The architect set to design the Okanagan’s first ecovillage says it’s a way to upscale your lifestyle without increasing your budget.
An ecovillage combines cohousing—where residents live in their own homes but share in a common area, some common meals and the expense of running a property— with an additional self-sufficient component like farming or retail space.
The idea is to live off the land at hand as much as possible, generating electricity, food and so forth to cut living expenses.
“Some people argue it’s simply a conscious effort to do what used to happen naturally ,” said Charles Durrett, who has designed 50 such communities with his wife and partner Kathryn McCamant. “These are people who are motived to live lighter on the planet and make other people’s life easier and better.”
The impetus for the Okanagan project came from a Lower Mainland-based physician who was looking for exactly this balance between community and cost savings.
Not wanting to spend his life commuting to and from one suburb to another to pay for a home he could ill afford, Dr. Gwyllyn Goddard purchased a property in Lumby. He thought he would move his family to the country and spend more time enjoying them and less time working to pay an exorbitant mortgage.
The lot purchased is, by all descriptions, a stunning riverside lot capable of drawing would-be residents from across the country it’s so beautiful. Yet the thought of starting a hobby farm and living outside a small city like Vernon, after living in Vancouver, didn’t really sit entirely right.
“I didn’t see myself being happy out there with just me and my family close by,” he said.
The doctor then spotted Yarrow, an ecovillage based out of Chilliwack where residents are farming and about to start a retail sector on the main street in the town.
“I realized this is probably something that’s possible to do on our property,” said Goddard.
He started introducing the idea with an opening seminar held at Summerhill Pyramid Winery in November, and now has roughly 15 families committed to a workshop this weekend.
The workshop and feasibility study come with a $450 price tag, ensuring those who show up are committed to moving forward.
“I’m the type of person who follows a lot of geopolitics and trends, soft fascism…problems throughout the world with the environment, economic collapse, overprinting money…All of this stuff is affecting the standard of living for you and I. I couldn’t see myself being one of these couples, two people going to work all day to pay for a house that’s not worth as much as I was paying,” said Goddard.
The weekend workshop will go into detail on how cohousing works, look at the land available and the opportunities for earning revenue and growing food on the plot.
“I expect there will be a fair amount of bureaucratic hurdles to get through,” said Durrett, noting the area has not seen housing of this type before.
“Historically we’ve had really good luck…” he said. “Largely because most municipalities figure their job is to protect the consumers. In this case, it’s the co-housing group protecting themselves so (government intervention) would actually be hampering them.”
The workshop will be held this Friday, Feb. 24 through Sunday Feb. 26. Information can be found on the group’s website or by making contact with the group through Goddard at email@example.com or Vivian firstname.lastname@example.org
A previous attempt to build cohousing in Kelowna a couple of years ago has stagnated.