Canadian Ecovillages: Perspectives on Affordability

In “Canadian Ecovillages: Perspectives on Affordability”, Russ Purvis examines the costs of living in three of the country’s intentional communities. He justified his examination by pointing out that sustainability is a common value of all ecovillages, and in order for something to be sustained it must be affordable. Though brief, his examples showcase the diversity of accomodations ecovillages harbor while assessing the reality of price in ecovillage communities.

The first place he looks at is Kakwa Ecovillage, in British Columbia. A growing community, Kakwa hopes to be financially accessible to a broad range of people, providing the option to either rent a home or buy a home. Renting a cabin can cost as little as 450$ a month, while becoming a co-op member comes at a steeper price. Moreover, the community allows new members to choose between buying or building their own home. Though in a simple, monetary sense, Kakwa is affordable, Purvis would argue that the location’s distance from schools, shopping areas and other amenities makes it less affordable and “liveable” for potential constituents. Though village-members enjoy the solace, to live in this community one must be able to handle the isolation that comes with living there.

Whole Village, located in Ontario has a few years on Kakwa, and is currently home to two-dozen people. Though affordability is also one of their main priorities, normal room rents are double that of Kakwa’s. Regardless, the community has implemented a slur of tactics to combat the high prices, including room vs. suite options, sale prices, and fundraising opportunities for lower income residents.

Yarrow Ecovillage, like Kakwa is also located in British Columbia. It is the oldest of the three ecovillages, and has the largest number of residents (65). This community catered to affordability from the start: creating a small housing area called the “quad” that is low-cost so that people who do not have a stable form of revenue can live onsite. They also offer a variety of housing options: simple rooms and domes are available, as well as fiveplexes. Perhaps the most interesting approach Yarrow uses is “sweat equity”. Simply put, prices can be alleviated in exchange for residents working within the village. In addition to supplementing residents, this also cuts down their maintenance costs.

Though I found Purvis’ descriptions fascinating, I feel that he could have done more in assessing the affordability of his places of choice. Even though housing costs are very important, how do these communities get their food? What types of jobs do community-members hold (internal? external?). What benefits do members get that they might not otherwise receive living in a standard community. This article does act as a good overview in understanding affordability and variety in villages, however it fails to examine the multiplicity of factors that play into neighborhood accessibility and applicability.

-S.F.

Purvis, R. (2013). Canadian Ecovillages: Perspectives on Affordability. Communities, (158), 44-45.

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