Nfld. & Labrador

Bylaw puts the brakes on plan for tiny home in Torbay

A couple is having trouble finding a town near St. John's to accept their tiny home, rejected because it doesn't meet minimum size regulations for dwellings.

Houses less than 860 square feet not allowed in the Newfoundland town

It's only 360 square feet, but this tiny home has everything its owners want. (Submitted by Jess Puddister)

It might be small, but it has everything Jess Puddister and Tim Ward want and need — except a place to roll out the welcome mat. 

The Newfoundland couple has been told their tiny home is too small for the town they want to live in.

The pair spends evenings and weekends working on their 30-by-8.5-foot home, which sits on a trailer and can be towed to a permanent location once completed.

Jess Puddister sits in what will be the guest loft of her new home. (Submitted by Jess Puddister)

It has enough space for a living room with a sectional couch, standard bathroom and a kitchen larger than Puddister enjoys in her current apartment. 

"And from the ground up it's 13-and-a-half feet tall, so it's quite tall when you get inside, and there's two loft spaces, so we'll actually have room for guests."

With the lofts included, that's a grand total of 360 square feet of living space. 

Tiny homes have been growing in popularity across Canada in recent years for their affordability and energy efficiency.

It's a perfect fit for the couple's lifestyle, and once completed they want to tow it to a piece of land where they can grow vegetables and have enough space for some hens and a goat. 

Puddister said they have identified a couple of lots that fit the bill in Torbay — a town about 15 kilometres from downtown St. John's — but there's one problem.

The couple considered buying a trailer, but wanted a home that would fit with the local architecture and could also be designed to match their lifestyle. (Paula Gale/CBC)

According to a town bylaw, a house needs to be at least 80 square metres, which translates to 860 square feet, more than double the size of their tiny home.

It's a bylaw in nearby Pouch Cove and Flatrock as well, two of the other communities they considered when looking for a spot to settle down.

"Most people don't know the law exists," said Puddister.

"My understanding is, it is to prevent people from renting out their sheds, or to prevent landlords from building really tiny homes years ago to make money from tenants unfairly."

New territory for Torbay

Torbay Mayor Craig Scott said this is the first tiny home proposal his town has ever received, and Puddister and Ward recently put together a presentation for council to plead their case.

"[It] was very informative and kind of goes into how people want to be more sustainable on their own property, so they're talking about doing their own farm and making their own food … I think that's a good thing," he told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Construction began in a warehouse. Then the structure was towed to an outside location. (Submitted by Jess Puddister)

Scott said the town's planning committee is now researching what other municipalities across the country are doing when it comes to accommodating tiny homes.

He said council will also have to take into consideration what repercussions there could be if the regulation is changed to allow the smaller structure.

"For instance, you're allowed to build an accessory building up to the size of your dwelling, depending on the size of your lot, so if someone built a tiny home they couldn't build a shed bigger than that."

Torbay is a picturesque community with a growing population due to its close proximity to St. John's. (Town of Torbay website)

Making sure the house fits in with its surroundings is another consideration.

"I'm sure that Jess and her partner want to be able to fit in as well," Scott said. "They don't want to be planked down in the middle of a subdivision, so those are all the kind of issues that we're going to have to look at." 

If council agrees, it would take six to eight weeks to change the regulation to allow the tiny home.

"We're hoping by the spring it will be all said and done, and we can really get to work on finding a home for our home," said Puddister.

With files from the St. John's Morning Show