Tiny homes, tremendous opportunity? Stephenville hopes so

The Newfoundland town is banking on a tiny trend to grow the community, and is changing its bylaws to permit a subdivision with homes as small as 387 square feet.

Bylaw amended to allow single dwellings as small as 387 square feet

The tiny home on the right is the first model that will be built by a developer in the new Stephenville subdivision. (Submitted by Sean Hickey)

The town of Stephenville on the west coast of Newfoundland is banking on a tiny trend to grow the community.

It's amending a bylaw to shrink the minimum dwelling size to make way for a subdivision of small — very small — homes.

Mayor Tom Rose said the town was approached by a developer interested in capitalizing on the growing popularity of tiny homes, and council members decided to seize the opportunity.

"They are affordable, they're trending, and this town is pro-development, we're open for business," said Rose.

A bylaw that requires single dwellings to be at least 750 square feet was amended with the full support of council in November 2017, to allow for homes as small as 387 square feet. 

The layout for the tiny home subdivision in Stephenville. Developer Sean Hickey plans to break ground in the spring. (Submitted by Sean Hickey)

It's something other communities will likely face if the trend of tiny homes continues to grow.

The town of Torbay, almost 800 kilometres away on the Avalon Peninsula, is currently grappling with bylaw issues after getting its first tiny home proposal.

You don't always get the full loaf of bread, but sometimes you get the bun, I'm good with that.- Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose

Developer Sean Hickey has been working with the Stephenville town council since his proposal for the tiny-home subdivision was approved in principle a year ago.  

He is now selling 15 tiny-home lots measuring 25 by 100 feet on a piece of land he owns on Brook Street, in the west end of Stephenville.

Hickey has already sold three lots, and is planning to build two tiny homes himself, with an asking price of $80,000 to $90,000.  

The site for the tiny home subdivision on Brook Street. (Mike Campbell)

"I've been approached by two people that have a big home, but they spend the winters in Florida. They have a summer cottage but they would just like to have a little tiny place here, a home base, you know," said Hickey.

"They're waiting to see one of the finished products."

Smaller house, lower costs

When the square footage drops, so does the cost of living.

The mayor hopes the development will appeal not only to snowbirds, but to first-time home buyers and people looking to downsize.

"Even millennials out there, now they're a different breed, I think millennials will look at tiny homes," said Rose.

"You're going to have a lower mortgage, property tax, heating bill, so you look at all those factors."

This tiny home in progress proposed for Torbay sits on a trailer, but Hickey says the homes in his Stephenville subdivision will all be fixed-base, allowing for the inclusion of a basement if desired. (Submitted by Jess Puddister)

A lower property tax for the owners of tiny homes means lower revenues for the town, but Rose isn't concerned.

"You don't always get the full loaf of bread, but sometimes you get the bun. I'm good with that," he said.

"I just want to look at how we can capitalize on growing the community, so if we ended up with 100 tiny homes I know the property tax is going to be smaller, but it's still going to be a property tax and we're still going to have residents buying goods and services."

Hickey is planning to break ground on the first tiny home in the spring, and hopes to have it completed by the end of June. 

With files from the Corner Brook and St. John's Morning Shows