7 alternative housing trends to watch

From tiny houses to eco homes, alternative living is here to stay

If our homes say something about who we are, they show Canadians are anything but cookie cutter. Now, with more and more people choosing to live in out-of-the ordinary homes, we’re putting a spotlight on these unique dwellings.

At the same time, we’ll look at some of the insurance challenges that come with owning one of these trendy alternative homes.

Tiny Homes

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Size matters; whereas a small house is usually measured at less than 1,000 square feet in size, truly tiny houses are usually half that size or smaller. They cost less to build than typical homes and are more energy efficient, but also require clever or creative use of space.

Tiny home communities are popping up all across Canada. There’s even a Tiny Home Alliance and dedicated real estate listings.

But what about insurance? Whether or not a tiny home can be covered by conventional homeowner’s insurance usually depends on a few key factors. For details, check out our tiny house article here.

Eco Homes

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“Eco house” is a broad term used for many types of sustainable homes. There are passive houses, whose designs minimize energy consumption. Off-grid homes are self-reliant for power, water, heat and plumbing. And other homes are built using eco-friendly or recycled materials.

Some eco homes are even certified as such, like LEED certified homes, which must comply with eight categories of criteria and four levels of certification.

In a world that’s ever more environmentally-conscious, it’s no surprise eco homes are catching on.


Vehicle Repurpose Homes

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In the last few years, a new bohemian trend has emerged: the #vanlife lifestyle! This trend goes beyond a temporary stay in an RV. For some, their four-wheeled living space is a permanent home.

There are lots examples of repurposed campers, buses and even container trucks, where interiors have been transformed into small but surprisingly stylish and livable spaces.

You might ask, would insurance for a repurposed vehicle be considered home insurance or car insurance?

That depends. For a motorized RV, it would generally be RV insurance which is a form of car insurance. For a parked trailer (or a vehicle that’s not self-propelled) there are RV policies that might cover this case. Alternately, it may be possible to obtain a home (or mobile home) type property policy.

Micro Apartments

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Also called capsule apartments, these itty-bitty living spaces are seen by some as a solution to a lack of urban apartments. But others decry this ultra-concentrated way of living.

Because they’re so small, most micro apartments make use of levels and stacking to save space. Even so, you’d have to embrace minimalism to make a capsule apartment your home, as most don’t extend beyond a single room.

Even if the space you rent is small, it’s still best to get tenant insurance. That’s because tenant insurance covers you for damages that you’re responsible for on someone else’s property — an aspect called tenant legal liability.

This type of insurance also covers your belongings and relocation in the event that you’re unable to live in your home due to an insured loss.

Shipping Container Houses

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Did you know Hamilton, Ontario was the first Canadian city to boast a container house? For details, check out the CBC article here.

For fans of industrial décor, shipping container homes offer an alternative to the norm.  But not everyone loves the look, which brings up the debate: would you like to see a container home next door?

They can be pricey, but they are amazingly adaptable. However, should you decide to create your own shipping container complex, you might ask whether or not it would be easy to insure.

Such a home would theoretically be covered under a home insurance policy. But unusual construction types are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and might not be covered through a conventional insurer. In cases where a specialty insurer is required, the insurance premium may be a bit more expensive.

3D-Printed Houses

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Among the newest housing trends, 3D-printed houses haven’t been really widely adopted yet. But some companies are already producing them, and the possibilities are impressive.

One model unveiled in 2018 prints in under 24 hours at a production cost of about $4K.

The Conference Board of Canada has even suggested that 3D-printed homes could be a solution for northern parts of the country, where the cost of home building can be 3 to 4 times higher than in areas further south.

One big question is how they could be made to withstand our cold winters…


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What floats some homeowners’ boat is, well, a boat. Though houseboats aren’t an entirely new concept, some have taken a new approach to them, treating them as stationary, permanent buildings on water.

In certain cities, some residents have escaped rising rental costs by going on water. That’s the case in Toronto, where there are about 150 families who call themselves “liveaboard” and live permanently in their boats.

These floating homes sometimes feature additions like shingled roofs, elaborate interiors, or decks transformed into outdoor patios.

In the case of houseboats, you may wonder whether you have to combine home and boat insurance. Even if you consider your boat your home, we’d typically classify it in terms of a marine risk, which means you’d have to get boat insurance. In that case, it would need to be written by a marine insurer.

And there are a  few others things to beware of before you go liveaboard—leaks … and seasickness, of course!


Though each is so different, one thing these extraordinary homes have in common is their owners’ unique vision of what a home should be.

Are you dreaming of an unusual home but aren’t sure how to make it happen? Reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help you figure out what’s possible.

Learn more about how operating an Airbnb affects your insurance coverage and how your home insurance can keep you covered while moving.