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Brantford company spotlights modular home approval challenges

Brantford company spotlights modular home approval challenges
Brantford company spotlights modular home approval challenges

A Brantford company says there is too much municipal bureaucracy when it comes to approving their modular housing projects.

Modular homes are small dwellings that can be built quickly and cost a fraction of traditional construction. Although they have been touted by all levels of government as an option to help solve Canada’s housing crisis, Habitat28 said it remains a challenge.

“We fight too hard to get one permit approved,” says Shailesh Poddar, CEO of Habitat28, a Brantford-based modular home builder.

Poddar said there is a lot of interest in modular homes, especially as additional dwelling units. He said some people want more space for a growing family or for aging parents to live in, others as a rental home, nanny suite or guest house.

“We start at $100,000 for a studio apartment, and then it goes up,” Poddar said. “But for under $200,000, you can put a two-bedroom ADU in your backyard that you can use for yourself or your parents, or rent out to pay that big mortgage.”

However, Poddar said that when it comes to actually obtaining permits, each municipality has its own rules, regulations and level of awareness around modular housing, which slows down the process.

He said all that bureaucracy makes potential customers reject the idea out of hand.

“So instead of us actually getting started, they would already be discouraged and say there’s no point because you know, my municipality is not that friendly and they’re not going to allow it,” Poddar said.

Poddar said standardizing the rules across Ontario would make a big difference, adding that it’s time to look at new housing solutions to address the current shortage.

“We are at a crisis level. We would not have reached a crisis level if the traditional methodologies worked,” he explained.

CTV Kitchener has reached out to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing for comment.

“Our government is committed to investing in innovative modular construction as part of the solution to Ontario’s housing supply crisis. That’s why we’ve taken a series of measures to streamline building permits and inspections for modular housing units in 2022 and reduce red tape through Bill 185 to further accelerate home construction. The province is also currently working with the federal government on how a catalogue of standardized housing designs can provide market certainty for smaller home builders and modular home builders,” Press Secretary Bianca Meta said in a statement.

“In the coming months, we will receive more information on how we can better utilise modular housing as the modular and innovative housing strategy is developed.”

Buying a modular home

Nicole Papp recently purchased a plot of land in Puslinch with plans to build a modular home on it.

“Given the rising home prices and me buying this as a single person, this was the best option I could find,” she told CTV News.

Papp’s lot is in Mini Lakes, a condominium community in Puslinch that features mobile and modular homes. Her plan is to put a three-unit modular home on the property; she hopes to rent out one unit and she and her boyfriend will live in the other two.

“We’ll see what it’s like to live in a 600-plus-ish square foot space. But right now I have a room at my parents’ house, so what’s the difference really?”

Papp is so impressed by modular homes that she decided to work as a freelancer for Habitat28 to promote this living style to others.

She hopes to move into her own modular home within a few months.

“So if all goes well, including the closing date for the land and the permits, then it would be late September/early October, which I’m very excited about.”

Modular housing company closes Kitchener operations

In late June, Z Modular, a division of US-based Zekelman Industries, announced that it would close its manufacturing facility on Manitou Drive in Kitchener.

In a press release announcing the decision, the company described the challenges it faces operating in Canada.

Poddar said it is unfortunate that yet another modular builder is closing its Canadian facility, and that it should serve as a warning.

“If they close their Canadian operations, it’s time to start looking at this issue more seriously. If businesses are going to close, it doesn’t bode well for the country,” Poddar said.

Poddar said modular homes are much more accepted and encouraged in the United States, and also in Europe. He cautions that if modular home builders in Canada continue to struggle, it is likely that more people will leave the country.

His message to the government: “We are here to help. Let us do our job.”