Canadian tiny house brand Habitat28 has launched its first Discovery Centre at the Toronto Premium Outlets Mall in Halton Hills.
Habitat28 was formed by a team of entrepreneurs passionate about housing affordability and sustainability issues and looking to provide an alternative housing solution that is eco-friendly, sustainable, affordable, yet stylish and with the latest technology and comfort features.
Aura Poddar, CEO, and Shailesh Poddar, COO, have been working on the project for a number of years.
The company was incorporated in August 2022 but the Poddars have been working in the background to build up the company to develop the product for about four or five years.
“We started out with the concept of a modern design, different design, a really nice design of a tiny house and we started looking on how to build it out and it took a long time in product development,” said Aura.
“I am a real estate agent. I have about 10 years of experience in sales and Shailesh has about 25 years of residential construction and commercial as well. We kind of piggy backed and built out on that background and the experience in real estate development and sales and that’s how we started the company.”
Habitat28 has a one-year lease with the mall with the hope that it will continue into the future. The Discovery Centre is about 400 to 500 square feet. Part of the Centre is activation as well.
“It’s a place where people can come in and they can experience the unit, ask us questions. We can create awareness to people about tiny home living, about being able to reduce your footprint, about being able to reduce your impact geographically and environmentally through sustainable living,” said Shailesh.
“It’s a place where people can come in and order. We followed the Tesla model where people would be able to come in and experience the car. With us they experience the unit itself. And they can sit down and talk with us about any of the questions they might have.”
Aura said Habitat28 has partnered with the Simon Property Group, one of the largest real estate companies in North America and owner of the Toronto Premium Outlets Mall.
“From the very beginning they were very on board with our idea. We showed them our unit. They loved the model and we came to them with the very modest idea of just having a pop up to raise brand awareness and in turn raise awareness about tiny home living,” said Aura.
“And after we met with their team, with their marketing and leasing director, it just morphed into having us there all the time. They loved the product. They loved the idea. They do have a very broad reach in terms of people coming to the mall. It’s one of the top malls in Ontario. People come from all over including from up north and other provinces as well as from the U.S. So we felt that instead of just being in a mall that has a very local smaller reach of audience, we wanted to be somewhere where we could reach more people and especially people that come from smaller towns in northern regions.
“This tiny home movement is much more closer to their hearts for them because cities are just getting on board. Smaller municipalities are much more open to it and they are embracing the movement because they do understand that they do need to give people more housing options and they do need to intensify the growth and the residential development. But they don’t want urban sprawl necessarily. They want to save the environment as well as attract new people. That’s why we chose this location.”
Shailesh said Habitat28 was born to take action on the affordability crisis.
“Our objective is to provide affordable housing solutions and we are trying to put out different models which will suit different needs of people. Habitat28 is largely about being able to give people housing freedom to choose something different – something that a lot of people have considered peripheral but is becoming mainstream now,” he said.
Aura said the number 28 in many cultures is a very lucky number, a wholesome number – adding two plus eight equals 10 and one plus zero is one.
“So that’s like a one, universal wholesome number. So we are standing a lot for the environment, for the planet. One represents we have one planet and we have to take care of it. We have one life. We have to do the best we can with it,” she said.
The first model is S28 which is 28 square metres or 301 square feet. It was built out with the idea that it would look and feel more like a hotel room, a luxury suite, rather than a trailer or some of the negative connotations associated with a tiny house size. The unique design has lots of glass and big windows, feeling open and spacious.
Shailesh said the company is hoping to expand within Ontario and other provinces as well as moving into the U.S.
The placement of the Discovery Centre is providing Habitat28 with the stepping stone where it can further explore other locations.