A tiny home community is coming to life off the grid in northern Ontario

Barry Collier spent much of his life in British Columbia trying to live small.

The iron worker lived in an RV or camper, and often on job sites, because he was sick of paying high rent. Now, he says he has everything he needs, in a tiny home off-grid in northern Ontario. 

“I was doing a tiny home before they called them tiny homes.” he said. “I know what it feels like to rent and I also was homeless for a short while.” 

Then, Collier was in a motorcycle accident where the handlebars pierced his chest and lacerated his heart.

Collier has always tried to live small. But buying land in northwestern Ontario has allowed him to build a tiny home, and offer others the chance to do the same. (CBC/Gord Ellis)

“I had had major heart surgery and then 14 other surgeries.” he said.”I survived it, but now it was time to live the life I wanted. I tried to turn a bad situation into a good one.”

When you open the window, all you see is forest.– Barry Collier, off-grid homesteader 

With a small court settlement and extra time on his hands, he made the move to northwestern Ontario. Collier said land location was important.

“The No.1 key thing was to buy land in an unorganized township.” he said. An unorganized township does not have a municipal government, so no permits are required. 

The kitchen in Collier’s tiny home is partially built with cement to help trap heat. (CBC/Gord Ellis)

“I looked at B.C. and there basically was no land to buy,” Collier said. “Northern Ontario is one of the last places in Canada where land is still readily available and affordable.”

Collier bought a 62-hectare property about an hour northwest of Thunder Bay, just off Highway 17. He is now offering a limited number of year-round rental spots on it for tiny homes and RVs.

“So what I’ve done here is spend what money I had left to make roads and lots on the property,” Collier said. “I’m helping other people that want to live off-grid. I don’t care if they want to call it a tiny house or an RV. Basically my goal here is to to help the community.”

These solar panels provide auxiliary energy to the tiny homes. A generator or propane can also be used. (CBC/Gord Ellis)

Collier himself has built a tiny home at the entrance to the property, on a height of land that overlooks the valley where most of the lots are located. His home features solar panels on the roof as well as a generator. Collier’s kitchen is partially made of concrete to help hold in the heat. There is a tiny bathroom and bedroom.

No space is wasted.

Collier, who is a skilled tradesperson, said he has been helping some tenants with their building, using as much recycled materials as possible. He said he won’t let people use concrete because he doesn’t want to create permanent dwellings. So the tiny homes are built on cement blocks. If a structure needs to be moved or dismantled, it could be done relatively easily.

Collier said the rent starts at $500 a month, but goes up to $600 if the tenant wants to be on the water. He said he has a variety of tenants who are staying with him in his small community. 

“You get roughly one acre of land, although the actual cleared space is about 40 by 40,” said Collier. “I’ve lived in RV parks and can’t stand when you look out the window and see your neighbour. Here, when you open the window all you see is forest.”

Collier has made sure all the lots on his property have an acre (nearly half a hectare) or so between them and are private. (CBC/Gord Ellis)

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Written by bourbiza

bourbiza is an entertainment reporter for iltuoiphone News and is based in Los Angeles.

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