it," Decuir said. "But once they saw it built they were like, 'Yeah, you did the right thing.' At the end of the day this is going to increase [their] property value as well."

Decuir said one of their neighbours who was not a fan of the build has become such a fan of the idea he asked Decuir to help him design a suite for his yard.

German Antonio Gomez Decuir designed a garden suite in the backyard of his Roslyn area home. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Decuir said tiny homes and garden suites are a way to provide quality rental spaces at a reasonable price. He and his partner rent their suite for about $1500 a month. He also thinks the suites help upgrade the spaces where they are located.

"In old neighbourhoods when you don't see [a lot] of aesthetics, especially in the lane way, they can bring something like a shine in the dark," Decuir said. "If you envision it this way and you picture a whole bunch of those in one lane way … I think that would be pretty cool. [It] would bring life to an area that is usually not utilized."

Coun. Mike Nickel previously raised concerns about the increased interest in tiny homes. He worried it is less about a cultural shift, and more about a lack of decent affordable housing in mature neighbourhoods.

"There gets to be a question around the quality of life as you chew this stuff up into smaller and smaller shoeboxes and try to fit people in there," he said.

"We're trying to chop up these pieces of property and intensify their use to improve the financials on the piece of property — it's the reasons why the suburbs exist, is because people could afford those products." 

To build multiple tiny homes on a single lot, the lot would have to be rezoned under the Row Housing Zone, which was approved by city council last week.

The homes would require a minimum of 2.4 metres of spacing and one parking spot per unit.


  • This story has been updated to better reflect German Antonio Gomez Decuir's role as a designer.
    Oct 04, 2019 12:48 PM MT