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Belterra prepares to break ground
After twelve years of planning, applying, waiting and negotiating, Belterra Co-Housing development is ready to break ground. On November 8th, the people who dreamed it up, alongside builders, future homeowners and the three mayors and council members who have helped grow the project will have the opportunity to put a shovel in the ground of the building site on Carter Road behind the Island Pacific School.
"When we started this, we didn't even know what co-housing was," says Stephanie Legg, who started brainstorming about Belterra in 2001 with her partner Roger McGillivray. "We just wanted to build something other than a 10 thousand square foot house on a big acreage. We wanted to do something community oriented."
McGillivray, who has built custom homes on Bowen since 1976, bought the land in 1990 with Wolfgang Duntz. Duntz developed the lower half, with Island Pacific School and Cates Hill Chapel.
"The intent was originally to build a couple big houses up there," says McGillivray. "But that just didn't feel right. I wanted to do something different."
What McGillivray and Legg dreamed up - a smaller community within the bigger one, that would share resources - fit into the idea of co-housing, originally developed in Denmark in the 1960s. A group with a parcel of land in the middle of the Bowen had tried to start something similar previously, but couldn't get the necessary zoning changes.
In order to get that permission, Belterra has promised to build its project to Green -Gold certified standard, protect the agricultural land next door, to ensure dog owners will put up fences, build walking trails, and provide lower-cost housing than what is currently available on Bowen. Council passed this part of Belterra's covenant through a fourth reading on Tuesday, effectively approving this process.
While individual families and home-owners who live at Belterra will have their own space, their own kitchens and their own yards, they will also have access to a shared kitchen and dining hall, guest rooms, a workshop space and gardens.
Five of the thirty housing units on Belterra are considered non-market housing. The cost of land in the building process has been deducted from the price, so these are $60 thousand less than those housing units priced at market value.
"I had a woman from New Zealand contact me about purchasing one of these," says Legg. "She was living in Ottawa and trying to make a life in Canada, but overall, was finding the cost of housing too high. Unfortunately, we couldn't sell her one of the non-market units because she didn't qualify."
The general rule to qualify for non-market housing, says Legg, is that a person or family needs to have been living on Bowen and can not have owned property in the past five years. If an owner of one of these properties wants to sell, he or she has to value the property according the the consumer price index.
"What this means, ideally, is that these homes will be more affordable, in perpetuity," says Legg.
Belterra has sold four out of five of these units, and 70% of the total housing up for sale.
Construction is slated to begin on November 1st, with the first job being an upgrade to Carter Road West - another condition to the Municipality. Legg and McGillivray are hoping the first buildings will be ready to house people by the end of 2014.