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Tiny home project to house Vernon youth at risk of homelessness takes off

Barry McDougall unveils the winning entry of the design challenge, which was submitted by architect Doug Warner.
April 12, 2016 - 2:46 PM

VERNON - Tiny homes are proving to be a big hit in Vernon.

As part of a design challenge launched by the First Nations Friendship Centre, which wants to build a tiny home community for youths between 19 and 29 facing barriers to affordable housing or who are at risk of homelessness, ten prototypes were produced and unveiled at a celebration today, April 12. The centre says Vernon, like many other communities, is facing a crisis when it comes to the lack of low-income housing in the city and hopes that thinking outside of the box will help combat the shortage. 

The ten entries feature rooftop decks, solar panels, and clever hidden storage nooks — among many other creative design elements — all within just a couple hundred square feet.

“We expect we will build all ten in our community of tiny homes,” the centre’s youth manager Barry McDougall says of the entries.

A miniature display of one of the entries.
A miniature display of one of the entries.

The tiny home village is still likely a ways off, but with the community’s support, the centre is going to start by building one house — the winner of the design challenge — and raffling it off, with the proceeds going toward the long-term initiative.

Designs were submitted from companies all the way from Vancouver to Regina after word about the initiative spread. John Robinson, from Regina, says the design he entered in the contest is for a 20-foot long, 260-square-foot, 11,000-pound home on wheels. It has a living room, dining area, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom and is designed to house up to three people. Including all appliances and furniture, the company sells the home for $75,000.

Vernon resident Sharon Lawrence looks at conceptual drawings for one of the blueprints submitted in the tiny home design challenge.
Vernon resident Sharon Lawrence looks at conceptual drawings for one of the blueprints submitted in the tiny home design challenge.

One of the four judges, Chris Dranchuk of BTR Construction, was impressed by the uniqueness and homeyness of each entry, and believes the project will fill a big gap for those looking for affordable housing.

“Even as a stepping stone to maybe getting into a real house for those who can’t afford a down payment,” Dranchuk says.

Another judge, Matt Lunde of 925RDesign in Vernon, says each home makes creative use of the limited space.

“Like storage under the couch or dual uses, like a living room and an office,” Lunde says. “It (judging) was mostly on innovation, functionality, and feasibility.”

The winning design bid was submitted by architect Doug Warner, and will be raffled off in September.

Once built, McDougall says the tiny home village would have a lease, or lease-to-own agreement, and cater mostly to the 19 to 29 age group, with the possibility of housing a few seniors as well.

The friendship centre currently operates subsidized housing in the Kekuli Apartments in Downtown Vernon.

Vernon city Coun. Juliette Cunningham attended Tuesday’s event and says council will be looking at what is required for building permits and codes as the concept of a tiny home village continues to take shape. She says Vernon has a big need for affordable housing and called the idea ‘exciting and innovative.’

“They are doing it in other communities so I don’t see why Vernon couldn’t be a leader in getting this created,” Cunningham says.

Eventually, Barry McDougall believes all ten submissions will be built as part of Vernon's tiny home village .
Eventually, Barry McDougall believes all ten submissions will be built as part of Vernon's tiny home village .


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