Tiny homes' popularity surging while municipal bylaws lag

Tiny Homes are taking off in popularity with people across the country joining the miniature movement but mini homebuilders in Manitoba say municipal bylaws haven’t caught up with the craze.

Winnipeg bylaws prohibit people from living in tiny homes full time

Anita Munn inspects the handywork in one of the tiny bathrooms built by her and her partner, Darrell Manuliak. (CBC)

Tiny Homes are taking off in popularity with people across the country joining the miniature movement but homebuilders in Manitoba say municipal bylaws haven't caught up with the craze.

Darrell Manuliak, who owns Mini Homes of Manitoba with his wife Anita Munn, said they have sold five of the tiny dwellings in their first year of business in the province. They already have a wait list for 2017.

"When the average price of homes is over $200,000, affordable housing isn't available, so we're providing that service to people," Manuliak said.

Darrell Manuliak is a co-owner of Mini Homes of Manitoba. (CBC)
The largest home they've build is only 320-square-feet but the little buildings can be connected to water and electrical outlets the same as a camper. Unlike seasonal vehicles, the tiny homes are made to withstand Canadian winters.

The problem is, the diminutive dwellings are built on wheels and Winnipeg, as well as other cities across Canada, considers them motorhomes and prohibit people from living in them full time.

"I think we're behind the times," Munn said.

"I think when we see other provinces — Ottawa does the lane houses, Calgary is looking into putting a mini home community — I mean these are all things that people are realizing that it's not a fad anymore."

There is no way to know exactly how many people live in the petite pads across the country but Tiny House Listings Canada estimates there are thousands from British Columbia to Nova Scotia.

"We're finding that Ontario is really ahead of the game, B.C. is sort of catching up and the rest of them are navigating how to make it legal while following the Canada building code," said Natalie Brake, marketing manager for Tiny House Listings Canada.

Mini Homes of Manitoba (CBC)
Brake added that even though the tiny house movement has been around for years, municipalities still haven't figured out how to tax the smaller structures fairly.

"Whether they sort of realize it or not, it's not going to go anywhere," she said. "At a certain point the movement is going to sort of demand that the local municipalities do take it seriously."

Manuliak and Munn have been pushing the City of Winnipeg to amend bylaws and said there's been interest from some councillors, but so far nothing has changed.

With files from Caroline Barghout


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