One millionaire is putting his money to work by helping to finance the construction of 99 tiny homes in the town of Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada to provide housing for people experiencing homelessness.
The millionaire building 99 tiny homes, Marcel Lebrun, is a former executive at Salesforce and former CEO of Radian6. A "passion project" of Lebrun's is 12 Neighbours, which is managing the tiny home community and other initiatives aimed at tackling poverty and other systemic societal issues. We spoke with Lebrun to learn more about the most rewarding parts of this community — keep reading to learn all about how the project works.
Canadian millionaire Marcel Lebrun is building 99 tiny homes to fight homelessness in the community.
Former tech executive Marcel Lebrun is in the process of building 99 tiny homes for people affected by homelessness. In an interview with the Faytene Show on YouTube in April 2023, Lebrun explained that before coming up with his tiny house community concept, he traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada to see what other organizations were doing about homelessness and poverty, and what was working.
Lebrun is the founder of 12 Neighbours Project, which seeks to "inspire and educate people to love their neighbors like never before." To that end, as Good News Network stated, he's invested about $4 million of his own money and received government grants totaling $12 million to build the tiny homes for formerly homeless residents.
12 Neighbours is a gated community that will eventually hold 99 tiny homes (it's about 75 percent completed, as of October 2023) and a business center.
A tiny home can be built approximately every four business days, per Good News Network. Each home has a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and bedroom, as well as a small deck and solar panels.
The tiny homes are being rented to residents at 30 percent of their income.
Lebrun tells Green Matters via email that the tiny houses are rented to residents as a "subsidized rental with a geared-to-income model," with rent set at 30 percent of the tenant's income.
In Canada, Lebrun tells us, a single individual receiving social assistance gets $636 per month; meaning their rent would be about $200 per month. This covers rent, all utilities, and internet.
"Building community and being in community is inherently rewarding," Lebrun adds in his email.
"Getting to know so many amazing and resilient people, who have carried and overcome so much, who have incredible strengths, is rewarding," he continues. "There is no pressure. I don’t rescue or transform anybody. But we can create a community where transformation happens."
Are tiny houses really effective at solving homelessness?
Although Lebrun receives plenty of praise for his efforts to fight homelessness, there are also many people who do not support projects like this. Warren Maddox, director of Fredericton Homeless Shelters, advised Lebrun to stop at 50 homes due to his belief that concentrating so many "vulnerable" people in one place could be detrimental to their own recovery, per CBC News.
Maddox said that he preferred a "decentralized approach" in which units like these tiny houses would be spread across the city.
A similar project was proposed by Birmingham, Ala. mayor in January 2023, in which the city would buy 100 sheds intended for temporary housing of the homeless, Vice reported. However, critics have said that communities like these may feel like a prison to residents due to the rules and restrictions that accompany them. Plus, in this instance, tenants aren't getting a "home," but a temporary space without a kitchen or individual bathroom (which Lebrun's tiny houses do provide).
This issue is obviously very nuanced, as well as one with many possible solutions. Though there are many valid concerns about Lebrun's project, the project seem to come from a good place, especially when trying to tackle such a widespread and complex problem. We hope this tiny house community will accomplish its goals of providing safe housing for individuals who need it.