Sooke News Mirror

A backyard beauty: small and affordable

Small, affordable homes being built in Sooke area.  - Pirjo Raits
Small, affordable homes being built in Sooke area.
— image credit: Pirjo Raits

When people think about small houses they usually have an image of cramped, inefficient and dark spaces.

Two local companies are joining forces to change people’s perceptions of small houses and create livable, modern and light-filled homes suitable for first time home buyers, seniors or singles.

Studio 37 is a concept, an idea whose time has come.

The Studio 37 Garden Pavilion model is 37 sq. metres of unique living space. It is  designed to maximize the space while remaining environmentally friendly, affordable and well designed.

Small Modern Living (SML) and EcoTec Homes, a division of Westco Construction Ltd., have teamed up to get these homes built. EcoTec is located at the Sooke Business Park off Otter Point Road and they are the principals who are building small-scale vacation homes in Port Renfrew.

“We didn’t know of SML before,” said Jen Young of EcoTec Homes. They were introduced and asked if EcoTec could build a show home. They said yes and the build was on.

Roger Lam, from SML, said that the partnership with Westco was important because if they were really serious about these small-scale homes they couldn’t just show it on paper.

“There is a need for an innovative and affordable housing model in the CRD,” said Jessica Lam, another of the partners in SML. “We believe SML can provide that need whether for singles or aging parents. They are very adaptable. When you are starting out $700,000 (for a typical new home) it is difficult for young people to manage — this provides an opportunity.”

The units are a form of low and hidden density which won’t disrupt the form and character of any neighbourhood.

Roger Lam says that the District of Sooke is one of the “most progressive communities in the capital region.” By this he means Sooke has a very open policy for this type of housing with all of the R2 zones allowed to have small suites.

He said he was impressed with EcoTec’s commitment to building small units as small homes can be an economic generator for this area by pulling the trades from Sooke.

SML is a family-run business.

Jessica and her husband Roger Lam are both municipal planners. Roger Lam  worked as a planner in Sooke for a couple of years in 2005-2006. The other partner is Dan Boot, (Jessica’s father) an architectural designer with 35 years of experience who has worked on Habitat for Humanity projects. He has helped build affordable housing internationally and has a social conscience. He has designed high-end homes and has won numerous awards through the Care awards and Georgies.

Dan Boot, as the designer, says the homes are custom-built on the EcoTec site and a buyer’s preferences can be taken into account. The studio 37 (and other larger units) homes will be built under cover, at Westco’s Sooke facility,to allow for a quick build out at six to eight weeks. Each features modern stainless steel appliances, designer cabinets and fixtures, granite countertops and a wall bed to maximize space. The space is also wheelchair accessible.

SML provides a full service package in that they take care of all of the details like zoning, infrastructure, footings, delivery, hook-ups, etc. This is built into the $100,000 price and accounts for approx. 25 per cent of the cost. Another option is a home without the high-end finishes as in the show home for a price tag of $80,000, making it even more affordable.

“We really value the social conscience and the environmental aspect. There is a void in the region that merits these values. This is an affordable housing solution,” said Jessica Lam. “This is a great solution for different municipalities.”

The Studio 37 Garden Pavilion will be showcased at the upcoming Canadian Home Builders Association of Victoria Home and Garden Show at Save-On Foods Memorial Centre from March 9-11. They are also looking at perhaps showing the home at the annual Rotary Fair in May in Sooke.

 

Small houses should no longer be synonymous with cheap houses and lack of privilege. Instead, they symbolize a range of culturally coded values: compactness, efficiency, discrimination, discreteness, minimalism.

 

Dan Boot, SML

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