Campground owner near Calgary views tiny homes as potential solution to affordable housing issue

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Campground owner sees tiny homes as part of affordable housing solution
WATCH: Tiny houses are part of a movement that began in the 1990’s and gained favour among people wanting simpler, cheaper lives. Carolyn Kury de Castillo has more on the owner of a campground east of Calgary who imagines compact living as an answer to an ongoing housing crunch. – Jan 30, 2024

A campground owner east of Calgary is exploring the possibility of using tiny homes to help address the affordable housing crisis in Alberta.

Marc Palardy, who owns Strathmore Highway Camping, says there’s been an increase in people wanting to live at his campground as a cheaper alternative to traditional settings.

“More people want to stay out here,” said Palardy. “For a lot of them it would be their first time trying to stay over winter. If you’re not ready for it, it’s not a very healthy place to be. A lot of units aren’t made for this kind of weather year-round.”

He had been offering winter camping for years but, due to the increase in the price of electricity, he began losing money. This winter he’s only allowing two people to stay at the campground.

“We had a family with three kids in a tent trailer in October where we had to say this is not going to work. You can’t do this,” Palardy said.

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Palardy wants to set up tiny homes on his property to help address the need for affordable housing.

“As a society now we need to have Wheatland County and all the counties be more proactive in helping us little people – help the people who are needing the help the most.   The ones that need a place.”

He hasn’t submitted a proposal to the county yet as he need to secure a better electricity rate or install solar panels, and have the wording of what defines a tiny home worked out.

He’s been told a tiny home is not the same as an RV.

“We have an RV license so recreational vehicle I was told specifically. We have had small homes come through in the summer where a fellow was just pulling his house and we’ve had him stay for months, but I believe the system needs to identify what a small home is,” Palardy said.

“I could fill in 20 or 25 spots of small homes, hopefully, and have the power grid be the same where we can get a fair rate and have it propane accessible.

“To change what is an RV and what is a mini home – then suddenly somebody has a place to live and it can be insulated properly and people are not at risk. We should all be on the same page.  We have a current housing crisis. We have campgrounds in existence with very little work, maybe a few amendments, we can offer that as  year-round and have a standard,” Palardy said.

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“I’m slowing down in my older age, not becoming proactive and trying all this, but there’s a definite need and this is not a difficult one to fill,” said the retired social worker turned campground owner.  “It’s logical.  I believe it’s a progressive next step.”

Palardy says he has everything else to live in place like bathrooms and laundry that operate year-round

A man who identifies himself only as Al has been staying in a winterized trailer with an addition at the campground for over 15 years.

“I love it. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I have to haul the water in the winter but I’m so used to it now,” Al said.

“I was gone so much that to pay for a big house didn’t make any sense.  I’m so used to it now – I like it. I think a lot of people would choose to if they could.  Not everybody wants a 5,000 square-foot home. You don’t see small homes anymore.  I grew up in an 800 or 1,100 square-foot house with five of us. 300 is what I’ve pretty much got right now (and it) is plenty.”

Al noted there is a rule in small house living: If you don’t use it within a year get rid of it.

He doesn’t have running water in the winter but he says it’s toasty even during the minus 40 C spell this year.

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“We have laundry and showers so I just carry a jug and I’m OK with it.   I heat the water up on the stove to do the dishes,” Al said.

Wheatland County officials say, depending on the scale of the proposal, a concept plan may be required and the landowner would be required to redesignate the land to accommodate future development.

Regardless of the size of a dwelling intended for year-round use, it requires development approval, as well as permits and inspections under the Safety Codes Act. This includes meeting all codes and standards for building, plumbing, gas, electrical, and private sewage.

“The Alberta Building Code has requirements that are a challenge to meet when constructing a ‘tiny home’,”  said a spokesperson for Wheatland County in a statement. “A tiny home can serve as a dwelling, provided it meets the minimum size requirement of 400 sq. ft. However, it must either have CSA approval as a manufactured dwelling or undergo the building permit process.

“With regard to plumbing requirements:  Regardless of the size of a dwelling intended for year-round use, it requires development approval, as well as permits and inspections under the Safety Codes Act. This involves adhering to all codes and standards outlined in The Alberta Building Code for building, plumbing, gas, electrical, and private sewage.”

According to county bylaws, an RV is intended to provide temporary living accommodations for travel and recreational purposes.

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It includes vehicles such as a motor home, a camper, a travel trailer or a tent trailer, but does not include a mobile home or sea-can.

An RV is not considered a dwelling but there is no definition for what a tiny home is in the land use bylaw.

The Strathmore & District Agricultural Society Campground is a year round campground with 117 serviced sites and is run by the Ag Society. A spokesperson with the Agricultural Society said on Tuesday it normally has 30 people staying year round – this year 50 sites are occupied.

The society has also considered the use of tiny homes.

In August of 2019, town council in Okotoks voted to not to fund a tiny house project after accepting a petition opposed to it that had almost 3,000 signatures.

The so-called Homestead Project would have seen 42 tiny homes and a community centre built at a cost of $4.26 million to taxpayers. Each home would have been less than 600 square feet.


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