Tiny homes funding update


Through researching alternatives to tent encampments and homeless shelters, Tiny Homes secured $30,000 of funding for their second phase. Tiny Homes is a research project that started in 2020 by professors Adrian Blackwell, John McMinn and Martine August. The project intends to address homelessness through building tiny house communities in the Waterloo region. 

As part of phase two, student researchers Elizabeth Antczak and Katherine Kinsman are collecting feedback from people who have experienced homelessness and are current residents of The Bridges and A Better Tent City. The residents toured the first Tiny Homes prototype and shared feedback through a focus group. This feedback will be used to modify the initial designs and planning of Tiny Homes communities. The researchers are also interviewing different municipal leaders and non-profit groups in the city such as the Working Center, Better Tent City, LutherWood and the 519. 

Before building the prototype, student researchers reported on where a tiny home community can be built in the Waterloo region, how these communities should be governed, how the site can be planned, how they would interact with each other, as well as how they can be constructed.

The first Tiny Home was built last fall by 12 undergraduate students enrolled in the course Hands, Hearth and Home — Building for Adaptability, Affordability and Ecology. The course was taught by Blackwell and McMinn at the school of architecture. “In 12 weeks, they managed to construct a whole [house] that was fully insulated and very durable,” Blackwell recalled. Over the past two years, 26 undergraduate, one post-graduate and six graduate students were directly involved in the project through either research, design or construction. The design of the living space includes a shower, kitchenette, a composting toilet and flexible outer porch space. It’s built to the standards of sustainable design and is wheelchair accessible (Cite – information taken from poster).  

By partnering with the City of Cambridge, the project secured $15,000 in funding, which was matched by Mitacs, a Canadian not-for-profit national research organization. The prototype was displayed at Cambridge City Hall for public viewing last month.

When the Tiny Homes project was first brought to the City of Cambridge, they were less certain about how they would use tiny houses in the region. Blackwell shared that in more recent discussions, the city confirmed their interest in building these homes in Cambridge residents’ backyards rather than exploring Tiny Homes communities. Building tiny houses in backyards would increase the amount of housing available and address the overall housing crisis. However, “[Tiny Homes] has always been focused on tiny home communities to address homelessness, but … they could be also used in backyards. I don’t think we’re opposed to that, but it’s not our research,” Blackwell explained. Further discussions between the research team and the City of Cambridge will determine how the funding will be used and how the partnership will develop. The project has also received funding from the University of Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo.

The prototype is currently being stored by Region of Waterloo as the research team and the Region work together to find the correct resident to live in the tiny house.