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Tiny house community planned in Maple Ridge

Non-profit society wants an eco-village that offers a sense of belonging
Gerry Pinel has been part of a non-profit society planning a tiny house community in Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/The News)

A community of tiny houses is being planned in Maple Ridge.

There are still a lot of hurdles to clear, but the Affordable Community Environment Society (ACES) has a well developed plan, and there is enough interest to fill a whole city with “eco-villages.”

“People are looking to simplify their lives, and get back to nature and a sense of community,” said Gerry Pinel. “Quite often today, people don’t even know their neighbours.”

Pinel is part of a group that has been working on building floor plans, community designs, financial plans and social structures for most of the past four years. He and five other households are now in the process of purchasing a four-acre site that could be a home for the BeeLiving Eco-Village. He said they have another 15 “subscriber” households – people interested in living in the community, but not involved in the planning.

“Everyone we’ve talked to loves it, and wants to be a part of it,” said Pinel.

He said people are looking for houses that are more affordable, many appreciate the smaller ecological footprint, and all want the sense of community that comes with the co-housing project.

“I believe very strongly, a lot of our problems are because we have become commercialized and isolated from each other,” said Pinel. “Quite often, people don’t even know their neighbours.”

ACES will build a village where everyone has their own space – albeit a small one – but also share in community amenities. They have put together plans for a village that would include 25 residences, which would be either 400 square feet, or double that with a second storey.

There will also be a community centre with a hall for dining and dances, a kitchen, meeting spaces, laundry room, craft room, fitness gym, office space and storage containers.

The community would have a well-equipped shop, And there will be four large greenhouses, which could be used to grow food for residents, or even for sale commercially.

The place will be a gardener’s dream, as they also plan to have more garden space around each house, and less lawn than typical neighbourhoods. “Edible yards,” is what Pinel calls them.

There will be no fences.

“A lot more of your life becomes what happens outside of your home, not inside your home,” said Pinel. “You get more out of life.”

There would also be a tiny house hotel on the premises, with three units for rent as bed and breakfast. That will be both, a commercial venture, and an opportunity for people to experience tiny house living, and seeing how a co-housing community functions.

It’s a style of living that encourages green principles and interacting with the people around you.

Pinel said he grew up in a house in Maple Ridge that was 900 square feet, home to a family with four children, and never felt like it was too small. But square footage has become a key part of a home’s value.

“The current model of construction is all about over consumption,” he said.

READ ALSO: Thomas Haney team builds tiny house

Pinel helped his sister build a tiny house on Vancouver Island, and gained an appreciation for how to make use of space. He created a loveseat that can convert into a table with bench seats, or also be a bed.

“Most houses have so much wasted space, that either never gets used, or has only one function,” he observed.

Some people balk at the idea of living in a tiny home, but Pinel points out couples happily sell their house and buy an RV to live in, or some choose to live on boats. Tiny homes are comparable spaces, he said.

The ACES community plans to be connected to the Hydro grid, but with green modifications such as geo-thermal energy, and solar panels. They will have water permeable roads rather than pavement, and water capture on the buildings.

The community is in a semi-rural area of Maple Ridge, and the proponents are prepared to have to sell this way of living to City Hall. It would require variances, based on current bylaws.

There are precedents for these kinds of developments, he noted. ACES has borrowed ideas from Windsong Cohousing Community in Langley, and the Yarrow Ecovillage.

ACES members were told at the outset that it would take six or seven years to get their tiny house co-housing community built. They started in 2017, and now hope to be able to start building in two years.

Pinel believes the eco-village is the way of the future.

“Climate change is the elephant in the room, and we need to both mitigate our damage, and adapt to what’s coming.”

READ ALSO: UN survey uses Angry Birds to reveal Canadian, global opinions on climate policies

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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