This article first appeared in print in the January 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.
Revelstoke has a big housing problem. For those who are just tuning in to the ongoing conversation, let’s rewind for a second. As touched upon in our December issue, a recent survey by the City of Revelstoke revealed that our town is short by a staggering 425 housing units. What’s more, Revelstoke is experiencing rapid population growth each year. Housing shortages, rising living costs, and the unaffordability of our rental market, has meant that “ski bumming it” is becoming a thing of the past.
The implications of this (all-too-common) ski-town problem can quickly snowball into other facets of the wider community too. Snow lovers from around the globe regularly file into Revelstoke with hopes to quench their appetite for world-class powder. Most often, these seasonal transients are happy enough to fill the service industry jobs that keep the heart of this town beating. But how can these workers survive on rural mountain-town wages, while paying the monthly outgoings of a city dweller? The short answer is they can’t. They’re forced to leave town. As a by-product of this, small-business owners are facing closures or reduced operating hours, as they struggle to find and retain staff.
This harsh reality is all too familiar for local resident Adrian Giacca, who was forced to leave town last winter after his plight to secure rental accommodation was unsuccessful. Giacca is a freelance landscape designer and a self-titled “lifestyle migrant,” who has recently returned to Revelstoke with a potential fix. He hopes to win over the people of Revelstoke with his vision of minimalist eco-living, in the form of a tiny-home community.
So, what exactly is a tiny-home community? A typical tiny home clocks in at around 100–400 square feet in size. These structures serve as financially viable living options for renters who don’t wish to sacrifice their privacy for the sake of saving on rent, or for first-time buyers on a lower budget. Living in one of these homes, the occupant is rewarded with a simplified and sustainable lifestyle.
Giacca has begun painting us a picture of how these micro-dwellings will look in our town. In 2018, he sent out a survey to gauge the level of community interest in the project. “From the results, a lot of people have said that they are just looking to be a part of something bigger than themselves,” he explains. He aims to create a permaculture community with shared social spaces and amenities, where people can connect, collaborate and contribute to the village and the larger community of Revelstoke. “We’re looking to create the sort of spaces where people can have community gardens, sharing circles and fire pits and all sorts of other spaces that allow them to come together.”
Giacca envisions a housing community that is “uniquely Revelstoke” in its design and its ethos. He, like many others, has been overwhelmed by Revelstoke’s charm and is determined to preserve it. “Instead of clear-cutting forests or disturbing the ecology of the soil, its about learning about nature and finding out where these houses should go, as to lessen our impact on said landscape,” he explains.
Of course, there are obstacles to overcome. The first and arguably the most important, is the lack of available land. Much of the open space surrounding Revelstoke is protected Crown land, or is reserved by the city for alternate projects. Within current city limits, a handful of property moguls sit on huge portions of undeveloped land. This throws a spanner in the works for the community aspect of the micro-housing project, as it looks as though development would need to start from the inside out, so to speak, rather than expanding through utilizing these unused spaces.
Another drawback is that typical 8×12 units target a limited market. Even with one of the larger units, housing a family of three would be a real push. Often, the initial financial freedom that these homes grant is lost in customizations and renovations that are done to adapt these spaces to the varying needs of the occupants.
Giacca believes we need to come together as a community to solve this crisis: “It’s not about building a micro-Revelstoke. Instead, it’s about utilizing the parcels of land we already have allocated for housing and learning to densify.” The project may have to start small, in order for the larger vision to come to fruition. These tiny homes can work well in places where real estate is at a premium. Even if that means they must be parked on small plots of land, campgrounds, or the backyards of those who have the space. Giacca urges the people of Revelstoke to see the bigger picture, utilize the land that they have and invest in this project that promises a greener future.
So, could micro-housing be the solution to our problems? Adrian Giacca invites the people of Revelstoke to join the conversation.