by Rachel Everett-Fry, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The rental market in North Grenville is, without a doubt, in a state of crisis.
Readers will recall that, though the Municipality is working on longer term solutions for both affordable housing and the simple availability of rentals, it is expected that a permanent solution will take time. In the meantime, renters across the municipality are left without a place to call home.
Dwight Brown, of Ontario Container Supply on Totem Ranch Road, has been building tiny homes out of recycled shipping containers. While he also provides shipping containers for private builds and other uses, using tiny homes as affordable housing solutions is something Dwight is passionate about.
He is a licensed electrician and a skilled craftsman. His units are made, “by a Canadian, for a Canadian.”
Dwight has ensured that the building materials can tolerate our hot summer temperatures just as well as our worst days of winter. Aesthetically, the shipping containers act as a blank slate that can be totally customised outside and in. His current model unit contains a full bathroom, kitchenette, and multi-purpose living space.
One of the best aspects of these units, says Dwight, is that they, “do not have an impact on the land.” The unit can be loaded on a trailer, the 6 x 6 posts that are used as a foundation lifted off the ground, and the land it had been on would exist as before.
Dwight proposed his tiny homes as part of a solution to the housing crisis to Municipal Council around the same time that Erin and Calvin Wong of the Kemptville Salvation Army were sharing stories of those affected by the crisis to council.
Erin says that the potential for collaboration “fell into place.” Dwight offered to build and rent one unit completely free of charge for a year-long pilot project. The Wongs have submitted an application for a Salvation Army Innovation grant, hoping to purchase a second unit from Dwight.
They are also hoping for a private or municipal donor for land on which to place these units. While these two units would only be, “just one option as part of the larger strategy for the area”, Erin says a Tiny Home Pilot Project is a, “rapid and innovative approach to a crisis like this.”
Erin explained that the project could produce a number of positive outcomes. The first, of course, is immediate housing. But these small units are not simply transient, short-term solutions: they are a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing way to live that many people choose for themselves. For some people, Erin believes, these units would provide “stability and promote dignity.”
Following Housing First principles, a stable place to call home is the foundation upon which other supportive programming is built.
Moving out of poverty or addiction is, in fact, facilitated by secure housing. For those with a lifestyle or attitude compatible with tiny living, it can mean more permanent stability. Dwight acknowledges that “People might be scared because it’s unconventional. But as soon as you step inside you go woah!”
The question of further funding from the Salvation Army, and a local land donation, are the two puzzle pieces that need to fall into place for this pilot project to get off the ground. Erin says, “It’s at the point where the whole thing could rise or fall. It is a passion of ours to find tangible solutions. And this is a tangible solution.”
Dwight is eager to be given the go-ahead, and is keen to do, “whatever I can to push affordable housing, especially in North Grenville.” As he said, “nobody is going to see what you can do, or what the potential is for tiny homes, unless you just bite the bullet and do it.”
If you have land to offer the project, please contact Erin Wong at [email protected].
To tour Dwight’s model tiny home visit https://tours.londonhousephoto.ca/tinyhome/. Dwight is also open to inquiries at (613) 913-3749