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Big investment in small homes in Iroquois Falls

Minstead MiniHomes building tiny homes at former mill property
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Two years ago, Carole Lyne Robin was ready to simplify her life.

Frustrated with the high, and often unpredictable, cost of living, she downsized everything into a 236-square-foot tiny home that she built from scratch with the help of her father, a former contractor, and took up residence on a plot of land in Iroquois Falls.

Living in the home, off-grid, since last November, Robin said she’s perfectly content in her 8.5-foot by 28-foot sanctuary – which includes two lofts, a full bathroom, a washer and dryer, and plenty of storage – which, for her, exudes the same tranquil feeling as a cozy cottage.

“I have everything I need,” Robin said. “I don’t need any more space because I don’t have any other things that I would want in my house.”

Now, the self-employed photographer plans to help other Northerners realize their dream of tiny home ownership through a partnership with Riversedge Developments, the brownfield redevelopment company that purchased the Resolute paper mill after its permanent closure in 2014.

In May, Robin and Riversedge, led by Justus Veldman, launched Minstead MiniHomes, which is taking orders to construct tiny homes, defined as a house measuring fewer than 500 square feet, which will be situated on individual parcels of land at the former Resolute property, now dubbed Abitibi Commons.

“Abitibi Commons and Riversedge are sectioning off pieces of land on their property where it’s going to be legal for tiny houses to be situated as residences,” said Robin, noting she’s already received orders for five homes.

“So people will have a lease and will be able to park them there and live there year-round.”

Each order is customized to the client’s wants and needs, and the size and cost of the home varies depending on what goes into it, she noted. Some will be built on trailers so they can be portable, while others will be stationary.

The mill’s former central shop has been cleared out and repurposed as Minstead’s headquarters, and local tradespeople have been hired to do the construction, plumbing, electrical and spray foam work.

“If the business does really well, then we’ll be able to hire more and produce more at a time,” Robin said.

“We have the space to be able to make at least three or four at a time, so it would be nice to have them all done at the same time and hire multiple people to work on them, and bring more work to Iroquois Falls.”

Each home will take between four and five weeks to build, and construction on the first, which the client plans to use as a cottage, began in early June. Buzz in town and the surrounding area has been building.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries and people have actually had estimates written up by us, and we’ve made plans for their tiny homes,” Robin said. “They’ve actually put their homes up for sale and are just waiting for somebody to buy their house to be able to transition into a tiny home.”

Iroquois Falls’ mayor, Michael Shea, is excited about the potential Minstead is bringing to town.

He’s buoyed by the work being done by Veldman and Riversedge Developments to remediate the former mill site, and the possibility of work for locals.

“They’ve worked hard and they’ve invested heavily in this town,” Shea said. “They are good corporate citizens.”

Early on, Minstead did hit a bit of a snag: as in many municipalities, Iroquois Falls’ bylaws don’t allow for freestanding homes under 500 square feet. It meant that Robin had to relocate, and she’ll now be the first tenant on the Abitibi Commons site.

But Shea said he’s confident new local legislation currently in the works will amend that gap.

“We are, right now, in the midst of tearing down the old official plan and I trust positively that we will want to entertain tiny homes to be part of our official plan, where people could actually put their homes within our land mass here,” he said.

For Robin, minimalist living has become a welcome approach to life. Not tied to a mortgage and living within a manageable budget affords her the opportunity to take time off when she needs it, and she can instead spend her earnings on activities she loves. She recently completed a stained glass-making course and earned her trapper’s licence.

“It’s a pretty beautiful thing that I don’t have to wait until I’m retired to take those classes or do those things that I’ve always wanted to do,” said the 30-year-old. “I would like to live now while I’m healthy and happy, rather than waiting until I’m 65 to be able to do those things that I might not even have the chance to do.

“It’s really about living in the moment and making sure that you have a life.”