Bill McKechnie

Co-housing project takes another step toward ‘dream neighborhood’

Victoria city council voted 7-1 in favour of granting the group a rezoning permit on July 24.

After four years of “jumping through hoops,” the Fernwood Urban Village Project, led by Bill McKechnie, is one step closer to seeing its dream neighbourhood become a reality.

Victoria city council voted 7-1 in favour of granting the group a rezoning permit on July 24.

The group originally presented its proposal in 2011, but was told it would have to iron out some issues with various city departments before moving ahead. The next step for the hopeful neighbours will be to present building plans to the city.

Once completed, the Fernwood Urban Village will become the first “co-housing” community in Victoria.

“There’s a trend now to go back to living in a community – not to be friends, but to build a special kind of trust as neighbours,” McKechnie said. “You can have your own private space just by closing your door, but it’s laid out in a way that people will naturally combine.”

The idea is to have a series of self-contained homes built around 4,600 square feet of shared community space, which would include a courtyard, gardens, guest rooms, a laundry room and a multipurpose room. McKechnie listed group meals, workshops and yoga classes as possible uses for the community space, though in the end, it’s the residents that will decide how it gets used.

“The legal framework is the same as a strata-title condo, but decisions are carried out by the whole community — each member has a say,” McKechnie said. “It’s slow, but it works.”

The village is planned as a “low-impact environment” and will utilize solar energy and water retention to maintain low costs for residents.

Currently standing at 22 members, the group will be looking for more as it moves forward with its plans, hoping to fill the 31 planned units. Operating with a $9 million budget, McKechnie said he hopes to see the village finished within 18 months, with the groundbreaking taking place early next year.

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