January 9, 2016 Housing Workshop: Howard Staples, Facilitator

Inclusive Housing Workshop, hosted jointly by VPTG & BACI

Howard Staples, Facilitator


On January 9, 2016 we (Joette, Louvain, Laya and Mahmoud) joined a workshop entitled “Building Intentional Housing Communities” organized by the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) and Vancouver Parents Transition Group (VPTG). Most of the parents participating in this roundtable have an adult relative (20-45 years) with special needs. These parents feel that supported co-housing would offer their youth independence & dignity, while, at the same time providing them with the emotional and life supports that they require.


Richard Faucher, co-executive director of BACI, described some of BACI’s housing projects. BACI is a well-established non- profit organization working for people with disabilities in Metro Vancouver. It is funded through grants from Community Living BC (CLBC), the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), the Fraser Health Authority, etc.), and funds raised from sources such as Gaming. BACI’s annual budget is about 25 million and the organization owns both land and rental buildings in Burnaby. BACI is committed to the development of inclusive housing, and therefore, is interested in connecting with like-minded groups in Metro Vancouver. BACI is able to provide property, and/or  purchase some units in new or renovated buildings  for renting to persons with disabilities. They can also provide, through their contacts with developers, banks, lawyers, project managers, and architects, the expertise required to plan and execute a supported housing project.


Howard Staples, co-founder of Windsong Co-Housing, who also works as community housing consultant, acted as a facilitator. Howard has lived with his wife and their children at Windsong over 20 years ,along with about 100 other people.  He showed pictures of their co-op and it looked like a tight, lovely community.


A Co-housing community may or may not include persons with disabilities. The values, type of ownership, and ethnic & demographic mix will vary according to the individuals involved in the proposed community, and should be defined carefully & clearly at the outset. Generally a co-housing community embraces the idea of living in community, and will include more shared, communal space than is typical in a standard townhouse or condominium project. Howard discussed the form and types of ownership of some existing co-housing communities.  He also provided an overview of the typical development process, beginning with values, vision, and risks and financing, site search and feasibility, the decision making process, and legal and governance structures.  These points were outlined in his handout, entitled, “The Basics of Getting Your Community Built”. Contact Howard for more information: (howard@windsong.bc.ca).


The attendees then identified the features that they believe their intended housing community should  have. Some of these features are as follows:

  • To be in Vancouver (metro area),
  • To have a mixed population, of owned & rental units, with about 20% of the units allotted to persons with special needs.
  • To have some quad units, with each bedroom having a bathroom, and with a single, shared kitchen.
  • To have some units with private kitchens.
  • To share resources.
  • To provide some opportunities for employment or home-based businesses on site.


Four families elected to become core members and agreed to attend mandatory monthly meetings to further develop their plan.  The next meeting is to be February 22. Core members will soon be expected to place a deposit to secure their position to buy into the project when a site is found. Other attendees became non-core members, and can attend meetings, and become core members on future projects, and will pay a nominal membership fee.


To summarize, I found the meeting very informative. BACI has contacts and access to resources, (capital and property). Howard Staples is interested in becoming the consultant for the project, though his rates were not specified. There is a motivated team of parents, but I expect the journey, even after the property is found, to be at least a few years long. The cost of this inclusive co-housing project will be likely be the same as market prices, but co-op living will provide all members with a great opportunity to be part of a caring, socially connected community.