A group of likeminded friends feeling the housing crunch in Vancouver plan to put their expertise as engineers, woodworkers and educators to use to create a unique housing development on a section of North Road, wedged between the bypass and Hopkins landing.
Their proposal would see an approximately 1.5-hectare lot at 1457 North Rd. zoned as Rural Residential 1 changed to accommodate a 10-lot bare-land strata with shared community buildings and property. Current zoning allows for up to four homes on a subdivided lot.
Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) senior planner Yuli Siao helped introduce the co-housing project at an information session at Eric Cardinal Hall on March 2, and said it’s possible the property’s location in a “gateway neighbourhood” could accommodate the increased density.
To proceed, the project will require amendments to the zoning bylaw and official community plan (OCP) governing West Howe Sound, which triggered the information session.
The group defined the development as a values-driven housing community that prioritizes “interconnectedness and relationships, lifelong learning, celebration and play, investing in and collaborating with local community, protection and conservation of our natural environment.”
To that end, the lots would be small – approximately 0.1 hectare – as would the houses – proposed at 1,500 sq. feet. A minimum of 50 per cent of the subdivision would remain undeveloped green space. Landowner Colleen O’Toole told the full house gathered at the hall they also intend to “foster a culture of conservation” by incorporating green building techniques, using alternative transportation, incorporating energy alternatives and reducing their reliance on the regional district’s water supply.
The group has also proposed donating one lot to Habitat for Humanity, and have received a letter of support from the organization.
Two neighbours raised concern over light pollution and the significant increase in density proposed, as well as the issue of wastewater. The development would likely require a small wastewater treatment plan, which, if it exceeds 22.7 cubic metres in volume, must be operated by the SCRD. Siao said, “The preference is not to take over the system.”
Another member of the audience asked how the 10 young professionals are expected to pay for the development. The 2020 assessment value for the land is $911,100, according to an SCRD property report.
The group purchased the property in 2018, working with financial cooperative Vancity on an ownership structure that includes 10 people on title for the mortgage, said O’Toole. “We’re able to access construction loans in a way that we wouldn’t be able to do independently.”
Siao and the presenters acknowledged the design and exact zoning requirements could change before the application comes before SCRD, likely in April.
Their motivation for the project, however, likely won’t. “We’ve been noticing that our community is starting to disperse because of affordability challenges in Vancouver and so we’re concerned that our community is going to spread out, we’re going to lose connections and lose touch, so we wanted a project like this to try to bring us together and give us a place where we could learn, do projects together, but also call home,” said one of the group’s presenters.