Nova Scotia

Why tiny homes could become a big thing in Nova Scotia

Designed for weekend retreats, summer getaways or even full-time living, more and more Nova Scotians are embracing the tiny home movement.

Environmental and cost considerations are leading people to move into homes 250 square feet in size

This dwelling by Full Moon Tiny Shelters is fully insulated for four-season living. (James Constable)

The houses may be tiny, but the interest in them is huge.

Designed for weekend retreats, summer getaways or even full-time living, more and more Nova Scotians are embracing the tiny home movement.

Jennifer Constable is a pro at tiny living. For six years, she and her husband raised their two kids on a boat in Bermuda. Today, they live in Mahone Bay, N.S. — and they're not just living small, they're helping others do the same.

The couple runs Full Moon Tiny Shelters, a business that builds custom homes less than 250 square feet in size.

"Whether it's being more clever with space, whether's it's realizing how little space you really need, whether it's having to go through all your things and decide what's important, everyone who we've built one for has said it's actually opened up positive aspects of their life that they weren't necessarily expecting," she said.

James and Jennifer Constable run Full Moon Tiny Shelters, which is based in Mahone Bay, N.S. (Felicia Latour/CBC)

Tiny homes and minimalism in general have been on the rise for some time. That could be because of shows like Tiny House Hunters or Tiny House, Big Living, but people's views of the environment are also changing.

Carrie Thornhill, who started a Meetup group for tiny home enthusiasts in Nova Scotia that now has 1,400 members, said there are two demographics attracted to living in tiny homes.

"Retirees who want to downsize and possibly get back to their hippie roots and live a little bit closer to the land. And … young people just starting out, who maybe find the housing market a little bit too expensive to get into," she said.

How much does a tiny home cost?

A tiny home will cost anywhere from $60,000 to $120,000. But if you build it yourself, it could cost as little as $30,000.

Besides the low cost, other benefits of tiny homes include their smaller carbon footprint. Since many are built on wheels, their mobility is another asset.

"Disaster and issues of weather and changing economics or changing communities, you have the ability just to take your home and move it to a more favourable location, very, very easily," said Carey Rolfe, a designer and builder for Underway Tiny EcoHomes in Newport, N.S.

Downsides to tiny home living

Tiny homes aren't for everyone. Studies have shown if a family starts growing, that can lead to overcrowding and stress.

Another consideration is climate. Rolfe said tiny homes are popular in places like California and Texas for a reason.

"Part of the problem is that everybody's been watching the tiny home shows, which come from southern, warmer climates. And so the costs of building insulation and air tightness into those tiny homes is a lot less, so there's a skewed perception that tiny homes are cheap," he said.

In Nova Scotia, it's technically illegal for the most part to live in the tiny homes on wheels because as moveable structures, they don't fall under the building code. Instead, they're classified as RVs. Most municipalities prohibit people from living in RVs, or RV-like structures year-round.

One exception is Yarmouth, which includes tiny homes as a housing option within its municipal boundaries.

Tiny homes offer a reduced carbon footprint compared to a traditional home. (CBC)

There's hope that building codes will be updated across the country to allow for tiny homes.

"As our perceptions change and as tiny homes gain legitimacy within the regulations, especially when we see tiny homes written into the building code in the near future, I think people's ideas are going to change and I think it's going to become more of a possibility," said Rolfe.

"I don't think it's a question of if, but I think it's a question of when."

With files from Felicia Latour