Housing affordability is a serious issue in Nanaimo that affects many young adults, seniors, and others with modest incomes in our community – over 25% of all households in Nanaimo face a housing affordability issue!
Have you wondered what it might look like if we were to tackle this issue through smaller homes?
I’ve attached a small variety of pictures within, of concepts that were recently completed by Dr. Avi Friedman, for Chemainus – he was tasked with providing a variety of concepts which show what could be done with two specific areas in Chemainus in relation to planning for smaller, sustainable housing environments. The pictures provided here are for a specific infill area.
I first met Dr. Friedman, a very knowledgeable world-renowned affordable housing expert, earlier this summer after attending one of his powerful lectures about Housing Innovation on Saltspring where he spoke about what is being done around the world, and showing what can be done locally. Dr. Friedman resides in Montreal and is a professor at McGill University.
We discussed the problems faced here in Nanaimo, and I asked him if he would be willing to come and present a lecture here so that leadership and the community as a whole could better understand what we’re really facing here and what is required to move forward on the possibilities and difficulties that exist – to open up the conversation and start building momentum towards taking things to the next step. He was very welcoming of that request and said to the essence of “the biggest problem is in getting leadership to be bold and embrace the possibilities”.
When we touched base recently in Duncan, he welcomed me with a smile and after our conversation reiterated that he was committed to taking his time to come here and speaking with us as a community, and we talked about scheduling logistics.
There is so much to talk about around concepts of this nature, but I want to start by talking about one concept in particular – single-family units. I bring this one up because it touches on a concept I have brought up in my platform and describe what needs to be done at the municipal level in order to open up opportunities to own a small affordable piece of land with a home to be proud of.
You’ll notice in that concept, the houses are unevenly spaced – and that’s by design; the goals in this concept were to utilize this particular space without clearing out all the trees – to take advantage of the beautiful natural environment and work with it, and introduce shared spaces that deliver what becomes a community of its own, while still keeping the autonomy intact of having a house and a small piece of land to call your own.
This single-family unit concept essentially doubles the density in relation to standard single family dwelling sized lots – yet it brings so much more than that – it promotes and provides for a healthy community through shared spaces.
What I think all of these concepts really do overall, is that they help give a sense of what small housing can be – whether it be single family dwellings, duplexes, triplexes, or even denser developments. They are developments which are specifically designed and planned in ways that embrace the characteristics of the city, its neighbourhood, and its specific location. In other words, while these concepts are for that specific area in Chemainus – how ours would be designed and planned might look much different – but the characteristics would be the same – sustainable small housing with shared spaces.
But, we can’t have small sustainable housing until we support innovative planning and lead changes to our bylaws and policies which permit these well planned, sustainable, affordable environments.
It’s complicated further as there’s unfortunately also a stigma which exists that connects affordable with “cheap” and “undesirable”, and other visuals – and that creates barriers. Affordable housing can be, and is, beautiful – when it’s planned well and done right.
This is why in my platform I have suggested that we should raise the priority of specific policy direction items in our Affordable Housing Strategy from 3-5 years to the 1-2 years around increasing community engagement and education, supporting infill and intensification in single detached neighbourhoods, and reducing barriers to tiny homes.
It’s going to take time for this all to happen, and we need to get started now – not later. We need to begin taking care of the future – for our children, our seniors, and others with modest incomes that need housing which is affordable.
What are your thoughts?