The Small Lot and the Bottom Line

Recently, I was reading a story in The Squamish Reporter about a small lot proposal, and while I will not judge the value of this particular proposal, I do believe it is important that the discussion be guided by facts and centred around why the small lot concept deserves some attention as a means to grow more sustainably.

There are some misconceptions that usually get tossed into these discussions, including perceptions around land values, traffic, and crime. Lucky for us, a group called ACT, who  has done the analysis, and has it available for public consumption. With this, it’s important to note hat the term affordable means that no more than 30% of household income is needed to service the mortgage. 

In their words: 

The Affordability and Choice Today (ACT) initiative was created in 1990 to help overcome planning and building regulatory barriers to the development of affordable housing by funding and promoting practical solutions at the local level.”

The conclusions from their work is this in a nutshell: Small lot development does NOT depress property value, and does NOT increase crime. I’ll get to traffic later.

I’m glad we got that out of the way, now let’s move on to why it’s a good idea for our community as a whole.

Efficiency and Sustainability

By the nature of the increased density, providing water and sewer service to these developments is cheaper, as services are nearby and more users are paying for a similar amount of infrastructure. When tasked with managing the public purse, this seems like a great way to stretch both the operating and capital budgets, and adheres to the principals set out in the Official Community Plan. Transit and other community amenities become more viable as the concentration of people increases, and with the right planning, alternatives to the car can alleviate traffic issues.

Aside from the municipal service savings, small lot development makes it possible to provide a detached home, while reducing the amount of resources consumed to do so. Far less land needed for roads and lots, leaving less disturbed while managing the needs of a changing community.  

Diversity and Community

By allowing different building forms to be mixed in a community, we give choice to wide variety of people; seniors, young families, couples and singles from all walks of life. We offer the ability to age in place, and to locate close to shopping, educational and employment opportunities. Mix this density with a well managed park system and we allow the community to flourish, with these parks doing double duty supporting arts, culture, and community events.

As a community, we have to strive to contain sprawl, and grow within our physical and economic boundaries. We need to respond to the changing needs of our community, and start making the linkages between planning, transportation, and community.

We have done the work, hired the experts, and drawn up the plans; now it’s time to do what we said we would. It’s time to build tomorrow.


  1. Thanks for this Nate! As a Realtor for the last 16 yrs in Squamish we are experiencing changes in the Buyer's needs that reflect exactly what you are saying here. Our Buyer's are typically under the age of 40, with very young children in tow or on the way. Educated, many are professionals buying their first home or upsizing from a condo/townhouse. To afford a home these days it often requires two incomes which means time for home reno's and upkeep is minimal. Most of our buyers do not want a 'fixer upper', nor do they want large yards to maintain. They want to spend their spare time and disposable income enjoying living in the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada. Smaller homes on smaller lots fills that niche. Remember, it is a niche, not the whole market so planning is key here. Densifying closer to amenities is always considered a good move from a community planning perspective as it creates more engaged, walkable communities which is a good thing on a number of levels!

  2. Thanks for the feedback, I do appreciate it!

    Funny, your description of your buyer is exactly what our community is becoming (and pretty much describes my family...).

    As a community, we need strong leaders to emerge, elected or not, that understand our changing demographic. As a community, we are getting younger every day, and we need to harness that energy to innovate our approach to he changing needs of Squamish.