Cambridge Bay to build tiny homes with northern spin

The homes will serve as transitional homes for whoever needs them — the idea is they could be starter homes for young people. 

The small houses will serve as transitional housing

Marla Limousin, chief administrative officer of Cambridge Bay, stands with Harry Maksagak, who's also involved in the project, at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the tiny homes project. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

Cambridge Bay is turning to tiny homes to solve some of the community's housing problems. 

The homes will serve as transitional homes for whoever needs them — the idea is that they could be starter homes for young people, for elders, or people in need. 

Marla Limousin, the Nunavut hamlet's chief administrative officer, says when youth leave for college or university outside the community, they want to come back, but don't want to return to their parents' overcrowded homes. 

The issue was raised as part of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Council, which also suggested tiny homes as a potential solution. 

The community has a population just shy of 2,000 people. It has 297 public housing units and a waitlist 140 families long for those units.

It certainly is a start in alleviating the pressure that is there right now with overcrowding.-Harry Maksagak, steering committee

The small homes could also be used as "granny suites" for elders to live independently, but close to their families, Limonsin said. Or they could serve as a stepping stone out of the community's homeless and women's shelter. 

"A woman leaves a violent relationship, ends up in a shelter and then what happens? She ends up having to go back because there's nowhere else to go. But this would afford her options of living independently again," Limousin said. 

The hamlet has allocated an area in its land use plan for the tiny homes to be built. (Kate Kyle/CBC)

She says the plan is to rent some of the homes to fulfil the community's social welfare needs, but also offer the option to buy, so young families could get a secure foothold, then sell it off as their family and housing needs grow. 

Cultural, environmentally-friendly design 

Harry Maksagak is on Cambridge Bay's steering committee and involved in the project. He sees the tiny homes as a way to fill in gaps that the Nunavut Housing Corporation doesn't have the money to. 

"It is not the end-all be-all, but it certainly is a start in alleviating the pressure that is there right now with overcrowding,"  Maksagak said. 

The homes, which will be around 520 square feet, will be organized in a neighbourhood called Qaqqig, which means a communal gathering space. The hamlet council has allocated land for the neighbourhood. 

"What we want to do is create a space that becomes a home for people and a neighborhood that becomes a safe place for people to interact and grow together," Limousin said. 

A tiny home in P.E.I. that took four months to build. The hamlet of Cambridge Bay hasn't decided what shape its tiny homes will take. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

They're still deciding what shape the homes will take. 

Limonsin says elders like the round igloo shape, but others say that could make it difficult to incorporate modern design and appliances. 

Right now, they're looking at a 12-sided "almost round" design from a First Nation in British Columbia. 

Limousin said she's working with an expert at Polar Knowledge Canada in Cambridge Bay to incorporate green energy (solar or wind) into the designs, as well as water recycling systems that use grey water. Money for the design is coming from a grant from the federal government.

Limousin expects the first home to be built next year and future homes will be built by people in the community looking to learn a trade.

Written by Sara Frizzell, based on reporting by Jordan Konek