Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for April 13, 2012

‘Grab tools and go for it,’ advises tiny house advocate

The latest response to the territory’s housing crisis has just been built, and it’s sitting at the top of a driveway in Riverdale.

By Max Leighton on April 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm


Photo by Anna Crawford

Top: READY TO ROLL — The tiny house was built on a 2012 PJ trailer with electric brakes, and can be easily relocated by truck.Bottom: READY TO ROLL — The tiny house was built on a 2012 PJ trailer with electric brakes, and can be easily relocated by truck.

The latest response to the territory’s housing crisis has just been built, and it’s sitting at the top of a driveway in Riverdale.

From the road, the 125-sq.-ft., 13-ft.-tall, steel and cedar framed tiny home could be mistaken for a deluxe garden shed.

Inside, it’s a tiny, modern house, which includes a living room and kitchenette, a bathroom with a composting toilet and small shower, and set of custom made stairs, fitted with storage space leading to a Queen-sized, loft bed.

The house was built by Laird Herbert, a self-taught carpenter and local entrepreneur originally from Salmon Arm, B.C.

It took him about five months, working six days per week to complete.

“Basically, I just got tired of paying rent and thought, ‘I can do this’, so I bought a textbook and just started figuring it out.”

It’s his second tiny house; the first he built in 2010 and eventually sold for $23,000.

His inspiration came from California carpenter and business owner Jay Shafir. With his company Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., Shafir has been building houses as small as 89 sq. ft. since 1997.

The movement has garnered local traction as well.

Blood Ties Four Directions supports the construction of similar projects to help address the community’s housing crisis.

Herbert’s latest project cost $38,000 to build, mostly in material costs.

Appliances like the 24-inch propane stove and tankless hot water heater, mini-fridge, and electric base heaters were all newly purchased and installed.

It’s fully mobile, built on a $6,000, 2012 PJ trailer with electric brakes, and built with heavy-gauge metal stud construction, ultralight drywall finish and hardwood flooring, with ceramic tiles in the bathroom and main entrance.

The tiny home uses LED lighting, with electricity linked to a heavy-duty extension cord, which can be hooked up to a source outside the home.

It’s also insulated for a Yukon winter, with triple-pane windows and spray foam insulation.

It could have been built more cheaply, says Herbert, but there is also an ethical bent to his work.

The wood and steel exterior of the structure utilizes eco-friendly, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved, sustainably sourced lumber.

It also has a composting toilet, which only needs to be emptied twice per year.

“I am not sure how it works, really,” said Herbert. “It’s basically magic.”

The house doesn’t have running water, but a low-cost grey water system can be installed, said Herbert, though probably not in Whitehorse.

The city currently requires homes to either be hooked up to the sewer system or have a septic system, which can add up to $15,000 in additional costs, he said.

“The upside though, is that it’s built on a trailer so you don’t need a building permit and building codes don’t apply.”

Herbert says he is looking to sell the tiny house for $55,000.

Compared to the average lot prices in Whitehorse, it’s a steal, he insists.

“It’s $55,000, compared with $400,000,” said Herbert.

“You do have to simplify though, and adopt a bit of a different lifestyle. But small houses don’t cost much in electricity, heat, light and there is no mortgage; it’s a one time cost.”

Herbert believes tiny houses will continue to be embraced by the community as construction and lot release continues to lag behind demand for housing.

“We have an almost zero per cent vacancy rate,” he says. “There has to be a bit of vacancy. People want to live here and they can’t, and projects like this one can help us rethink the way we build.”

Living with less space and greater mobility is also liberating, he says.

Aside from being small and environmentally friendly, you can always pack up and go, provided you have the right truck.

“It’s about freedom,” says Herbert.

He hopes to continue building and selling tiny homes and is planning to build one for himself soon. He encourages others to do the same.

“Grab tools and go for it,” he says.

CommentsAdd a comment


Apr 14, 2012 at 7:21 pm

sure, its a good development….however there will be rows of bureaucrats waiting to nip this in the bud and kill these initiatives ASAP.

let me guess: “No camping”, “No overnight parking”, “it’s not registered properly”, “this vehicle is not legal”....etc,etc.

There is no housing problem; there is a government limiting peoples freedom problem aka the government is terrorizing the people. Funny enough the people are happy with it, so suck it up or get rid of them


Apr 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

This is basically a homemade R/V. Why not just buy one already built, or you can by Park Models that are basically the same thing. Nothing new here, just a more expensive way to accomplish the same thing.


Apr 18, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Not sure what all the fuss is about here. Admittedly the end product looks quite nice - far superior to other ‘Yukon Campers’ in truck beds about town - but its use beyond a conventional travel trailer is nonexistent.

The unit is listed for sale on a popular online classified site. With an asking price only slightly below $60 000 it is comparable to commercial units already available. Its interior square footage is 215.33, which puts the asking price at $267 per every 12” square. That’s not cheap. Also consider you haven’t yet paid for a place to park it or purchased the 3/4 ton truck to pull it.

The project is perfect for keeping up with the Jones’ rig out at Laberge or Twin Lakes. It’s not the response to the housing crisis as the article portrays.

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