Birchwood Co-housing

Intentional. Innovative. Intergenerational.

Our Project

The property is 10 acres in Telkwa, BC, embraced by rolling hay fields to the north and birch/pine woodland on the south. It has the amenities of the Village of Telkwa on the front step and sweeping mountain vistas in all directions. The land is secured for the development. Scroll to the bottom of this page to see a map showing our location.

Zoning allows for a range of options, giving the project considerable flexibility to have custom homes and home-based businesses. Permitted land uses include: B&Bs, day care facility, guest house, and work studio.

Birchwood Cohousing will be a Bare Land Strata where members own a plot of land, just like a town lot, and have an equal share in ownership of the common land and amenities. Members can purchase a lot and build a rental unit if they desire.

Members can sell their lot and house privately or use a realtor. However, in order to ensure that incoming members share the group’s vision and values, a waiting list of interested buyers will be maintained.

In Phase 1 of development there will be 10 lots of 400 m2 (4300 sqft).

Members intend to create beautiful, owner-built homes in a well-planned village setting that utilizes gardens and greenhouses for our health and food security, with modern forms of renewable energy , self-sufficiency and comfort.

Site Design

We have developed a comprehensive site plan based on principles of permaculture. It allows for a range of residents’ needs and household types. The site plan with common garden, greenhouse, workshop, playground, carports and common house can be found in the Gallery tab. The common house will be the heart of our community and will include a cooking and dining area, laundry facilities, meeting space and activity areas.

Covered parking will be provided for each household in the form of carports with plug-ins. The carports will be in clusters and a short walk to the houses. All lots are accessible by road, and four lots can have parking for residents with mobility issues but will sell at a premium.

House Designs

Birchwood Cohousing is selling only lots and members are free to design and build their own homes. Members need to follow a few agreed design guidelines to ensure some architectural harmony and enhanced environmental standards in keeping with the sustainability objectives included in our Vision.

As a result of a two-day design workshop, two basic passive solar house designs were created. The Tyee is a one storey, 2-bedroom, 1,000 sq. ft. design, ideal for singles and older couples. And the Babine is a two storey, 3-bedroom, 1,500 sq. ft. design that shares the same footprint as the Tyee - ideal for small families.

The maximum living space, including garden suite, is 1,500 sq. ft. per lot. Structures cannot be more than two-storeys. Basements are possible.

The Village of Telkwa requires the exterior of houses to be finished within one year. Following our environmentally sustainable design qualifies for a $3,500 per lot reduction in Telkwa’s Development Cost Charges.

Development

Birchwood Cohousing will set up a separate Development Corporation to assume the role of developer and commence site development. This structure limits liability for members, is most flexible and is the most easily recognized by lending institutions. To commence development, 60% of the 10 lots have to be purchased (6-7 confirmed investors).

Each Equity Member will be an equal shareholder in the corporation and will be required to invest $25,000 as a shareholder loan applicable to the purchase price of their lot. Members can also invest more money than required early in the project and earn a competitive interest rate since their investment lessens the financing required from the bank. The balance of the financing will be negotiated with financial institutions.

An experienced and professional construction manager will be hired to negotiate construction contracts for the site work with individual contractors and start site clearing and servicing.

When the project is completed and lots serviced, each individual owner “buys” their lot from the Development Corporation and assumes responsibility for their own financing for construction of their house. Their shareholder loan will be applied to this purchase price as a credit. The Development Corporation then pays off the construction loan, including accrued interest.

The By-laws for the Development Corporation are drawn up by a lawyer and include provisions for: group intentions, membership requirements, decision-making procedures, financial liability (individual and joint), legal representation of the corporation, provisions for settling accounts should someone wish to leave the development prior to completion, amendment procedures, etc.

Operations

On completion of the development, the development corporation will be dissolved, passing ownership of the lots to individual members. The common house and amenities will be owned by the Strata Corporation. Members will work together to organize and complete routine maintenance and upkeep. Monthly strata maintenance fees will cover ongoing costs, and regular meetings will facilitate the running of the community. We currently estimate strata fees at $100 per month.

For major work like renovations on the common house, a contractor will be hired. Generally, for a new development there should be no major renovation costs in the first 5 years. A portion of the monthly strata fee is withheld to cover these costs.

Membership

Birchwood Cohousing is a non-profit society incorporated in British Columbia. There are two levels of membership:

We invite anyone who is interested in becoming a member to contact us at info@birchwoodcohousing.com.

Professional Support

Ronaye Matthew

Ronaye is one of Canada’s foremost cohousing experts with over 35 years experience in residential development, marketing and construction. It is our intention that her company, Cohousing Development Consulting (CDC) will actively participate in all phases of this housing project as paid consultants. CDC provides a full range of services to facilitate a smooth cohousing development process including tools and protocols for effective decision-making, professional support for membership and marketing, site selection and negotiation, feasibility/market studies, budget and cash flow projections, project schedules and time-lines, selection of professional consultants, contract negotiation and administration, re-zoning coordination, bookkeeping services, finance administration, legal, financial and organizational agreements and structures. She has been focusing on cohousing development since 1996 and has provided start-up and development management services for most of the completed cohousing communities in Canada. Ronaye works with groups from the initial forming stage to move-in. She knows what it takes to support a group to ground their vision in reality and generate the membership and financial resources required to move forward and get the project built in a timely and cost efficient manner. Ronaye is a founding member of the Canadian Cohousing Network and lives at Cranberry Commons Cohousing.

Odete Pinho

Odete is a community planning consultant, dedicated to advancing community sustainability through the creation of places that are livable and beautiful and which use limited resources wisely. Odete, MCIP, is the lead development consultant on this project working closely with Ronaye. Odete’s professional expertise covers a gamut of project construction related skills including: project planning, project management, sustainability, zoning, land use planning, urban planning and design, green building, community engagement and sustainable development. She has 14 years’ experience working for municipalities, regional districts, agencies and private sector clients. As a former municipal planner and subdivision technician she is well versed in local government reviews, regulatory requirements, community consultations, and managing comprehensive development applications, both as the receiving municipal planner and as the lead applicant for clients. We regard this varied experience between public and private sector, as well as her background in process facilitation, consultation, subdivision planning and municipal finance as a valuable asset for our project.

Peter Treuheit

Peter is the Principle architect of Mobius Architecture Inc. a full services firm experienced in taking projects from initial Design and Programming, through Construction Documents and Construction. Peter facilitated our site design workshop and we hope to work with him on the Common House and individual house design workshops. Mobius’ team members have worked together successfully on numerous projects on the Sunshine Coast, Vancouver area, and Saskatoon. They are aware and sensitive to the budget and time constraints facing every project and will commit to being part of a team in working through these issues successfully in realizing our vision. His cohousing experience began over ten years ago with the Roberts Creek Cohousing project where he led several design workshops from site planning, through detailed unit and common house design. This hands-on interaction between group and architect throughout the design process reinforces the sense of a team approach. Decisions that impact the construction costs can bereviewed at each step as the design process evolves. Peter’s interest and passion for cohousing as a social and architectural model for community development has continued with the Wolf Willow seniors cohousing project in Saskatoon, (the first senior cohousing project in Canada), Belterra cohousing on Bowen island, and Harbourside cohousing in Sooke.

Alfred Reutelsterz

Alfred was qualified engineer in Germany, where he was born. Alfred served as Director of Engineering for the Village of Telkwa taking projects from conception to completion. He is thoroughly familiar with local conditions, Village Bylaws and processes and working with local contractors. Recently retired, he is advising our group on infrastructure design and project costs. We may also retain him to supervise the site development portion of the project as Construction Manager.

Mel Coulson

Mel is a volunteer founding member of the group actively supporting the cohousing project. He participated in the leadership team that guided the early stage of the development process though visioning, public engagement, preliminary feasibility study, Study Group 1 and conceptual design. He is a Life Member of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geophysicists of BC with 45 years international experience in civil engineering. Since retiring from practice in 2001, Mel has spearheaded a number of local volunteer projects, including the Old Church Renovation Project (2004), The Old Church Garden (2006), Round Lake Hall Renovation Project (2008) and the Camp Caledonia Renovation Project (2010). All these were done as Job Creation Partnership Agreements (JCPs) using unemployed people with a view to training them in construction and getting them back into the work force.

Daryl Hanson

Daryl is a registered professional engineer with over 40 years of experience in the exploration and mining industry in BC and Yukon. His industry experience includes mineral exploration, project economic feasibility, design, permitting, safety programs, environmental protection, contract management, and construction supervision for mining projects. He also has experience in complex consensus decision making through 5 years on the Bulkley Valley Community Resources Board leading to the creation of the Bulkley Land and Resource Management Plan. Daryl has taught courses for Northwest Community College and was instrumental in the establishment of the School of Exploration and Mining in Smithers. In semi-retirement he works part time on projects of interest and enjoys the natural amenities of the beautiful Bulkley Valley.

Murray Vetsch

Murray, C.E.T. and Red Seal Carpenter, is an active member of our project and a local contractor and construction manager with 10+ years of building experience. He has a background in mechanical engineering design and drafting and residential/light commercial construction. He has a long-term interest in practical, low cost, energy-efficient, sustainable design and implementation. He incorporates these principles into all of his projects. His current major project is overseeing the conversion of a former elementary school into a church and community worship centre. Murray serves as the reality check on our team, keeping us sharply focused on practicalities and costs!

Potential House Designs

The Tyee - An example of a two bedroom 1,072 sqft house design. Members are allowed to build their own homes.

The Babine - An example of a three bedroom 1,512 sqft house design. Members are allowed to build their own homes.

June 20, 2016: Birchwood Receives High Marks for Sustainability from the Village of Telkwa