Kingston Limestone Habitat for Humanity to install tiny homes this week

One of the tiny homes to be moved this week. Photo via Owen Fullerton/LJI.

The Kingston Limestone Region Habitat for Humanity will be moving four pre-built tiny homes across town to the Rideau Heights neighbourhood this week.

The parcel of land by Shannon Park, granted by the city of Kingston, will serve as the permanent dwelling place for these four homes, with four more still to be built on site. 

Habitat is aiming to get the homes in their foundation before winter, but isn’t aiming for residents until March 2024.

The homes have been built by three different cohorts of students at Ernestown Secondary School as part of the Limestone District School Board’s Construction Internship program, with work beginning in March 2022 and running until June of this year.

Between the school-donated labour and building materials gifted by local suppliers, Habitat has only had to pay for the building permits and the nearly $75,000 it costs to transport the tiny homes from their current place in Amherstview onto the foundations where they will expect to stay forever in Rideau Heights. 

Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Cathy Borowec says especially given the cost of transporting the homes, which she distinguished are full-scale homes and not sleeping cabins, there is no intent for them to ever be moved.

“We mostly refer to them as micro townhomes,” Borowec said.

“So that people don’t have that picture in their mind of a little house on wheels. They’re not on wheels, they’re on a permanent foundation.”

Borowec added that John Armitage of Brookland Fine Homes, who has helped to guide the process and secure donations from local suppliers, estimated that without the donations each unit would cost roughly $120,000 plus some added expenses. 

Each of the four homes being transported is a long and narrow build of 276 square feet, with all of them outfitted with kitchen space, a three-piece bathroom and even a washer and dryer. 

Of the four still to be built, two will be identical to the previous four while two will be accessible units. 

Habitat for Humanity is working with the city to help further Kingston’s goal of building new housing, and different kinds of housing that better makes use of available space.

The homes will be rental properties, with each tenant paying a rent geared to their income and either being eligible for, or already on, the city’s current social housing waitlist.

It’s different from Habitat’s typical model, which sees the organization transfer the title of a home to residents and engage in a vendor take-back mortgage with them, eventually being reimbursed for the whole value. 

Borowec says this is a pilot program in conjunction with the city, and if it goes well they could follow suit in other neighbourhoods. 

“We’re not starting our own list we’re trying to relieve some of the need and move people from that list into housing,” Borowec said.

“If it works really well then we would consider doing it again in another area.” 

She says it could also serve as a blueprint for private residents to open up space on their own property to allow for a tiny home, opening up more potential for individual residents to help create homes for people in the community. 

Borowec says for these eight homes, they hope to bring tenants in that will help it become a supportive community.

“We’re working with a couple of agencies to help us identify people who would benefit from being in that community and who would be willing to contribute,” Borowec said.

“Sort of like a cooperative model and build a bit of an intentional community where people look after each other and their premises.”

Borowec also said that while other tiny homes like those in Veterans Village have certain expectations of people moving on from the space, these rentals don’t necessarily have that.

The opportunity to eventually own a home could arise, but people can generally remain in these spaces as long as they want.

“If someone is happy living in 276 square feet and they’re a good tenant they can remain there,” Borowec said.

“But if someone is a good tenant and wants to move into another unit that we have and does fit the criteria for our homeownership model then sure it could be a stepping stone for that.”

The site will have infrastructure expenses going forward, and Habitat will be looking to raise money for upcoming costs. 

Donations can be made to, and volunteers can also sign up for future opportunities there. 

Owen Fullerton is a Kingston-based reporter with the Local Journalism Initiative (LJI).

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