New urbanism, smaller homes – not found in Ottawa

When work is what you have to do, then holidays become a chance to do something else. Entirely different. But when you can do what you want to do, then what is a holiday but a chance to do the same thing, elsewhere?

OK, so I’m boring and predictable.

Thus it was that February found me checking out new urbanism communities in the American southwest. I  found one in Prescott, Az aimed at 55+. It had all the classic new urbanism characteristics: narrower streets, houses close to the curb, verandahs and porches, smaller lots, shared recreation in two parks — one surrounded on four sides by streets, having a gazebo and horseshoe pitch — and the other being a clubhouse with library, rec rooms, bar, outdoor pool and patios. It had a disconcertingly large parking lot too, which implied the residents drove the few hundred feet to the club house. Hmm. Mind you, it was built on hilly terrain and the slopes were steep. Prescott itself seemed to be a full-service town — the library was gorgeous, the sidewalks in good repair and actually in use.

The community clubhouse with decks, patios, bbq's, lending library, meeting rooms, outdoor pool

Among the attractive features of this 1995 neighborhood were the house prices — $130 to $245,000; and the property taxes, as low as $800/year. Some of the houses were small, but they were aimed at the empty-nester market. One could live well for modest cost.

Is there anywhere in Ottawa where we could buy a two bedroom detached home on a small lot in a walkable community for $150,000 with property taxes/fees below $2000 a year? The shared pool would be a nice bonus. And I could certainly appreciate the $2500 less in taxes!

It seems the only downsizing possible in Ottawa for someone seeking single-floor living is an apartment condo. No garden. No biking out the back door. I’m sure there are a few small bungalows around, but they are rare. The market for building more of them sure isn’t booming. Much of that is directly the result of our municipal policies.

Here are some of the house plans and designs with actual 2012 prices. A number of the homes conveniently had info sheets on a post out front, which I helped myself to.

Here’s what the new urban neighborhood looked like:

Here are a few more pic, showing the general arrangement of houses along the street and the back yards. Some rear yards were very minimal – a patio, usually partially covered, and little else. Others were more substantial. At least people had a choice…  I don’t have a count of how many houses were in the development, but I felt it would have been better to have been much larger and with commercial stuff within walking distance (it was on a road/highway, sort of like a Hunt Club Road near Merivale).

The climate in Prescott is mild. Minimal snow or frost, cool winters, hot summers. The landscaping used a lot of native plants and rock beds. The sun was very bright. I don’t know if these houses were primarily year-round residences, or seasonal. The main neighborhood streets had concrete sidewalks, but traffic was very slow as the scale of the layout prevented too-fast traffic.

8 thoughts on “New urbanism, smaller homes – not found in Ottawa

  1. You do realize that those $140k houses in Prescott were going for well over 300k back in 2007. Not sure what that means exactly, but a lot of people lost a LOT of money on those “affordable” houses

    1. Yes, there was a housing bubble in many parts of the USA, but not all. IF Prescott experienced the bubble, then those who bought in 95 saw their house values soar, then come back to normal again. Those that bought at the height of the bubble probably sold their previous home during the same bubble, no harm no foul. The biggest losers were first time buyers, and those who leveraged themselves, and I have no sympathy for the leveraged. I view houses as a place to live, at a stable cost, and a form of forced savings. Flippers live and die by price changes.

  2. Small houses are usually gobbled up quickly. Not everyone wants to live in a 3000 sq. ft home. Some people actually like small and cozy. Why is it today that families are smaller but houses are bigger? Stuff…just room for more stuff.

  3. There are similar condos just east of Stittsville. Prices are higher, as are taxes, but this has been done in the Greater Ottawa area.

  4. Hi Eric,

    Enjoyed your post on new urbanism in Arizona. Wondered if you’ve heard of the Garrison Crossing ( project by Canada Lands in Chilliwack, B.C. This redevelopment is absolutely amazing. Beautiful, liveable, walkable neighbourhood created out of the old military base. Wonderful design and planning. I have family near Chilliwack and every time I see this development I get more outraged at NCC’s plans for Lebreton Flats. It’s criminal really.

    Enjoy your blog,

    99 Rochester

  5. Garrison Woods in Calgary is another fine example of something we will likely not see in Ottawa. Canada Lands did have exciting ideas for the old Rockliffe Air Base but that has gone stagnant recently. Indian land claims I think…but the idea would have been similar to both Garrison projects.

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