Tiny home resolution endorsed at UBCM

The Union of BC Municipalities’ membership endorsed a resolution calling for changes to the BC Building Code to allow for tiny homes as permanent dwellings.

The resolution was one of 157 resolutions endorsed at UBCM’s September convention. Submitted by the Town of Oliver, the resolution calls for a review of the BC Building Code to recognize, allow and provide building requirements for tiny homes that would address barriers such as egress, headroom and window and door sizes. The resolution specifies that Part 9 of the BC Building Code should be amended to define tiny homes as allowable permanent dwellings to facilitate their construction in areas where local government’s official community plans and zoning bylaws allow them. The Regional District of Nanaimo also submitted a resolution on tiny homes, which called for a tiny home building standard to support their use as allowable permanent dwellings; however, it was not entered for debate as it was referred to the similar resolution submitted by Oliver.

“Owning a home in British Columbia is becoming increasingly unaffordable and tiny homes offer an affordable, quick to build and green alternative to standard housing,” the resolution states.

In 2021, RDN staff wrote a report outlining the legal considerations of tiny homes in the regional district. The report, a result of a motion from Electoral Area B Director Vanessa Craig for more information on the matter, noted one issue for adoption of tiny homes was advocacy for a specific building standard.

Whether or not local government zoning allows tiny homes on wheels, building codes, safety standards, homeownership and tenure models and servicing are often barriers to permitting them, the report says. Mortgage financing can also be a challenge for tiny home owners if the home isn’t on a permanent foundation.

In the absence of any specific building code, a number of local governments are using various tools to allow tiny homes as dwellings, the RDN’s research indicates. These include temporary use permits, developing guidelines and development permit areas specific to tiny homes, permitting permanent residential occupancy of recreational vehicles within RV parks and supporting the development of tiny house villages.

A 2021 BC Housing report on tiny homes suggests the building type could address “missing middle” housing choices between conventional single family homes and apartments or condominiums. The report writers encourage a number of actions such as including tiny homes in the provincial building code and in official community plans.

A resolution for Islands Trust, affordable housing support for rural areas, which calls for funding and support for rural local governments to implement affordable housing projects, was also endorsed.

The B.C. government submits its responses to UBCM-endorsed resolutions in the following year.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder