Local advocate, Chrystal Wilson, presented her plans for a micro home community to support the local unhoused population during the Aug 10, 2021 meeting of Kingston City Council.
Wilson, no stranger to policy and procedure in City matters, had to fast-track some of her intentions in order to present to council this week, as they were discussing Rapid Housing Funding, of which micro homes would hopefully be a part.
“We’re all taxpayers,” she said. “We tell the government how to spend our money, their tax money, so it’s up to us to stand up and say that it’s not okay for people to be forced to live in the woods, and live on the streets. We know there’s a housing crisis and we know there’s nowhere for them to go.”
According to Wilson, a micro home community will help take care of people, and individuals can help support the most vulnerable in our community by offering help and encouragement where and how it’s needed.
“The community can stand up and say things like ‘micro home communities will really help take care of people’. I think it’s important to work together and build places that people can be safe,” she continued.
Wilson spearheaded the local micro homes project after getting to know the individuals living at the Belle Park encampment during the spring and summer of 2020. When she was helping at the encampment, Wilson said, many of those camping at the site told her about tiny home communities, and indicated they would like to be housed in something similar.
In early July 2020, a tent city opened in Kitchener and Wilson visited to learn about the concept and how they were operating. “I took pictures, brought them back and asked people if that was what they were thinking of. They confirmed, and we started having discussions on the designs of the homes and what would make sense for them,” she said.
The evictions at Belle Park effectively slowed the planning and conversations Wilson was able to have with the local unhoused population, but she had already connected with a company willing to help bring the micro home idea to life.
Using the facilities at CanCoil, a foreman took charge of the build. Over evenings and weekends, a prototype micro home was constructed, and CanCoil covered some of the costs.
As the build was happening, Wilson would bring in people to offer feedback and ideas on the project. “I would bring in people who don’t have homes and ask them what they thought of it. Mostly all I got was tears – happy tears,” Wilson told Kingstonist.
The prototype home has been ready for a few months, but in order to share the build, bring awareness, and gather feedback for the project, a custom-designed trailer had be to constructed to move the micro home around town.
“The intent was to first bring it back to people who are specifically living in the woods, living on the streets, and didn’t have homes, and get feedback from them again, now that we have a prototype for them to look at and touch,” Wilson shared. “And then, with the rapid housing funding announcement, it kind of fast-tracked what we were planning to do.”
According to Wilson, council was supportive and interested in furthering the conversation. She has a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, with city staff to discuss potential locations and support from the city to keep up the momentum for this project. Wilson hopes to have the community up and ready before winter.
The project is still gathering feedback from those with lived experience, who will be most likely to live in a micro home community, from community members and businesses with expertise in building, and from anyone else ready and willing to support this housing initiative.
Wilson shared that they had an idea for a program that could spread the support for this project throughout the community. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen now, after the council meeting last night, but we had conceived a community program where we partner people who have the means to fund a tiny home with people who could build it and somebody who might live in it,” she explained. “The three groups together could build something that was really feasible, and then, if we do that enough times, it spreads the load through the community, rather than having one organization building all the homes.”
At next week’s meeting with city staff, Wilson hopes to outline how the city can support this project, and find some suitable parcels of land that could house this community.
“What we asked last night at council was if the city could help us with land and the support building that will go with these micro homes,” she shared. “Then let us build the homes, so that they’re not shouldering the full burden of the project either, but so that we have ownership throughout the project.”
The support building she’s speaking of would house kitchen, laundry and shower facilities, and would be located in the micro home community. The homes, as designed so far, are insulated and have basic electrical wiring, but no plumbing features. Wilson suggested inhabitants could have a bar fridge and hot plate, as well as a wall heater to provide comfort over the winter months. She also mentioned that kitchen and bathroom facilities would significantly increase the cost of building these micro homes.
Step-by-step instructions for building the current micro home prototype are available online, and Wilson said based on current retail costs for materials, they can be built for about $6,300. They are designed in such a way that anyone who’s “handy” could construct a home over a weekend or two.
“It’s a weekend or a couple weekend project,” Wilson said. “I’m handy, I’m capable, I could build one of these homes. So it doesn’t take a skilled construction crew to be able to build what we put together.”
Visit the Our Livable Solutions website to learn more about the micro homes initiative, view the plans for the homes, or get in touch with the team.
While there are many hoops to jump through yet for this project, Wilson is very thankful for the community support she’s seen so far. Wherever she takes her prototype, people are expressing interest, asking questions, and offering to help.
Throughout the interview, Wilson told Kingstonist many times that a solution is desperately needed to help alleviate the homeless situation in Kingston, and these micro homes are the support that the underhoused community is asking for.
“Let’s support them in the way that makes sense for them, rather than the way that’s most comfortable for us,” she stated.