A new generation of Nova Scotian entrepreneurs are providing an alternative to homebuyers not interested in purchasing a traditional house.

“I think there is a real market for Tiny Houses because there are so many different applications for them,” said Matthew Willox, owner of Howling Dog Construction.

“They can be totally customized to a client’s needs and wants. They can be totally self-contained. They are perfect for renting out as short or long term accommodation. I think they will be around for while as people are still finding new uses for them.”

Willox is one of a number of Nova Scotian entrepreneurs looking to satisfy an emerging desire for Tiny Houses. These homes usually cost between $20,000 and $50,000.

“I think people love the idea of having everything you need in a cozy and comfortable space that doesn’t cost a fortune, to run or to buy,” said Willox. “Some are looking to downsize from their large regular house, some just want a summer cottage that they can move around if they want to.”

The Tiny Houses movement started in the late 1990s as an idea but picked up momentum during the financial crisis of 2008. One per cent of all homebuyers now purchase a home of 93 square metres or less.

“Most people by now have heard of Tiny Houses and seen them on TV, but they all have many questions and are eager to talk about them,” said Willox.

Originally from New Zealand, the Cape Breton-based entrepreneur opened his business two-and-a-half years ago focused on quality renovations and carpentry work.

“I started out doing general renovations, like bathrooms and basements but when an opportunity came up to build a Tiny House I got really excited about it and thought that it would be a unique and challenging project to work on,” said Willox.

Many people are curious, he added.

“Right from the start there has been incredible interest in the work I was doing on the Tiny House,” said Willox. “Many people would stop by to have a look and ask questions. I am currently working on my second one, which will keep me busy for another four months or so, and am hoping to continue with more after that. These tiny homes are very customized to specific clients but there seems to be a lot of people interested in setting up tiny house villages to rent out, and they need someone to build them, this would mean coming up with a design that could be readily and economically replicated.”

Opened in 2013, Lunenburg-based Full Moon Tiny Shelters construct buildings under 18.5 square metres.

“We have had a lot of interest right from the start,” said Dawn Higgins, partner at Full Moon Tiny Shelters. “We have been building steadily for over two years and are always working with one or two upcoming clients, in the design phase.”

Media exposure and a desire for change is fueling the interest, Higgins added.

“I feel many people are interested in downsizing and living simpler, less complicated lives,” she said. “People are also increasingly interested in economic freedom and increased adaptability.”

Higgins called on government to create rules that understand the Tiny Houses trend.

“Right now they are fantastic, mobile solutions when you need a get-away place, a guest house, an auxiliary space,” she said. “We have built most of ours as four-season shelters so that they can be used year-round in Canada. We hope that one-day regulations will change enabling tiny shelters to be viable housing options. They are potentially a smart solution for an aging demographic, for students, and for people financially unable to access expensive real-estate markets, as well as for municipalities wanting to up density in geographically limited areas.”

Originally published by:
March 21, 2016
The Chronicle Herald