Tiny houses and shipping container homes could be added to Barrie’s landscape in order to create more affordable housing throughout the city.

Representatives from a city task force investigating affordable housing options presented suggestions to Barrie general committee Monday.

Staff is expected to bring a report for council to consider this fall.

“Some of these are quite a leap for Barrie,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman.

Some of the housing options presented to committee include small lot single homes, stacked townhouses, multi-unit houses and container homes.

They would have no landscaping requirements and would restrict parking to one space per unit, according to the presentation.

The task force also proposed one-storey units would have maximum sizes: 56 square metres for studio or one-bedroom units in a one-storey development, with 19 square metres for each additional bedroom; and 65 square metres for a studio or one-bedroom unit in a multi-storey development, with 19 square metres for each extra bedroom.

The idea is to build a range of homes costing $115,000 to $140,000 throughout the city, with many in the downtown area where the most intensification is happening, said Merwan Kalyaniwalla, the Barrie’s planning policy manager.

There is a wait list of 3,000 people “in greatest need of affordable housing” here, he added.

“It’s not just in Barrie. Affordable housing is a growing need across the province.”

Ward 8 Coun. Arif Khan pointed to “Tiny House” TV shows when asking staff whether these homes would also be options for “eco warriors … who truly want a smaller eco footprint in life.”

Although anyone could look into these types of homes – affordable or “more affordable” – they are geared to low-income residents, said Kalyaniwalla.

The proposed prices for the homes range so much because of a varying definition of affordable housing.

The city considers it to be for households that earn $30,000 or less a year, he said.

According to the province, it refers to accommodation costs that do not exceed 30 per cent of gross annual household income. The County of Simcoe defines it as housing for which the purchase price is at least 10 per cent below the average cost of a resale unit in the market area.

In these terms, affordable housing could still cost more than $300,000, said planner Kris Menzies, a member of the task force.

The city has a goal of creating 840 affordable housing units over 10 years, and these proposed homes would be offered in a range of prices to accommodate what is “affordable or more affordable,” she said.

The container houses would be priced as the cheapest option, and it would be difficult to build homes for $115,000 otherwise without government intervention or philanthropic opportunities, she said.

A couple Barrie residents shared their concerns with committee about proposed reduced setbacks, including childrens’ safety and where ploughed snow will go when there is limited room for it between homes and streets.

“I played on the streets growing up in Toronto. I dodged cars. You want them dodging the cars?” asked resident Ron Miller.

Kalyaniwalla also added staff are considering several issues, including snow storage.

Another resident Malcolm Hachborn expressed concern about how container housing would fit in with the rest of the city’s architecture.

“Let’s not change the character of Barrie just to be like Toronto or Taiwan. We don’t need 1,000 people per … acre,” he said. “Let’s let Toronto experiment.”

June 21, 2016
Jenni Dunning – Barrie Advance