Tiny homes for 'lower-wage workers' explored at Midland council

Could affordable tiny homes be coming to Midland?

Well, council recently heard a deputation from Habitat for Humanity requesting assistance for a pilot affordable housing project that could see tiny homes for lower-wage workers on a lot-sized parcel in town.

The presentation by Cate Root, chair of the North Simcoe chapter of Habitat for Humanity, was based on a 2023 Vital Signs report from Huronia Community Foundation that looked at trends for the quality of life in local communities.

“Most of the rental housing starts at around $1,800,” said Root, citing last year’s Attainable Supply Action Plan project by the county.

“For that, you need an annual household income of $74,000. Through the Stats Canada census, we know that the median annual income for residents in North Simcoe is $38,500 – a far stretch from the $74,000.

“Our vision is to put approximately five-to-seven houses on a residential lot, pre-fabricated with efficient heat pump technology meeting all OVC standards, less than 400 square feet, one-bedroom accessible units, housing lower-waged workers," Root said.

"Habitat for Humanity of course shares our vision, and we’re working hard with them to make this a Habitat for Humanity project.”

Several concept slides were shown during the presentation showcasing possible configurations and blueprints for a municipal lot to accommodate the tiny homes, as Root explained that the project cost for each home was roughly $130,000 based on a quote from not-for-profit Community Builders.

To finance and maintain the units would total over $1.4 million, which would be offset by support from government and community, with potential grants and a mortgage.

What Root was asking for in the deputation was land for the project, as well as many municipal considerations for taxes, fees, a look at zoning and bylaws, and more.

Deputy Mayor Beth Prost thanked Root for the presentation, but cautioned: “The ask is far beyond what our council would be able to do at this time; it doesn’t mean we can’t look into it and have staff come up with something.”

Questions posed to Root by council members were responded to with the same reply that it was the donation of land by Midland that was the first step in the process.

Root passed the discussion to housing pilot proponent Gord McKay when asked what is required by Simcoe County of the proposal.

“What they’re looking for first of all is affordability; and we will certainly match that,” stated McKay. “We’re looking at a price point of $800 to $900 a month, so it’s truly affordable. Beyond that, you’ve got to have proper maintenance, you’ve got to have proper building standards, and these are all baked into our proposal here.

“In terms of the early discussions with county, they’re very pleased with this; but to be honest with you, there is no specific mechanism right now at the county to fund this,” McKay noted.

Mayor Bill Gordon reiterated his commitment to the pilot project, which he said could lead into replication up to the national level.

However, his concerns related to offering Midland surplus land, which he estimated between $250,000 to $550,000 per serviced lot, as well as pitching the idea to residents that affordable housing may be in store for an empty lot next to their own home.

“We have worked closely with Habitat for Humanity, and this project where you’re looking after building maintenance, tenant vetting and doing all the heavy lifting – that will help a lot with the NIMBYism and some of the complaints that may follow,” said Gordon.

Two staff reports were noted as upcoming, with one being a list of surplus properties for Midland to provide to Simcoe County as part of the larger municipal partnership call for proposals, and the other as a response to the town’s wider criteria of surplus land which could serve affordable housing prospects as shown in the deputation.

The housing in North Simcoe presentation slideshow is available in the council agenda on the town of Midland website.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53 when available, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.

Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca