• Homestead Project site concept

The Homestead Project

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If you are interested in living in the ecovillage, contact Realize Communities at hello@realizecommunities.org

Tuesday, July 9 ,2019

Below is a link to a summary sheet for Okotoks taxpayers on understanding facts and finances around the 2.8 acre ecovillage component in Phase 1 of the Homestead Project.

Finances and Facts Summary Sheet


Friday, June 28, 2019

Town provides clarity on Homestead Project

The Town is providing clarity about the Homestead Project in response to concerns brought to Council by the Okotoks Ratepayers Community Group at the June 26 meeting. 

“As Council heard from the group’s representatives, it became clear there has been some misunderstanding about what the Homestead Project includes and the Town’s role in the ecovillage component of it,” said Mayor Bill Robertson. “It’s important that the Town share as much information as legally possible.”

Read the full release


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Council Responds to Resident Concerns with Ecovillage

Council has directed administration to include additional limitations to the lease agreement with Realize Communities in response to citizens’ concerns regarding the ecovillage development within the Homestead Project.

“Council recognizes the effort that our residents have taken to bring forward their concerns,” said Mayor Bill Robertson. “Council has responded with two additional clauses in the lease agreement that further protects taxpayers and will ensure a long-term return on the community’s investment.”

To provide ratepayers with annual revenue from this portion of the Homestead Project, the additional limitations within the lease will require Realize Communities to pay a lease fee equivalent to property taxes.

Additionally Realize Communities will be required to repay 50 percent of the Town’s estimated $3.34 million land development costs for the 2.8 acre ecovillage over the term of the lease. This is similar to agreements for affordable housing projects the Town has with Westwinds Communities and Rowan House, where a portion of the Town’s funding support will be reimbursed. 

Council had previously stipulated that the final lease agreement must include several principle controls to ensure the Town retains ownership of the land in perpetuity, that taxpayers will not be responsible for any financial obligations not met by Realize Communities, and that any profits be reinvested into the village or Okotoks community. 

“Due to the confidentiality of the lease negotiations, we were unable to release these details earlier,” said Robertson. “I’m pleased that we are able to share this information and demonstrate Council’s commitment to being fiscally responsible to our taxpayers.”  

Council directed administration to bring the final proposed lease agreement back for consideration on or before the September 9 meeting.

The Homestead Project encompasses 10 acres in the D’Arcy neighbourhood including the original farm site, whose buildings are currently being evaluated for heritage designation. If the lease agreement is approved, the Town will provide infrastructure and servicing for the 2.8 acre portion of the site where the ecovillage will be located. The Town will also landscape the ecovillage and an additional area for a public garden and greenspace. This will be funded through the capital reserve fund and will have no impact on property taxes.

This represents the first phase of development for the Homestead Project. The remaining 6.6 acres is anticipated to be completed through three more phases over the next 10 years. Community input will be sought throughout the process and will help identify the best community uses for this site.

The Town negotiated  the 10-acre parcel as part of a 1994 annexation agreement that was in addition to Municipal and School Reserve lands. The site can only be used for recreational, educational or any other municipal purposes such as community facilities or affordable housing.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Council Approves First Phase of Homestead Project

At the May 27 regular meeting, Council approved the next steps for the Homestead Project, starting with Phase One, which includes 3.48 acres for community green space and a public/private partnership for an ecovillage.

“This is the next step in the long-term vision for these Town-owned lands that further promotes Okotoks as an environmental leader and increases the potential for economic investment in our town,” said Mayor Bill Robertson. “Setting aside 2.8 acres for an ecovillage is an opportunity to work collaboratively with external stakeholders who are funding a significant portion of this innovative project.”

Council directed administration to proceed with the negotiations for a long-term lease agreement with Realize Communities, who will develop the ecovillage in collaboration with the Town. Council passed a motion that a revised draft land lease agreement between the Town of Okotoks and Realize Communities, as amended In Camera, be brought back to Council for consideration by the end of June 2019.

Realize Communities will then manage and operate the ecovillage over a long-term lease. Council has stipulated that the final lease agreement must include several principle controls including clauses that ensure the Town retains ownership of the land in perpetuity, that taxpayers will not be responsible for any financial obligations not met by the leasee, and that any profits be reinvested into the village or Okotoks community.  

The first phase of the project will be completed by 2021, while the entire 10-acre parcel will be developed over the next decade. There is currently no start date for the subsequent phases as the Town must complete its corporate land strategy and explore other opportunities for collaboration with external partners.  

“Realize Communities is the first partnership for this site,” said CAO Elaine Vincent. “There is potential to explore additional partnerships with the private sector, post-secondary institutions, and other levels of government for the remaining 6.52 acres to further enhance the Town’s goals in economic development, innovation, urban design, and environmental stewardship.”

The 10-acre parcel of land is located in the D’Arcy development and was set aside as a Municipal Dedication Site when the developer purchased the D’Arcy lands in 1994. The proposed Homestead Project conforms to the requirements that the land only be used for municipal purposes and can never be sold.

Next steps include developing a comprehensive public participation strategy to involve the community in project planning for the entire Homestead Project and in choosing a formal name. 

The Town will also collaborate with Realize Communities to host design charrettes with key stakeholders for the ecovillage development, including the regional sustainable design community, utilities, ecovillage design experts, and post-secondary institutions. During the charrettes, which are focused design workshops, participants will explore opportunities for innovation in environmental design excellence and fostering social and cultural connectivity.

View the Report to Council (starts on page 40)

CONCEPTUAL DESIGN IMAGES

 

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, and ask for, and respond to concerns. 

We have reached out to local residents from the very start of the project to share information as it becomes available, identify concerns, and we will continue provide information and opportunities for input as they become available.

Opportunities for input

The community was invited to learn more about the proposed Homestead project from mid-March to mid-May 2019. When future opportunities to participate or learn more become available, they will be shared here.

Land Use Bylaw amendment for site

Should the project proceed after the Council decision in fall 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.

If you are interested in living in the eco village contact Realize Communities at hello@realizecommunities.org

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.
  • May 27, 2019: Council approves first phase of Homestead Project, which includes a 2.8-acre ecovillage, pending a final lease agreement with Realize Communities, which will be presented to Council for consideration in fall 2019.

  • June 25-28, 2019: Council responds and provides clarification around resident concerns with ecovillage 

  • First fall 2019 council meeting: Administration will provide a final lease agreement for the ecovillage with Realize Communities to Council for consideration.

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, through architectural, engineering and building consultants, would also be responsible for building the central ecovillage facility.

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?

Realize Communities is establishing an email list of interested individuals. You can sign up at hello@realizecommunities.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.

Realize Communities 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, Realize Communities wants to ensure potential residents are serious about embracing the lifestyle offered by the ecovillage.

As a component of Vagabond/Realize Communities Innovation Fund Application, Vagabond/Realize Communities 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 negotiated 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 and grading, renewable energy components and landscaping.

The Town is currently in land lease negotiations with Realize Communities. The final land-lease agreement will be presented to Council by the first fall council meeting, for consideration. 

Council 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).

Read more on the ecovillage as it relates to affordability and housing diversity here.

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. That the Town maintain ownership of the land (in perpetuity) for the entire 10-acre site;
  2. That the lease agreement guarantee affordable housing options are upheld throughout the terms  of the lease;
  3. That Okotoks taxpayers will not be responsible for any financial obligations not met by the ecovillage leasee;
  4. That all profits made by the leasee will be reinvested into the ecovillage and/or Okotoks community;
  5. That Realize Communities will be required to pay a lease fee equivalent to property taxes; and

  6. That Realize Communities will require a repayment of 50% of the Town’s development costs for the 2.8 acre ecovillage

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.

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 were 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

VIEW THE REPORT

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