Rent starts at $200 per month in this small Canadian village: photos

The small village of 12Neighbors in New Brunswick, Canada – across the border from Maine,
Marcel Lebrun court

  • Millionaire Marcel Lebrun is building a small cottage village in Canada, just north of the Maine border.
  • It has 78 homes that rent for $200 a month to people who previously had no housing.
  • Residents ages 18 to 71 have access to a laundry room, medical services, and vocational training.

It’s been nearly two years since 12Neighbours, a tiny home village in Canada, welcomed its first resident.

The tiny house community in Fredericton, New Brunswick, was founded by Marcel Lebrun, a former tech industry executive who sold his social media listening startup to Salesforce for about $340 million in 2011.

Lebron said he wants to revolutionize how communities approach housing assistance.

Marcel Lebrun in the small village of 12Neighbours.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

“I thought carefully about what would really help versus what I, a wealthy white man, thought was in the best interest of this community,” LeBron told Insider. “Can I build something unique that will make the city better and help people move forward, and not stay in subsidized housing for the rest of their lives?”

The village’s 46 employees work to provide permanent, affordable housing and developmental assistance to individuals who have experienced chronic homelessness.

The village currently has 77 residents — ages 18 to 71 — who pay at least $200 a month for housing and utilities. As of November, the community has 78 tiny homes, and LeBrun intends to increase the number to 99 by May 2024.

The village currently has a waiting list of 700 people, Lebron said.

Residents have access to addiction and mental health counseling, medical services, and employment opportunities.

New Brunswick is a province located in southeastern Canada north across the border from Maine, and is known for its rugged coastline, pristine wilderness, and marine industries including fishing and lobstering. Despite the relatively strong economy, the Fraser Research Institute found that a significant number of New Brunswick residents earn less than people living in other parts of Canada.

To help residents get ahead financially, a large portion of the community is employed in 12Neighbors’ carpentry or print shop program, receiving compensation that exceeds New Brunswick’s minimum wage of $14.75 per hour.

“We may look like an affordable housing organization, but we really see ourselves as a community of people developers,” Lebron said. “Our focus is on helping people overcome barriers so they can experience full, independent lives.”

Take a look inside the 12Neighbors hamlet.

12Neighbors is located on 55 acres of land in Fredericton, the capital of New Brunswick.

The roofs of the twelve neighbors’ houses are colorful: green, blue and red.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

LeBron, who purchased the land for $500,000 in 2021, said he initially had to convince local officials to support his tiny house project.

“It was kind of a yes-and-no thing: Hey, what you’re doing is really great, but you can’t do it here,” he said of the government’s response. “I asked them to support rezoning the area in a custom way that would allow me to build on the land.”

The village is scheduled to include 99 homes, of which 78 are already completed, with more on the way.

A row of houses in the small village of 12Nighbours.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

Lebron said a new tiny house is built every four days, and the cost to build and furnish each unit is about $50,000.

Residents at 12Neighbors benefit from subsidized rent, making it easier for them to afford housing in an expensive real estate market. According to Canadian personal finance website WOWA, the median home price in the country is $288,050, as of September 2023.

“New Brunswick’s housing market is overvalued,” Lebrun added. “It’s definitely a seller’s market. Everything is above asking prices.”

Each tiny house ranges from 240 to 294 square feet and includes a kitchen, bathroom, and dining room.

A tiny house of 12 neighbors is under construction in a warehouse. It is then transported to the site where it is completed.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

The homes were constructed on-site by the 12Neighbors construction team, which includes freelancers and community residents. Of the twenty carpenters in the village, three are members of the local community.

“My original plan was to outsource to a number of different contractors,” LeBron said. “But then I decided to build a small team. Eventually, we built our own small factory.”

The tiny houses are fully furnished.

Inside one of the small houses.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

When residents move into their units, they receive a starter kit that includes bedding, bath towels, shower curtains, tableware, cleaning supplies and more.

One resident, Randy, has gone from living in his car to living in the village as well as building tiny homes for others.

The tiny houses are eco-friendly and equipped with solar panels.

Solar panels on small homes.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

“I have about 300 kilowatts of solar on all the homes,” Lebron said. “It lowers the cost of utilities.”

The village also has a community garden.

Small village community garden.
Marcel Lebrun

Village resident Mark Osborne did not complete high school, but now lives in one of the tiny houses and is studying for his GED, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

Picnic benches are located throughout the village, providing opportunities for residents to interact and build relationships.

Community members gathered around the picnic table.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

Samantha Seymour, who is recovering from drug and alcohol addiction and was previously homeless, moved to 12Neighbors in October 2022, according to CBC. She received a pumpkin as a housewarming gift.

“I have an amazing support system around me, and I’m doing the necessary work every day to stay there,” she told CBC.

The village’s 77 residents range in age from 18 to 71 and come from diverse backgrounds.

A resident of the small village of 12Neighbours.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

12Neighbours does not maintain an internal waiting list for housing, but instead receives referrals from New Brunswick’s housing waiting list through the Department of Social Development, which oversees housing supports in the province.

“Those who generally qualify are individuals experiencing chronic homelessness,” Lebron said. “No one has been left out, but the only two criteria we have are that people need to be able to live independently, and secondly is safety.”

12Neighbours has a screen printing business run by community members.

Marcel Lebrun and an employee in the printing press.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

The print shop sells branded clothing that includes T-shirts, blouses and bags. Designs are made by store employees.

“We want to get them as far as we can, so that we not only meet more needs, but actually help reintegrate these people back into the economy and society,” Lebron said.

Seymour, a resident who is recovering from alcohol and drug addiction, is a “print leader,” according to CBC, silk-screening designs on handbags and T-shirts.

12 Neighbors is in the process of building a 12,000-square-foot “social enterprise center,” modeled after a community center, for the village.

The Social Enterprise Center is under construction.
Courtesy of Marcel Lebrun

The center will contain a café and a retail store showcasing merchandise produced by the screen printing business, Lebron said.

“It will be a place where people can come order coffee and meet people they may not necessarily talk to every day,” he said.

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