• Homestead Project site concept

The Homestead Project

Monday, April 8, 2019

Due to the complexity and work required to complete both the draft land-lease agreement for the ecovillage and a high level, phased financial analysis of the entire Homestead Project, Administration requested that Council extend the deadline to the end of May, 2019. This happened at the regular Council meeting on April 8, 2019.

Council approved Administration’s request and these deliverables will be presented at the regular Council meeting on May 27, 2019.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

At the Regular Council Meeting on February 11, 2019, Council approved the conceptual design of the Homestead Project on the 10-acre Municipal Dedication site located within the D’Arcy neighbourhood, including the vision for the creation of the 2.8-acre ecovillage component. Additionally, Council approved that Administration be directed to act as the land developer for the Homestead Project and enter into land lease negotiations with Realize Communities as the builder and administrator of the ecovillage component of the Project, and present a final lease agreement for Council consideration by April 30, 2019.

The approval of the conceptual design is the first step in a long process. Before the project moves forward any further, Council must make a decision on a land-lease agreement and financial costs that will be brought forward by administration. As such, all details around the project wouldn’t begin to be developed until after the land-lease negotiations and financing are approved.

To further protect the Town’s interests, the following principal controls are required within the land lease:

  • That the Town maintain ownership of land at the Homestead Project site in perpetuity;
  • That Okotoks tax payers will not be responsible for any financial obligations not met by the ecovillage leasee (Realize Communities);
  • That all profits made by the leasee be reinvested into the ecovillage and/or Okotoks community; and
  • That the leasee continue to provide affordable housing options throughout the term of the land lease.

Read the full release

Conceptual Design Images

VIEW THE REPORT

SIGN UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES


Monday, February 11, 2019

Administration presented a design concept and high-level cost analysis to Council for the proposed "Homestead Project" at the 10-acre Municipal Dedication site in the D’Arcy neighbourhood, including the 2.8-acre ecovillage sub-component of the project.


 

Public Participation

The Town is committed to raising awareness about this project and hearing from the community. We will share information on an ongoing basis, gather input on various aspects of the project whenever possible, and ask for and respond to concerns. 

We will reach out to local residents from the very start of the project to share information, as it becomes available, and identify concerns, with a particular focus on design elements, benefits to the surrounding community etc., and we will provide information as it is available.

Opportunities for input

The community will be invited to learn more about the proposed Homestead project and provide feedback from mid-March to mid-April 2019. Watch for opportunities to participate here as more information becomes available.

Residents will be able to learn more about the elements of the conceptual design and the steps required to move this project forward:

  • Mar 18-Apr 14: Visit a roving kiosk, set up around town at facilities like the library and recreation centres
  • Apr 12-13: Meet with staff at the Chamber Trade Show 
  • Public will be invited to provide input after Council has made a decision at the end of May on the land lease negotiations and potential Homestead Project phasing.
Land Use Bylaw amendment for site

Should the project proceed after the Council decision in late April 2019, one of the additional steps  would be a land use bylaw amendment. There would be a lengthy process to change the land designation and land use for the ecovillage site. The community’s participation will play an important part in this process. Opportunities for public input will be advertised here and in the Okotoks Western Wheel in advance of any changes. 

About the Ecovillage within the Homestead Project

Vagabond Tiny Homes first approached the Town in November 2017, with a tiny home village concept and potential funding through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) Innovation Fund Program. Vagabond’s proposal offered a unique partnership opportunity, along with funding, to collaboratively create a more inclusive and diverse community that aligned with the Town’s goals of seeking innovative solutions to increase the diversity, sustainability, and affordability of housing options.

Since that time, the vision has evolved into a more enhanced concept to reflect both the Town's goals and those of the proposed Ecovillage project partners Realize Communities, CMHC, Vagabond Tiny Homes.

SIGN UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES

Project Details

The proposed concept is intended to serve both the residents of the ecovillage and the Okotoks community as a whole. Elements of the village such as outdoor spaces and centralized buildings would provide opportunities for greater community inclusion.

Project milestones
  • November 2017:
    Vagabond Tiny Homes approached the Town with the concept.
  • August 2018:
    Public engagement on the initial concept.
  • September 2018:
    10-acre Municipal Dedication site within the D’Arcy neighbourhood became available as an option, and Council identified this as the preferred location. Council directed administration to begin conceptual design and high-level development cost analysis of the entire site including ecovillage component.
  • February 2019:
    Presentation to Council on conceptual design and high-level development cost analysis of the “Homestead Project”, including the ecovillage component.
  • mid March to mid April: community public engagement. Residents will be able to provide input and feedback on elements within the design and what spaces are priorities. See below for more details.
  • April 30, 2019: Administration to bring forward a land-lease agreement with Realize Communities for presentation to Council for final decision.
The Ecovillage: Proposed project partners

Based on Realize Communities’ proposal, the proposed partners would include:

  • Realize Communities (Non-Profit Organization and Village Administrator);
  • Vagabond (Tiny home builder);
  • Sagebrush Collective (Non-Profit Organization that represents the need of the village residents);
  • Third Party Project Investors(including CMHC);
  • Town (Landowner and land developer)

Realize Communities

The independent non-profit organization, created by Vagabond Tiny Homes that would act as the ecovillage administrator and manage the long-term operation of the ecovillage component of the larger project. In partnership with an experienced property management company, this would include upkeep and maintenance of village facilities and grounds.

Realize Communities would be the “leasee” in the land lease agreement and would carry the debt from project financing, pay for the land lease, and cover village utilities and expenses. Any profits derived from the operations of the Ecovillage would be re-invested into the ecovillage (and/or the greater community).

Vagabond Tiny Homes

Vagabond Tiny Homes would be contracted to build and finish the tiny homes in the ecovillage.

Vagabond Tiny Homes’ philosophy is that someone can live in a small home and do so successfully and indefinitely. The way to achieve this is by designing and building a new kind of tiny home, with incredible efficiency as well as comfort. The owners of Vagabond Tiny Homes believe in efficient living that considers decreased energy consumption, small space design, and presents the opportunity to prioritize what in life is truly valuable. They offer people a choice to live well while living modestly and purposefully within a sustainable footprint. 

Sagebrush Social

The independent non-profit organization, created by Vagabond Tiny Homes that would represent the needs of the ecovillage residents and manage the collective social (participatory) decisions, similar to a community co-op. Sagebrush Social would create facility programs and activities, work with residents of the village to enhance their living experience based on resident needs and goals. 

External Funding Partners

All project funding is dependent on successful land lease negotiations.

CMHC would be one of the external parties providing external funding through an agreement with Realize Communities, as part of its Affordable Housing Innovation Fund.

The goal of the Innovation Fund is to encourage new funding models and innovative building techniques in the affordable housing sector. The fund supports unique ideas that would revolutionize the affordable housing sector in Canada moving forward. Eligible applicants include municipalities, private sector developers and builders, and non-profit housing providers (as well as community housing organizations).

The Innovation Fund would prioritize projects that:

  • exceed mandatory requirements
  • bring more partners and additional investment to the table
  • address the needs of vulnerable populations

VISIT THE CMHC WEBSITE

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Please note: this project is still in the very early stages of approval and funding so the information provided will change as more details become available.

What is the difference between this proposed tiny home development and others in Canada?

While many municipalities are starting to integrate tiny homes into their communities, most are incorporating tiny homes into traditional linear street designs with individual yards. Because tiny homes don’t fit into standard zoning categories for land use, they are often built outside the city centre in more rural areas.

This project is taking a more holistic direction, incorporating social wellness, connectedness, shared spaces and environmental sustainability into the development. This holistic concept will include community gardens, a greenhouse and central cluster of buildings with flexible spaces that will benefit the entire the community.

Why is the Town participating in this project?

This project is an amazing opportunity to demonstrate how tiny home communities can be successfully integrated into an urban environment and is one solution in the Town’s efforts towards diversifying the community’s housing options. This project also reflects a number of the priorities in Council’s 2018-2021 Strategic Plan, as well as priorities that the Okotoks community identified in the following plans: Social Wellness Framework, Affordable Housing priorities, Community Sustainability Plan, Environmental Master Plan, Economic Development Plan, Active Transportation Plan, and the Downtown Urban Design Master Plan. These priorities include:

  • affordable housing
  • diversity of housing options
  • natural environment
  • sense of community
  • health and well being
  • active transportation
  • business attraction in manufacturing
  • environmental innovation/ technology
  • tourism industry
There are a growing number of tiny home builders in Alberta. Why was Vagabond Tiny Homes chosen to be the homebuilder and partner in this project?

Vagabond had applied to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) for funding to support the project through their Affordable Housing Innovation Fund. Vagabond approached the Town with this unique idea for the village, which fit with the Town’s values and vision. 

How can I sign up if I’m interested in renting or purchasing one of the homes?

Sagebrush Social is establishing an email list of interested individuals. You can sign up at hello@sagebrushsocial.org.

Because the proposed project is still in the early stages and is dependent on Council approval, all details still need to be finalized, such as the application process etc.

Sagebrush anticipates that the application would encourage potential residents to consider what appeals to them in this village and convey why they think they would be a good fit. Although the application wouldn’t be overly intensive, Sagebrush wants to ensure potential residents are serious about embracing the lifestyle offered by the ecovillage.

As a component of Vagabond/Sagebrush Innovation Fund Application, Vagabond/Sagebrush has committed 15% of the tiny homes to Indigenous residents. 

Why is the Town acting as the developer for the ecovillage component?

As part of the 1994 annexation agreement of the D’Arcy Ranch neighbourhood lands, the Town was provided with an additional 10 acres of land as a municipal dedication site. As this section of the D’Arcy neighbourhood is now being developed, it is time for the Town to consider plans for the development of this 10 acre parcel.

Due to Anthem United moving forward to develop the adjacent parcel, this site now became a viable option for the proposed ecovillage site within the project.

Council directed administration to undertake a conceptual design of the entire 10 acre site, which is currently called the Homestead Project. The ecovillage represents 2.8 acres within the 10 acre Homestead Project.  

Since the Town owns the site and will continue to own it indefinitely, the Town is responsible for developing the land.

The Town is working with Realize Communities, a not-for-profit organization, to develop the ecovillage. The owners of Vagabond Tiny Homes created Realize Communities to work with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and other lenders to develop and manage the village. The Town also requested that a non-profit entity be responsible for its development and management to ensure that all profits are reinvested into the ecovillage.

If approved, Realize Communities and its funding partners would contribute $4.4 million to construct the 42 homes and central building for the ecovillage community. The Town’s contribution to the project includes site servicing, renewable energy components and landscaping. Based on the conceptual design, these costs are estimated at $2.62 million.

The Town is currently in land lease negotiations with Realize Communities. The proposed agreement will be presented to Council by May 31, for consideration. This is when Council will decide whether to approve the ecovillage component of the project.

Council has also directed administration to present a phasing plan and proposed multi-year budget for the entire 10 acres. The entire Homestead Project would add unique, new community assets for Okotoks such as outdoor public leisure spaces, pathways, a community greenhouse and winter garden, and flexible wellness and studio spaces. This would benefit the entire community – creating a place full of flexible public spaces where everyone feels like they belong, where people from across Okotoks come together to build relationships, gather with friends and contribute to and experience a social space that is bigger than the individual.

Is the ecovillage component of the Homestead Project an affordable housing project?

The ecovillage component of the Homestead Project is a diversified housing project, which means that there will be a mix of market and non-market housing options. Twelve of the homes will be available for purchase and the others will be rentals. You can find the break-down of unit types and their estimated costs in the report that went to council on February 11 (see the 16th page of the report)

What if the ecovillage fails?

Council has directed administration to put several controls in place within the lease agreement to mitigate risks and protect the interests of the Town and its citizens. These include:

  1. Maintaining ownership of the land (in perpetuity) for the entire 10 acre Homestead Project
  2. Guarantee affordable housing options are upheld throughout the terms  of the lease
  3. Ensure taxpayers will not be responsible for any financial obligations not met by the ecovillage leasee
  4. Ensure any profits made by the leasee will be reinvested into the ecovillage or Okotoks community

These types of concerns are being examined by the Town’s legal counsel and will be negotiated within the land lease agreement. CMHC will be directly involved for the next 15 years to ensure financial sustainability.

 

Project Updates

Learn more about the history of the project and updates on the proposed project as it evolved from its initial concept.

October 2, 2018

View the new proposed location within the greater D'Arcy neighbourhood.

PROPOSED LOCATION

September 28, 2018

Listen to Dawn Smith's interview with Danielle Smith on 770 CHQR:

Learn more about the vision behind the Tiny Home Eco Village. These were presented at the Stakeholder Sessions in August 2018.

PRESENTATION BOARDS

 

 

September 26, 2018

At the September 24 meeting, Okotoks Council approved land within D’Arcy Ranch as the preferred site for the proposed Tiny Homes Eco Village and directed administration to begin conceptual design and preliminary cost estimates.

Administration will present the village design and cost analysis in December to Council. At this time, Council will make a decision on whether to proceed with the current proposal.

READ THE FULL RELEASE

 

September 19, 2018

Click the link below to see the report back to the community on what we've heard since announcing the proposed Tiny Home Eco Village on August 13, 2018. 

WHAT WE HEARD REPORT

August 29, 2018

We appreciate all the feedback we’ve been hearing from residents about the proposed Tiny Home Eco Village project. With our decision to share information about this proposal very early in the process there are still many questions that we can’t yet answer, but it’s great to see a lot of general support for the concept.

Administration will also be researching alternative site location options to provide to Council. This will require analyzing financial implications, how project timelines would be affected etc. Once the research is complete a report will be presented to Council at the September 24 meeting. 

August 27, 2018

Watch Dawn Smith discuss the proposed project on Global News:

August 13, 2018

The Town of Okotoks has partnered with Vagabond Tiny Homes, and its non-profit arm Sagebrush Social,  to collaborate in creating one of the first Tiny Home Eco Villages in Canada.  Vagabond/Sagebrush shares a vision with the Town to create inclusive, socially connected and environmentally mindful communities.

Not only will the Eco Village have tiny homes, but the vision is to create shared, communal spaces, including green space, that is accessible to the Okotoks community as a whole.
 
The project is still in the very early stages so please check this page often  as we will be updating it with new information as it becomes available. If you would like to receive email updates please send us your contact information.
 
 

NEWS RELEASE