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Tiny home needs big decision in Pouch Cove

Tim Ward and Jess Puddister show off their tiny home as they await Pouch Cove town council’s decision.
Tim Ward and Jess Puddister show off their tiny home as they await Pouch Cove town council’s decision. - David Maher

Young couple facing pushback over small house wants to ensure a future in Newfoundland and Labrador

Jess Puddister and Tim Ward say they’re just trying to find a way to live and work in rural Newfoundland and Labrador in their 360-square-foot tiny home.

The pair have an application before the Pouch Cove town council to have their tiny home situated in the small town on the northern tip of the Northeast Avalon, but the local town council is not yet convinced the small home will fit in.

Part of the reason the application is facing some pushback is just how small the home is. The minimum size for a dwelling in the Pouch Cove Municipal Plan is 840 square feet, but the home is less than half that size.

But Puddister says she is concerned there’s more at play than just a bylaw.

“I think it’s connected to a stigma that’s around smaller homes and how much value we as a society place on our demonstration of material wealth,” she said.

“It has been stated to me that they’re concerned that neighbouring property values would go down. I don’t see the proof in that. When you consider getting an appraisal done on a house, it would be compared to other houses of similar size.”

That said, Puddister says the town council has been good to work with. On Monday evening, council moved to defer a decision on the application for two weeks to allow residents to have their say on the application.

Pouch Cove town council development chair Coun. Greg King says he’s personally supportive of the concept, but the town has to do more research before deciding whether it will be the first town on the Northeast Avalon to explicitly pave the way for tiny homes.

“This is new to us. It’s a new application, which spreads across many municipal regulations. We need to do a little more research, due diligence, before we deny or accept the application for a tiny home,” said King.

“This may not meet the intent of discretionary use. We need to make sure with our lawyers and our town planners that we’re allowed to do this, or we have to change the town plan.”

There’s also the matter of setting a precedent. Earlier this year, the Town of Torbay pointed to a similar bylaw that would prevent Puddister and Ward’s tiny home from going up in that town.

King doesn’t want to set a faulty precedent in Pouch Cove, which could trigger other towns to move for approvals based on Pouch Cove’s example.

King says precedent from the City of St. John’s, for example, would make the Pouch Cove council’s decision a whole lot easier.

“If we already had a document that said, ‘here’s why we’re moving forward,’ or, ‘here’s why we’re not moving forward,’ that would help us out immensely,” he said.

“I’m dealing with people who work day-to-day jobs, so I get them for a couple of hours a week. I’m afraid we may miss something.”

Neither St. John’s nor Mount Pearl has a minimum-house-size bylaw.

Earlier this year, the Town of Stephenville approved a 13-lot subdivision specifically for tiny homes.

Puddister, a geologist, and Ward, a journeyman welder, started to build their home in 2014.

Since then, the partially finished home has sat on Kinsella’s Farm in Bauline while its owners search for a home for their home. Pouch Cove is the community of choice, partially due to more affordable land prices than elsewhere on the Avalon.

They say they could easily afford a larger home, but have made the choice to live in a tiny home.

The couple estimate that once the land sale, labour costs, and water and sewer connection is factored in, the total cost of settling into their tiny home sweet home could be around $125,000.

Part of the reason the couple want to settle into their small home is the affordability. Puddister estimates once the green light is given for their home, they could be debt-free in five years, rather than being tied down on a 30-year mortgage on a more traditional style of living.

Another reason the move makes sense for Puddister and Ward: Muskrat Falls.

“I’ve talked to so many people who live in modest, two-storey houses or bungalows who are scared to death. They don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Puddister.

“We want to be proactive. We want to take our future, our spending power, and make good choices to live within our means so that we can stay here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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