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EcoDensity Vancouver: stacked homes and “Fonzie Suites”

Vancouver gets high marks as a liveable city by North American standards, but even Vancouverites recognize that their ecological footprint is too high: “if everyone in the world right now used resources and produced waste at the rate that Vancouverites do”, explain those at Vancouver EcoDensity Planning Initiative, “we would need four planets to support us!”.

In June of 2008, the city passed an EcoDensity charter that city councillors say will allow for more sustainable growth. It’s controversial- some say it’s a disguise for developers to build more and others say it doesn’t do enough for affordable housing-, but the EcoDensity initiative was launched to start public dialogue about how to shrink the city’s eco-footprint.

Some of the city’s proposals to achieve “the right kind of density” include:

  • Make walking, transit and cycling easier for more people.
  • Take advantage of existing infrastructure.
  • Allow for new green systems that reduce and better use energy, water and materials.
  • Introduce urban agriculture to reduce “food miles” (the distance it takes to get food to our homes).
  • Create more complete communities by having housing diversity within walking distance of shops and services, and accessible to transit.
  • Improve infrastructure by implementing EcoStructure plans which include: transportation, community amenities, and green systems.

In a city where single family homes are most common, it’s difficult to completely change the form of living. No one is proposing tearing down homes and putting in apartment buildings- though ideas like the stacked homes of ROAR_one are garnering praise-, but the first steps for EcoDensity are more focused on creating infill: allowing laneway housing, basement suits and additions on individual lots.

One idea being floated, according to Vancouver planning committee member Michael Klassen, are “Fonzie Suites”. “Fonzie used to live above the Cunningham’s garage. Same idea. People might want to have nicely designed small homesteads within existing residential lots and putting them above the garages makes the most sense.”

In this video, we got to Klassen’s neighborhood where he shows us a potential site for a Fonzie Suite and talks about the goal of “one planet living”.