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.
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.