There is a neighborhood in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, locals refer to as “Alphabet Soup”. It got this colloquial name, because all of the streets are simply named by the letters of the alphabet. It is an area that is of great interest to anyone who is captivated by small and tiny houses. The streets in this area of town are lined with hundreds and hundreds of little houses. It looks to me that when originally built, they were all between 300 and 700 square feet. Many of them have not been added onto and remain a perfect example of the earlier part of the century’s moderate non-consumer lifestyle. These little houses are wonderful & are all different styles. Some of them have a lot of attention to detail and character others are basic walls and a roof very utilitarian.
Interested I called the City of Saskatoon, Planning and Building Department and asked if there was a minimum size requirement in Saskatoon. I spoke to three people and truthfully they did not seem to be 100% sure, but they thought that there was not a minimum size requirement. It was interesting that the people who do this for a living seemed fully unaware of minimum size requirements; particularly, because, this area is experiencing a huge building boom. I am sure that this office is busy and active and I was told right off the top that a maximum house size was restricted be 40% of the size of the lot. I am guessing that I am the first person to ask what the minimum house size is. This tells me that most people who build are still choosing McMansions as opposed to tiny, or even small, manageable and affordable housing. Or that those who choose to build moderate affordable homes are unaware that this is an issue in other places.
The person I spoke to stressed that size was not really a huge issue but that a home MUST meet the National Building Code requirements. For example one would not be able to have a ladder up to a sleeping loft and one must use the water and sewage system that the city has if it comes to your lot. They also let me know that one perspective tiny houser asked to build a 97 square foot home with a loft, but this plan was rejected because it did not meet the National Building Code.
I assume that with all those small houses already there, one is allowed to build a tiny house as long as it is within code. Still not sure because the people I spoke to seemed a unclear themselves, I wrote to the Canadian Codes Centre to ask them exactly what the minimum size is. I heard back and was told that indeed it is up to the particular community to restrict the size The technical advisor wrote “In addition, staff at the Canadian Codes Centre are not aware of a study or research report that contains a clear-cut, definitive answer as to whether there is a legal or safe minimum size for a permanent dwelling.” As far as I see this, it is an excellent response that works in favor of the tiny house movement. This is because any community who has a size minimum restriction in place can be questioned as to why and these rules can be changed at a community level. Also because councils are typically elected, so theoretically, any community that elects a tiny house enthusiast in Canada is able to change the building bylaw to reflect an open attitude toward a more manageable home size.
Anyway, good for Saskatoon! Glad to see that at least one community has some smarts about modest living. Remember less money on housing means more money for citizens to spend in the community. No wonder all the cultural centers, cafes, art galleries and the like were totally filled with people. Clearly this is a community that knows its ABC’s and puts them to use in the best possible way!
Laura Moreland is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings. She lives in a tiny woodland cottage near Kingston Ontario with a pack of dwarf dogs. Her woodsman ensures that she never accept apples from old ladies. You can learn more about Laura through her website “Tiny House Ontario” here.
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