Nova Scotia

CBRM survey finds majority support mobile homes in urban centres

A Statistics Canada survey done for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has found what the municipal planner calls a surprising level of support for mobile homes in CBRM's major urban centres.

Wide-ranging StatsCan survey also touches on backyard livestock, unique uses for shipping containers

CBRM planner Malcolm Gillis says there's a big demand for mobile homes in urban centres, where they are currently banned under the municipality's rules. (CBC)

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality could be a step closer to allowing mobile homes on urban residential properties.

A wide-ranging survey by Statistics Canada found 80 per cent of residents surveyed would be OK with mobile homes in their neighbourhood, with an equal number saying they'd even welcome a mobile home on their neighbour's property.

Mobile homes — also called modular homes, mini-homes or trailer homes — are not permitted in the major urban centres under the CBRM's planning strategy or land-use bylaw.

"They are banned in Sydney," said Malcolm Gillis, CBRM planner. "They are banned in Glace Bay. They are banned in North Sydney. They are banned in New Waterford.

"So when you add all that up, where everyone lives is most of the places they can't put a mobile home."

And yet, Gillis said there seems to be strong public demand for the compact dwellings.

He said CBRM's development officers "have to say no to more people asking, 'Can I have a permit to place a mobile home at this location?' than any other question that they're asked."

Mobile homes shedding stigma 

Gillis said there has been a stigma attached to mobile homes in the past, but they are now built to meet standards in the National Building Code of Canada.

Coun. Kendra Coombes, whose district includes New Waterford, said she would support allowing mobile homes if constituents agree.

Coun. Kendra Coombes says no decisions were made in camera and constituents are now asking a lot of questions that can't be answered, which confuses the public and council members. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

"So I want to bring it out to the public where we have our community meetings and the public can express their concerns."

She said mobile homes could be an affordable option for people that would increase the urban tax base and help pay for water and sewer.

Coun. Clarence Prince, whose district includes Sydney Mines, said mobile homes are allowed in parts of that community and he doesn't receive any complaints from residents.

There's no evidence they reduce property values, Prince said.

The survey's results support an initiative by planning staff to start allowing mobile homes in CBRM's urban centres, Gillis said.

Staff are currently drafting changes to the planning strategy and land-use bylaw, which will go to council and the public before they are finalized.

The survey also included demographics such as age, gender and household income. It asked opinion questions on transportation, development, infrastructure and libraries.

Statistics Canada sent letters to 1,800 homes in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in May alerting residents to a phone survey being conducted for the municipality's planning department. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Gillis said residents were split on whether they would allow large, steel shipping containers to be used as accessory storage buildings in residential neighbourhoods.

However, he said, there isn't much demand for that.

Where should livestock be permitted?

A slight majority said it was OK with the controversial idea of livestock being kept on residential properties outside Sydney.

A committee is currently helping the municipality draft new rules and has come up with a working title for what is expected to be the Responsible Animal Husbandry bylaw.

"They haven't agreed on everything yet, but we've got a title that everyone's high-fiving each other with," said Gillis.

The survey would normally have cost the municipality "tens of thousands of dollars," he said, but it was conducted for free by Statistics Canada as a training exercise for agency staff.

Its target was to interview 1,800 CBRM residents and StatsCan was able to achieve a response rate of about 39 per cent.

The agency cautions in the survey's results that the data doesn't necessarily conform to its usual standards. But Gillis said the results are still helpful because the survey produced what StatsCan calls "usable data at an acceptable level of precision."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He has spent the last 17 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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