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don’t need to be razed and redeveloped with one uniform typology,” he says. “We need to keep a bit of what’s there, and we need to be able to add things that are much more diverse than what we have now. It’s that mixing that gives us those really strong neighbourhoods.”
As a result, SHBC partnered on projects with the cities of Maple Ridge, Nelson and Vancouver. Maple Ridge and Nelson had existing regulations for detached secondary dwellings, but few homeowners were building them.
SHBC helped with research and public outreach that led to both cities increasing the maximum size of infill homes, to 968 square feet and two storeys in Nelson, and to 15 percent of the lot area or 1,500 square feet, whichever is less, in Maple Ridge. The two communities also now allow both a secondary suite and secondary detached dwelling (called laneway homes in Nelson and detached garden suites in Maple Ridge), for potentially three residences per property.
In Nelson, the maximum was previously 700 square feet of living area. “It doesn’t make a lot of financial sense most of the time,” says city planner Alex Thumm, “in terms of what you could get for rent for a place that small but what you’re having to put into it to build it, because you still have all these fixed costs—the kitchen, the bathroom, the connections for utilities.”
SHBC also helped develop two publications for the homeowner-turned-developer who is less familiar with city building processes than design professionals but wants to build a laneway house for extra income or intergenerational living. Nelson is considering pre-approved plans, “likely going through an architectural competition to choose some high-quality designs that can be made available to homeowners at a lower cost than commissioning their own designs and using that as a way to promote local designers,” Thumm says.
At workshops and open houses in Maple Ridge, community planner Lisa Zosiak found that people’s major interest was being able to construct larger detached garden suites. “They’re quite a large investment,” she points out, and residents think, “If I’m investing in this, what would make it livable for me or for the kids?”
The city has lined up three homeowners to build detached garden suites as pilot projects, and Small Housing BC is helping put together a look book for each. “We do profiles of each of the property owners, the properties, what they’re intending to build, to try and give council and the public an idea about what these structures will look like and what this will be like in the neighbourhood,” Zosiak says.
As for Vancouver, SHBC director and urban planner Michael Mortensen is doing a feasibility study on developing single-family lots that combine market-value and more affordable units attractive to both homeowners and neighbours. “We’ve got examples, especially in the streetcar suburbs, of types of development at higher density that still preserve high-quality, leafy, desirable neighbourhoods but accommodate more people,” says Mortensen, who has suggested that Vancouver Specials should make a comeback. “This study is looking at how can we weave in some permanently affordable housing as part of that.”
On November 17, SHBC is holding a summit in Vancouver for decision makers in fields such as construction, design, finance, policy and real estate. “The whole reason for doing the summit in the first place is we’re bringing Maple Ridge, Nelson and Vancouver together to say, this is what we did, this is what we learned, this is what’s next for us,” project manager Koutalianos says. “And leverage the room at the end [of the event] and be like, what’s next now for B.C.?”
When Sabrina Chammas Doumet was one, her parents took a look around their war-torn hometown of Beirut and made sure she could inherit their Canadian citizenship. The move came in handy after Doumet decided to go to school in the U.S. She secured a student visa to study film production in L.A. but couldn't parlay it into permanent residency. Although Doumet moved to Hollywood North with dreams of helming films, her stateside experience working as a freelancer in shared spaces inspired her to open L'atelier Coworking two years ago. Besides running the business in Vancouver's Gastown, she still moonlights as a videographer and has launched her own line of journals.
Doumet is hardly ever the first person to arrive at L'atelier –many clients have their own keys, and the office is open 24 hours–but once she gets in, she checks that the fridge is clean and stocked. To “keep things interesting,” she's decided to provide snacks every Monday. On this September morning, the choice is sliced apples and peanut butter.
L'atelier has two sections: permanent desks and storage space for members who pay a $450 monthly fee, and socalled hot desks for those who want to drop in. When we catch up with Doumet, she has three permanent spots up for grabs and is fielding tours for those interested. “When I opened, I had to try and get people to visit and justify why someone needs a co-working space when they could just work from home,” she says of the 50-desk operation. “I don't do any advertising any more. People find it through Google and book a tour.”
Such popularity comes with caveats– Doumet has already fielded a call today from a friend about a new competitor's rents. “I think Gastown has the most concentration of co-working spots in the city,” she says.
Although Doumet encourages clients to use L’atelier’s fridge for all their food preparation needs, sometimes she succumbs to the temptations the city offers. She dials up Uber Eats to deliver a treat from Lebanese bakery Manoush’eh in Yaletown. Doumet’s review: “It’s delicious and reminds me of being home.”
L'atelier's inhabitants often work alongside each other, literally and figuratively. That's the case today: Kate Bouchard, founder of Vancouverbased marketing agency Armature Collective, occupies a hot desk before meeting with Doumet in one of three conference rooms. Doumet does freelance video work for Armature, and they discuss how best to produce a marketing campaign for a healthcare client.