Unique Victoria housing project emphasizes teamwork, community

Fernwood group has many hoops to jump through yet to obtain approval

Bill McKechnie

Bill McKechnie

A micro-neighbourhood within a neighbourhood – the first housing project of its kind in Victoria – is inching closer to receiving city approval.

The Fernwood Urban Village, identified as a ‘cohousing’ project, is the concept of four property owners on Grant Street who want to develop shared spaces with a focus on community engagement. They have been working with the city for nearly three years to create their vision.

“Our project will be like a little pocket neighbourhood,” said Bill McKechnie, one of the four and a Fernwood Community Association director. “I describe it as a group of like-minded owners who are pooling our money and building our houses in a way that surrounds the central courtyard.”

City staff recommended rejection of the project at Monday’s planning and land use committee meeting, saying it doesn’t conform to current municipal guidelines.

“One of the key reasons staff recommended against it … is they said it doesn’t have a very good relationship with the street,” said Coun. Lisa Helps.

But the city, she added, should be doing more to encourage alternative housing ideas.

“It’s the people’s relationship on that street that are making this happen in the first place. I think it’s unprecedented in the City of Victoria where four property owners have pooled their property to come up with something and build it together.”

To move forward, the project must pass through several stages of approval, including the creation of a master development agreement for the site, consultation with neighbours on Grant Street and further clarification on a proposed car-share program. Council would have the final say.

Cohousing differs from co-op housing in that property owners are still able to buy and sell individual units, rather than leasing them from a provincially legislated co-op organization.

The cohousing model emphasizes shared meals and fosters community activities, McKechnie said.

“The uniqueness of it is that we are trying to create a sustainable community by growing a lot of our own food.”

He said the plan also calls for a common dining room and kitchen – the suites would be self-contained, however, with a small kitchen in each. “In cohousing communities, you tend to eat together fairly often, and it’s part of bringing the community together.”

If approved, the site would also include green roofs, several food gardens and a bike/kayak storage area.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria raises record-breaking $350,000 for Salvation Army

The charity says it’s seen an increase in need since COVID-19 hit

Staff at Artemis Place Secondary were shocked to find that one of the student-built greenhouses on the campus was stolen overnight on Jan. 11. (Artemis Place Society/Facebook)
Saanich school hopes to catch greenhouse thief red-handed

Student-built greenhouses stolen from Artemis Place Secondary on Jan. 11

Forty-two residential properties in Oak Bay were assessed the speculation and vacancy tax in 2019 for a total of $693,000. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
74 Oak Bay property owners paid $693,000 in spec tax

42 properties were assessed with the SVT in 2019

Rendering shows murals decorating the proposed tiny home community in the Caledonia/Vancouver street parking lot next to Royal Athletic Park. (Courtesy Aryze Developments)
Tiny homes project on Victoria parking lot gets boost from council

Shipping container neighbourhood stems from Aryze Development idea

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

50 km/hr speed limit sign.
POLL: What do you think the speed limit should be on residential streets without a centre line?

Traffic on side streets around Greater Victoria could soon be travelling at… Continue reading

Jackie Hildering, whale researcher with the Marine Environment Research Society, and Nanaimo Area Land Trust will present the Return of Giants, a webinar about the humpback whales’ return from the brink of extinction and how boaters can help protect them. (Jackie Hildering/MERS photo taken under Marine Mammal License MML-42)
‘Return of the Giants:’ B.C. getting 2nd chance to coexist with humpback whales

‘Marine Detective’ partners with Nanaimo stewardship group on webinar

Luke Marston works on the seawolf mask for Canucks goalie Braden Holtby. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
B.C. Coast Salish artist designs new mask for Canucks goalie

Braden Holtby’s new mask features artwork by Luke Marston inspired by the legend of the seawolf

This weekend Amy Pye is holding a virtual book launch for her latest children’s book, <em>Bruce the Silly Goose</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Victoria writer and illustrator pens children’s book about COVID-19 safety

Amy Pye to hold online book launch for ‘Bruce the Silly Goose’

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

Most Read