As part of my desire to direct our budgeted monies toward a high performance home, I had always planned to request permission to live on site in a large vacation trailer (something like this). Rent in my region is expensive, with 1 bedroom basement suites renting for $1100/month. With an expected build time of 18 months, the avoidance of rent would allow $20k+ to be redirected to important components like windows and insulation. Instead, I could buy a trailer for $20k-$25K and then sell it when we were done for $5K less, resulting in a $5K living costs for the 18 months.
Two obstacles have been working against this plan from the beginning and it turns out both were insurmountable.
When I approached the District of North Vancouver in March, I was told this just was not done, with the manager citing safety concerns for the occupants of the trailer as well as the District services. This lead to investigation with BC Safety Authority (advised no jurisdiction in North Van, but a pretty common situation in rural building lots) and WorkSafeBC (advised no concerns beyond siting trailer in area where debris could not fall of the dwelling under construction and onto the roof of the trailer. The District manager had also sited concern for neighbour complaints, so I petitioned and received support for 4 of the 5 effected neighbours (three in writing) with no response from the 5th neighbour. I went back recently to the District with all of this additional information only to now be told that "A zoning bylaw prohibition cannot be varied" which I am not sure I understand because many other aspects of the zoning bylaw like roof height, setbacks, etc, can be varied under special circumstances. I tried to make a case for making this a test, because the District council are always looking for ways to make building more affordable in the District to allow those that have grown up here to stay here once they move out of the family house. I am also aware that the planning staff are soon to be proposing alteration of the neighbourhood zoning bylaw to allow lane-way carriage houses (which would further support a 'second' accommodation on the property). The mistake I made was asking in the first place. You see, there have been other owners in my neighbourhood that have lived in a trailer during their build. The difference is that they did not ask and no one complained, so the District was not forced into action. Because I did ask, in the end, it came down to one person with the authority to say no. If I had more time and did not have the second obstacle, I would have pushed for a text amendment to the zoning bylaw.
My second obstacle was my wife. She categorically refused to live in a holiday trailer even though it could be argued the accommodations would have been nicer than where we live now. She was making arrangements to stay with family. My hope was that once the trailer was in place and she saw that it would not be that bad, she would soften and move back 'home'. But I fear, this was just a pipe dream on my part and was never going to happen despite how nice I could make the living conditions.
So with a source of accommodation dried up and with a build looming, I needed to find a place for us to live, and fast. This is slightly complicated by the fact that my oldest cat is a resident of the neighbourhood FIRST! and our pet second. You see, he has grown up in the neighbourhood and used to live about 300ft NW from where I live. He is also an outside cat and just graces us with his presence at his direction. The requirement was to find an affordable place within his current 'stomping grounds' or fear an abandonment if we went someplace new (he did after-all abandon his first owners). I also wanted to be close so I could go 'home' at lunch and keep tabs on the job site. Fortunately, after I received the final correspondence from the District on Thursday, I went on line that night and checked the local Craigslist ads and lo and behold, the basement suite across the street was available as of Sept 1 (I had not even realized that the previous renter had left a month ago). Today, the neighbour and I shook on a deal that would see us move in March 1 2014 and move out September 1 2015. The two bedroom will set us back over $25K for the 19 months including a signing bonus so that he will hold it from now till we need it next March.
This will be a big hit to the budget (represents 8%) and I will need to cut costs or expend our budget accordingly, but in the end will make my wife much happier and you know what they say.
Happy Wife - Happy Life!