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Housing planned for Jasper begins to take shape

by Evan Matthews | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

In a couple of weeks interested Jasperites can feed back on the town’s next potential housing developments.

Last year the Jasper Community Housing Corporation (JCHC) hired ParioPlan, a professional land use planning and design firm, to study and analyze the three parcels of land next on the list to be developed. They include Connaught, Bear Hill, and the current RCMP site. Each is proposed to house a specific demographic.

ParioPlan will be in town on Jan. 17, 18 and 19 at 628 Patricia Street between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. each night for open houses.

The firm will also conduct closed sessions with stakeholders each morning.

The purpose of each open house is to review the outcomes of recent design charrettes/workshops and get public input, according to municipal officials.

Each day, residents will have the chance to discuss each individual site and its proposed housing models with the consultants. 

Armin Preiksaitis of ParioPlan told council in December the firm identified three target demographics for housing developments: Seasonal staff (to be discussed on day one); long-term or family oriented staff (to be discussed on day two); and active or independent seniors (to be discussed on day three).

Seasonal staff

ParioPlan identified seasonal staff as typically being lower income, younger, transient, reliant on bikes more so than cars, and focused on affordability. Summer 2017 saw 480 unfilled job vacancies because seasonal staff couldn’t find accommodation.

“The standard has changed. It’s no longer acceptable to have shared personal space,” said Preiksaitis. “It’s preferred to have private bathrooms and rooms, setups similar to student housing.”

ParioPlan proposed two ideal housing options for seasonal staff, including “micro-units” and “California split” apartments.

A micro unit is a smaller space with an incorporated living room, bedroom and kitchen, according to the study, with floor areas ranging from 50-350 square feet.

A California split contains communal living and kitchen space with adjoining separate bedroom units, each with their own bathroom, according to the study.

Long-term staff and families

Young people and families who are thinking long-term and would prefer to settle down in Jasper make up this demographic, according to ParioPlan. They often rely on cars and own other recreational vehicles and gear, the study says. This demographic requires more space, typically two or three bedrooms.

The study identifies one of the main reasons this type of housing isn’t readily available in Jasper: additional profit for homeowners when space is rented out on a per room basis rather than as a whole suite to families.

Preiksaitis told council that even if the seniors who wish to downsize vacate their current houses, very few in the long-term staff and family demographic could afford those homes, as the properties are often valued between $500,000 and $800,000.

Though some may come available with more senior housing available, he said it is still likely families will be renting as opposed to owning.

As a result, ParioPlan proposed three ideal housing development options for this demographic: a duplex; stacked row house; or row house.

Duplex houses are usually two stories high and include basements, according to the study, so a duplex will offer more space but are less affordable than row houses.

A row house refers to a building containing a row of three or more dwellings, the study states. Each dwelling has individual access from the ground floor. This provides more space than an apartment and is more affordable than a bungalow.

A stacked row house is a building with three or more units arranged two deep. They’re more affordable than row housing and bigger than apartments, and still have individual entrances.

Seniors

Preiksaitis suggested people between the ages of 55 and 70 are considered to be seniors, but there is a wide spectrum of independence within the demographic, so they broke the group into active and semi-independent.

ParioPlan’s study identified that active or independent seniors typically prefer to live independently, often own larger houses, are active and rely on cars.

The study identified many active or independent seniors would like to age in their current home, but their options are usually large detached houses too big to maintain, and to be near amenities like stores and clinics.

ParioPlan identified three ideal housing options for active seniors: Adaptive reuse – converting big houses to apartments, small cottages that could be linked or apartments.

Dependent seniors by contrast tend to be at least 70, own larger homes and have less of a social life in Jasper.

With many on the waitlist for both local seniors’ housing facilities, the study found some members of this demographic are currently in houses too large for them but are hanging on to the property in order to remain in Jasper.

Ideal housing solutions include apartments and bachelor suites, according to the study.

The study states seniors in both subcategories have homes currently valued between $650,000-$850,000. They usually don’t need more than one bedroom year-round but are likely to have friends and family stay over, calling for more space.

Additional housing opportunity

Preiksaitis also floated the idea of co-housing to council.

Co-housing is a concept originating in Europe, he said, and refers to a number of individual dwelling units sharing common amenities. Individual units can contain personal bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens, with shared spaces like living rooms, dining rooms and recreational spaces, according to the study.

Co-housing has social benefits because it facilitates intergenerational socializing and aging in place.

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