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Big vision using tiny homes to address housing shortfall

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As municipalities across Simcoe County and beyond try to address what many leaders are calling a cost of living crisis, one local town is looking to take a 'bold' step forward.

Midland's mayor says his town is ready to take a major step to address the worsening housing crisis.

During a recent Midland council meeting, a proposal came forward from the chair of the North Simcoe chapter of Habitat for Humanity, relying on tiny homes to meet the need.

While many projects have used smaller homes in more of a modular sense, this idea would see multiple aesthetically pleasing tiny houses built on one lot.

"We still need high-rises, we still need multiple complexes, we need housing everywhere, anywhere," said Cate Root of Habitat for Humanity. "But this could maybe fit into small neighbourhoods, and so that's why we're hoping that this particular pilot might show that this is possible and sustainable."

Still in its early stages, the proposal would see homes of approximately 400-square-feet, featuring a sitting area, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom large enough for a queen-sized bed.

Root says the idea has been in the works for about the last year since a Vital Signs report pointed to high living costs, with many rents in the North Simcoe community going for approximately $1,800 a month.

"Our initial thought is these are for low-wage earners, so people starting out or moving to the area," Root says.

The idea has caught the attention of Mayor Bill Gordon, who calls it bold in scope. However, Gordon says the location, which has yet to be determined, will prove critical in any success the pilot project may achieve.

"The location we need to pick for this pilot is going to be very important," Gordon says. "There are areas in our community where this would make sense, and there are areas where it clearly wouldn't, where people just aren't ready for that yet."

If approved, council would have to make multiple changes at the municipal level including some potential changes to zoning bylaws. Currently, a maximum of three units is permitted on any given property. However, this plan calls for at least four units and potentially more.

Gordon says the developer would also look for forgiveness on development charges and some taxes.

"They are not shipping container homes because that has a very different look," said Gordon. "So these are actually small, prefab homes that sit on a slab, and they are very attractive."

The Town is looking at potential properties it could put up for surplus, which could be used to get this proposal into a pilot project stage.

Root, who herself served as a councillor in nearby Tiny, is the lead for the local Habitat for Humanity Chapter. However, before this project becomes part of the organization's mandate, specific funding requirements must be met, and the Habitat for Humanity Board must vote in favour.

If there is interest from the rest of council, Gordon hopes to complete all necessary approvals by this fall.

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