Nfld. & Labrador

After 2 years, couple sells tiny home without ever living in it

After two years of battling with the Town of Pouch Cove, Jess Puddister and Tim Ward have sold their home.

Jess Puddister and Tim Ward brought their tiny home to Pouch Cove in 2018

Tim Ward and and Jess Puddister brought their tiny home to Pouch Cove in 2018. (Jess Puddister/Facebook)

Jess Puddister and Tim Ward brought their tiny home to Pouch Cove in 2018, with the goal of starting a family and life in the community.

However after two years of battling with the town, they've sold their home — without ever living in it.

"For us, the most frustrating part of all this has been their unwillingness to work together with us on finding a solution," Puddister told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

The tiny home shell sits on wheels on the couple's land in Pouch Cove with space for a full kitchen, bathroom appliances and a loft large enough to accommodate a queen-sized bed. When the couple brought their home to Pouch Cove, the town told them their home was too small to meet their home regulations. 

"When we first brought our tiny house shell down to our property, it was under the understanding that their intention was to change regulations to allow us to live in our tiny home," Puddister said.

Tim and I have delayed starting a family because of all this. That's time we'll never get back.- Jess Puddister

"They had promised that publicly at council meetings ... and for whatever reason, it seemed just parking it on our property caused a really big problem for them."

This isn't the first time Puddister and Ward have had trouble with regulations. The couple previously tried to bring a tiny home to Torbay, but were told the same thing, that the home was too small.

According to current town bylaws, a house needs to be at least 80 square metres, or about 860 square feet. That's more than twice as big as the couple's tiny home.

Puddister said she and Ward tried to find different ways to work with the Town of Pouch Cove to address their concerns, but nothing seemed to work.

"Anyone else in this province parks an RV or a trailer, or any kind of mobile structure that they might have on their own property," she said. 

"I just didn't think that parking something on wheels on your own land was an issue."

Jess Puddister and Tim Ward's tiny home is a shell, with no furniture or appliances currently inside. (Jess Puddister/Facebook)

'We've done a whole lot of thinking about this'

Pouch Cove Mayor Joedy Wall says the town has looked into including smaller homes into future subdivisions in the community, but not about a "one-off" example like a tiny home.

"We've done a whole lot of thinking about this," Wall said.

The town submitted a proposal to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment to reduce the minimum house size regulations from 80 square metres to 50, or about 540 square feet. Wall said the proposal was submitted to the department seven months ago, but has yet to hear a response from government.

Meanwhile, in a statement to CBC, the department said a review of the proposal is underway, adding "it can take anywhere from six months to more than a year to complete the full review of new municipal plans and development regulations."

Joedy Wall is the mayor of Pouch Cove. He says the town has looked into incorporating smaller homes in the future. (CBC)

Moving communities forward

Puddister said she understands the importance of respecting the town's rules, but sees tiny homes as a way to move these regulations forward.

"That's kind of [why] we started all this. Going in to show the town why tiny homes are such a positive thing in communities. And how important it is to have diverse housing in a community," she said.

"Having people living in a neighbourhood who come from different backgrounds … who have different lifestyles. And how much growth that can spur on in a town. If this was a public perception problem, let's address that. But they refused all of those options. So it felt like they had taken that personally."

Gerard Lewis, a consultant working on issues of local governance, spent three decades working as a municipal administrator. He said communication between residents and council is integral to help things move forward in a community.

"It's a built-in, innate comfort feeling. We like to do that which we know we have done before," Lewis said. "And there is a reluctance to try something new. One thing I've always said to other people is you should take the attitude of not how we can say no, but how we can say yes, and look at ways of exploring options so we can move it forward."

Gerard Lewis spent three decades as a municipal administrator and says communication is important in helping things move forward in a community. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"People need to be listened to," Lewis added.

"It's not necessarily that they have to be told yes to everything — but let them understand the parameters under which you have to operate, the rationale why. If we turn people off, that exacerbates the situation."

The couple posted their tiny home for sale on Facebook, with a listed price of $22,000. The new owner of the tiny home plans to take it off the property in May. But the town of Pouch Cove thinks this isn't soon enough.

The town took the couple to court on Friday for violating an order to remove the tiny home immediately. The town would not comment on the case.

Puddister said it's another challenge they have to face.

"It can be very disempowering to wait so long and put your life on hold. Tim and I have delayed starting a family because of all this. That's time we'll never get back."

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Alex Kennedy


Alex Kennedy is a digital reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador based in Corner Brook. He previously worked with CBC N.L. in St. John's, and has a particular interest in stories about sports and interesting people.

With files from The St. John's Morning Show