Tiny houses designed for Saskatchewan winters

A builder of tiny houses in Regina takes CBC News on a tour of the Dragonfly.

Builders say there's a growing market for people who want to live mortgage-free

It's not your average home — it's actually about one-tenth the size, and with the tiny space comes a tiny price.

John Robinson, co-owner of a home design company in Regina, took CBC News on a tour of the Dragonfly, a tiny 160-square-foot home on wheels. It's a type of house that's growing in popularity as people move away from lengthy, 25 year mortgages and property taxes.

In August, the Dragonfly is heading to Colorado Springs for a tiny house jamboree — a tradeshow packed with thousands of frugal home buyers looking for the next roof over their heads.

"People are lining up to buy these because they don't want to tie money up in real estate. They want to go on holidays. They don't want to spend their weekends cutting the grass or painting their house. We're talking about a very free lifestyle." Robinson said.

The Dragonfly might seem like a tight squeeze, but a few purposeful designs meant to draw in more natural light help widen the space, even if it's just a mind trick.

"Light is really important, and that's why we have two skylights and seven windows in 160 square feet," Robinson said, adding it's not often a one-bedroom living space comes with two skylights. "[They] create a sense of openness in the tiny structure and they make a huge difference."

Every inch is considered when installing cabinets, closets and countertops to maximize storage and living space, he said. It comes equipped with 30-inch cabinets and closets, deep countertops, a gas range and a three-piece bathroom.

Dragonfly stands up to Saskatchewan winters

Robinson said that despite its size, the small structure is built for sustaining Saskatchewan's bitterly cold winters.

"We have what's called a boat heater and it's a gas fireplace," measuring about three inches by three inches, according to Robinson. "That little boat heater will heat this thing up easily when it's 40 below."

As for parking, it's technically a mobile home and Robinson has been speaking with a developer about land overlooking the Qu'Appelle Valley, 32 kilometres east of Regina.

"They're envisioning a small community, almost like a resort, but for full-time living," he said, adding that the developer would provide services like laundry, storage and a communal building for events. But the site would be exclusively for tiny houses, "not for RVs of various vintage – it would need to retain an esthetic and pride of ownership among the residents, to protect people's investment."

Growing market for tiny houses

Robinson said another market for tiny houses is people who are building cabins or people with lake-front properties. For those with properties, he said the tiny home can function as a guest house.

Another market is those people who want a place to call their own, but don't like to be tied down, he said.

The Dragonfly costs $75,000. That's far less than what the average home in Canada sells for: a recent survey from the Canadian Real Estate Association reported the average home price shot up 16 per cent to over $500,000.


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