Adrian Giacca talks about what it would take to build a micro home community, how micro homes tie into affordable housing movement, and why it is worth pursuing.
Over the years, there has been a lot of talk around town about the potential for micro home communities, but nothing has happened yet. Adrian Giacca may be new to Revelstoke, but he is determined be the person that makes it finally happen.
A graduate of the Fanshawe College Landscape Design program, Giacca spent a semester in Italy and Spain, focusing on architecture, design and the influence of design through development.
After school, Giacca started a landscape design company, which he owned for several years. Last year he partook in an eight month road trip through Canada and the United States. “I was gallivanting around the country and learning about villages and permaculture design and living communities,” he explains. “I was studying about how people can live collaboratively in a community.”
The trip ended in Revelstoke. “I stumbled upon Revelstoke unexpectedly and fell in love with the downtown core, the presence of the mountains, but also the immersion of community and resort lifestyle mixed together,” he says.
Locally, Giacca is best known around town as someone interested in micro housing and how it could be used in Revelstoke.
Ultimately, the micro community boils down to creating affordable options. There are, Giacca believes, three key pieces.
“You need to find land that allows us to create these sorts of developments. You need to work with mortgage and lending corporations that would provide low interest mortgages up to $150,000. That is a big piece, because if an individual like myself, other millennials, first time home owners, or seniors, can’t put together $80,000 for a downpayment on a $400,000 house, it’s not going to happen,” he says. “We will be paying rent for the rest of our lives. What Canada doesn’t have is a stepping stone into the marketplace. That is what I am hoping to create with this project, an opportunity for someone to inhabit a micro home for five to seven years, pay it off, then transition to a larger investment. They could have $100,000 to put into the equity of another home.”
Giacca believes there is merit in having fixed housing on fixed property with a cap on investments. “It ensures someone wouldn’t be able to flip the house from $150,000 to $250,000,” he says. “To create affordable housing, it has to be capped so the investment accrues plus interest and inflation but doesn’t become a nest egg.”
It could, he notes, be modelled after the Whistler affordable housing society, which has achieved that sort of bylaw.
“The last piece is collaborating with municipalities and government agencies for funding and community stakeholders to make this a Revelstoke product,” says Giacca.
The secret to the entire micro home movement, Giacca believes, is fixed foundations. When it comes to the micro homes themselves, Giacca has been hard at work designing a liveable space. “An eight foot wide home can be picked up by a trailer and brought to site without road permits to travel,” he says. “But under 200 square feet is shoulder to shoulder living. Nowadays, I’m thinking, why not build structures as large as you can fit on a trailer? That is about 12 x 24 feet. Homes would be built offsite to achieve affordability by not having to build in inclement weather, and by reducing labour time, travel costs, and material waste.”
“I want to show what reliable products we can put into place,” he says. An example of this is a current project in Calgary for veterans experiencing homelessness or displacement. Each home is 270 square feet. “Each unit is the same interior design and exterior layouts but roofing options and exterior cladding are different, which allows diversity in aesthetic, which is really really nice. There will be shared community spaces, garden and greenery. It’s been proposed and went to council in Calgary and will be completed in 2019,” he says.
It should be noted that the first micro community doesn’t have to be huge. “One single family dwelling lot – 5,000 square foot lot, can accommodate five different units of 200 square foot housing,” says Giacca. The concept drawing shows plenty of green space left, with tidy small homes around the perimeter.
Giacca has been working closely with the city. “At no point in conversation with them have I thought they were resistant to this sort of change or development, but they want it to be proposed with solutions,” he says. “What is obvious now is that the bylaws need to be changed. The Official Community Plan needs to be changed. At this point, I’m playing role the role of advocate to establish the zoning and creating the opportunity.”
While Giacca is working towards a micro community, he is also a proponent of infill housing using micro homes for property owners to utilize in their backyards. There is a shortage of over 400 rentals right now, and this would not only open more rental spaces, but also allow homeowners another revenue stream.
At this point, every property that wants to achieve a micro suite in their backyard or develop vacant land into a cohousing community needs to go through the rezoning process. “It’s a process, it takes time, but I believe best route we can take, because we get to establish the zoning, bylaws and coding around what we want to achieve in that community,” Giacca says.
Giacca knows there is more to consider, including things like parking, and he is hard at work. He will be at the Sustainable Living Expo on Feb 9 from 12-5pm at the Revelstoke Community Centre. Giacca will be making a presentation at 1 pm.“I will be there to show designs and present on where we are now and where we are to go,” he says. As for the reality of the affordable micro housing? Giacca believes he will be able to prove it within the next few months.
“I believe our culture and society needs to make changes,” he says. “It’s not just to meet a carbon zero and meet a bare minimum of sustainability but to promote a lifestyle change that would encourage regenerative and thriving communities. These communities offer not just affordable housing options, but also food security and transportation. These measures of affordability can be integrated into our communities to create an environment that would allow individuals to practice more sustainability. And I think we can do it here, in Revelstoke.”
The Down Side of Micro Homes on a Trailer
The price. As it is often toted, individuals have built their own micro home on a trailer, usually costing them between $20,000-$30,000. “The thing is, they need to have CSA approval before they can be taken on the road,” says Giacca. “That means getting a temporary use permit from the municipality, who need to know it’s built to BC building home standards. A lot of tiny home builders are not doing that, which makes their structures illegal. In eyes of the government it is not a dwelling. Going through appropriate steps to make micro housing suitable is not cheapest route. But it can still be affordable.”
The loft bed. “Bylaws and building aside (which some people get around by calling it a bunk bed), I am of the mindset that loft sleeping spaces are not a long term sleeping solution. A small space to crawl into is an effective use of space, but I believe someone having to wake up with less than 50 square feet above their head would be challenging in the long run.”