Local tiny homes project up for Suzuki award

·2 min read

A proposed small house community development on Chatham’s Taylor Avenue has been nominated for a prestigious award from the David Suzuki Foundation.

Billed as ‘The Brickworks Community,’ the volunteer-driven initiative is one of 15 finalists chosen from among 135 entries from across Canada for a 2021 Future GroundPrize.

The Brickworks project, part of the Opportunity Villages Community Land Trust, is eligible for two prizes. It is entered in the overall juried grand prize, as well as the People’s Choice prize, determined by the number of votes the development receives online.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” said Chatham Coun. Karen Kirkwood-Whyte, who is part of the volunteer organizing committee.

She said there is still a lot of work to do.

“The reality is, we’re still working out details given the fact the challenges the construction industry is currently facing.”

Putting the development together requires a lot of behind-the-scenes paperwork, Kirkwood-Whyte said, adding there are environmental and zoning issues that still need to be addressed.

A zoning amendment for the property will be coming before Chatham-Kent council in July.

“We’re forging ahead,” she added, as the committee has been very busy pulling all the pieces together.

The 2.6-acre property will hold approximately 30 housing units, of which three will be accessible and barrier-free. The one, two and three-bedroom environmentally friendly homes will be net-zero energy or net-zero energy ready, using solar panels and other state-of-the-art environmental technologies.

A 2,000-square foot shared space common unit – the area will also house energy production – will include washrooms, an office and a kitchenette enabling residents to host gatherings that wouldn’t be feasible in a small home.

Another feature of the complex is a garden, featuring raised beds that are barrier free.

If all goes well, Kirkwood-Whyte said construction will get underway either this fall or in spring 2022.

Those lucky enough to be chosen to be part of The Brickworks Community will enter into a “life-lease agreement,” Kirkwood-Whyte said, paying an affordable monthly fee to cover costs.

The development enables people of modest means, who would never be able to purchase a home, to enjoy the benefits of putting down roots in a community.

Chatham-Kent council is behind the project. It unanimously approved a $200,000 grant in 2019, as well as $180,000 in in-kind support. Funds will flow when the contract is signed with the OVCLT.

The overall entry winner for the Suzuki Foundation awards will receive $5,000 from Desjardins, along with the opportunity to present the project virtually to David Suzuki and the public.

The People’s Choice prize carries a $2,500 purse.

Online voting The Brickworks Community is now open. Votes can be made at https://davidsuzuki.org/take-action/act-locally/future-ground-prize/.

Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice

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