The intense discussion around the issue of affordable housing on Vancouver Island feels like a tug-of-war: both sides are trying hard to pull everyone onto their side, with the “missing middle” destined to fall into the water.
Those who can afford to live here without going into debt don’t want their neighbourhoods crowded or made less desirable by those who need more affordable options.
At the other end of the rope, those low-income residents want compassionate housing options that don’t punish them for earning less than their wealthy neighbours – by “punish,” I mean forcing low-income people to live in crowded, noisy or otherwise cramped conditions, without the benefits of nature or space or privacy.
There are some amazing new solutions that might be amenable to both sides: Tiny homes, insulated yurts, container homes, and a new spray-insulated “dome” home model (featured in Margaret Atwood’s Practical Utopias global campaign of the same name) involve a modest investment to the homeowner of $25,000-$150,000, making them both highly-affordable and environmentally-friendly choices.
The barriers to these solutions include a lack of awareness, the need for suitable land, and outdated municipal bylaws. It seems to be a taxing issue, but getting details on changing these bylaws has proven challenging.
Bottom line? We should get behind these solutions collectively: Tiny Home communities rely on landowners willing to lease a small amount of their land to the homeowners; they will not burden existing neighbourhoods, nor will they entail any new infrastructure. It’s a win-win situation that is currently not being actively pursued but deserves a chance.
Of course, developers don’t profit, and it doesn’t generate any construction jobs. Still, it would go a long way to helping a lot of people thrive (vs. survive) on this beautiful island, and the self-sustaining nature of these communities, which include gardens and a form of communal “village” living, is the best option in the future in the era of climate change.
I will be conducting a brief symposium in March called Tiny Home Communities: Affordable Living through the Sooke Region Lifelong Learning program. Anyone interested in attending should contact them for more details.