It might be called a tiny home, but getting this humble abode off the ground has been no small feat for Nayem Baig.
He lives in Grimsby, but has invested in real estate across the Niagara region, including a house in Niagara-on-the-Lake where he’s spent the past several weeks building a 60-square-metre dwelling he’s planning to sell.
Baig is among many in Canada becoming more interested in the “tiny living” concept, which for its fans provides the chance to live a simpler life and an affordable living option in a pricey housing market.
“My actual home where I live is quite small,” Baig said. “I believe in that minimalist life and that less is more.”
While building the house has been a labour-intensive process, Baig faced a bigger hurdle in this project: finding this house a home in Niagara.
Baig’s Niagara-on-the-Lake property is in an agricultural area, so he’s not allowed to leave it there.
However, he said there are lots of rules around where you can and cannot put a tiny home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, as well as limited options for what their use can be: “It’s the least proactive of all the towns that I have dealt with.”
The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s staff did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication. In April, council voted in favour of moving to legalize secondary suites in town, which they would allow to be used as long-term rental units.
As housing affordability continues as a regional issue, these tiny homes, Baig says, could open up the market for potential first-time homeowners.
“It’s just impossible for anybody to buy a house,” he said. “The only people buying are investors and people with equity.”
He said he acknowledges investors like him are part of the reason homes in Niagara have become unaffordable for some, but hopes projects like this will help cool the market.
“Even though I’m part of the problem, I’m also part of the solution,” he said.
According to the province, a tiny home is a self-contained dwelling unit no smaller than 17.5 square metres (188 square feet), built to Ontario Building Code standards. It’s used year-round and has living, dining, and sleeping areas, and kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Baig’s home has the basic amenities of a home, including a kitchen with all the appliances, a bathroom, and an upstairs area with a bed. He plans to sell it for approximately $120,000, then build another one to sell for $70,000.
With Niagara-on-the-Lake off the table, Baig is taking the on-wheels home to Lincoln, where he says the town has been more “receptive” to the tiny.
Under Lincoln’s current zoning bylaws, there is no minimum dwelling size required, a recent change which now allows tiny homes to be built.
“Different people have different market entry needs,” wrote Matt Bruder, Lincoln’s director of planning and development via email. “We are trying to accommodate more forms of housing.”
However, this is all subject to the town’s official plan and the zoning requirements for a property, as well as whether the house is used as a principal dwelling or a secondary suite.
“To put it simply, it would depend on the site layout design details,” Bruder wrote.
In Baig’s case, he’s planning to sell the home to operate as someone’s secondary suite: buying land in Lincoln for a home this small, with today’s high prices, didn’t make sense to him, economically.
Still, Baig wants to see more municipalities in Niagara, including Niagara-on-the-Lake, open up its rules.
“I’m part of a bunch of tiny house interest groups … that pool of people is constantly growing,” he said. “I think that idea is catching up with a lot of people.”
CORRECTION: Sept. 9, 2022: This article has been edited from a previously published version to correct the minimum size requirements information. According to the Ontario Building Code homes must be at least 17.5 square metres (188 square feet), not 57 square metres.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: When our reporter Zahraa Hmood heard about this man building a tiny home in Niagara-on-the-Lake, she wanted to learn why — and unpack the issues he’s faced trying to find this house a home.