Unique Victoria housing project emphasizes teamwork, community

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

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

View Royal mayor victimized in CERB identity theft scam

David Screech shocked to find his CRA account was accessed, his banking information changed

Greater Victoria real estate sales numbers tell two stories for July

Real estate board president Sandi-Jo Ayers talks about pent-up spring demand, low inventory

Driver loses control, crashes into Saanich furniture store

Crash at Lazyboy Furniture store Wednesday afternoon

B.C. Appeal Court prevents Victoria woman from using the term ‘death midwife’ in her job

Pashta MaryMoon claimed she had been providing “death-care services” for more than 40 years

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 4

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

POLL: Should it be mandatory to wear masks when out in public?

B.C. is witnessing an alarming rise in the number of cases of… Continue reading

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Facebook launches its new TikTok clone, Instagram Reels

Facebook has a long tradition of cloning competitive services

‘We all have anxieties’: B.C.’s top doctor addresses return-to-school fears amid COVID-19

Dr. Bonnie Henry promises school restart plan safe for B.C. kids

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

B.C. fish harvesters receive long-awaited details on pandemic benefits

Applications to the $470-million federal assistance programs will open Aug. 24

Most Read