On Thursday, Dec. 8, Sechelt Sustainable Community (SSC Properties Ltd.) hosted a workshop and community discussion at the Sechelt Band Hall aimed at bringing cost-efficient housing to Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast.
The expert panel included representatives from the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society, Habitat for Humanity Sunshine Coast, Roberts Creek Co-Housing and SSC Properties. Four short presentations were followed by an open panel discussion based on questions from the audience.
Todd McGowan of SSC Properties opened the program by pointing out that the key objective is to select specific solutions from various immediately buildable designs. He explained that SSC has several areas in their community development plan for affordable housing and that housing in virtually every part of the 420-acre site in East Porpoise Bay could be cost-efficient.
Matt Thomson of the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society gave an overview of the housing needs “spectrum” that extends from emergency shelters through transitional and supportive housing to “affordable” and market rental and ownership. In his estimation, “core [affordable] housing need is projected to climb to over 1,000 renter households on the Sunshine Coast by 2021”.
The impact of the Habitat for Humanity Sunshine Coast program was summarized by Chair Laurie Vance. Habitat focuses on breaking the cycle of poverty by making home ownership attainable. The local chapter has already created a home in Gibsons, a duplex in Sechelt and has a 14-unit village in Wilson Creek in progress. Through the Habitat program eligible young families receive interest-free mortgages indexed to their household income in exchange for 500 hours of volunteer work.
Gary Kent of Roberts Creek provided an overview of the Roberts Creek Co-Housing project and shared a short video presentation. Though not specifically designed to be inexpensive, the benefits of providing common spaces, a workshop, meals and other elements of the “sharing economy” help to reduce living costs.
Werner Hofstätter of SSC Properties presented four examples of innovative, cost-efficient and highly liveable solutions that are already being constructed elsewhere (these were some of the responses received by SSC to their recent request for expressions of interest in cost-efficient housing solutions.)
Hofstätter said that the cost of land, for example, is determined not only by the size and location, but also by the rules and regulations that dictate the level of servicing and the extent to which the land can be used.
Based on these examples, he advised the audience that target pricing (including land) would be about $95,000 for cleverly designed micro-studios, $130,000 for one-bedroom apartment/condos and from $240,000 to $325,000 for two-bedroom and three-bedroom options. As well, construction of these types of housing options could begin immediately, as soon as the necessary approvals are in place.
The key message was that providing cost-efficient housing under a market model is the only way to ensure wide-spread, uninterrupted access. He said “it is time for the people who make the rules to ensure that the standards, requirements and processes that may hinder cost-efficiency are up to date”.