Building Community Through Multi-Family Housing

May 26, 2023

What Is A Multi-Family Development?

Simply put, multi-family developments are houses or multi-unit complexes that share a variety of units within the same building or complex. These complexes could take the form of walk-up apartments, duplexes or fourplexes, or even courtyard apartments or rowhouses. Although each of the units are privately owned, they often share a variety of amenities such as lobbies, storage areas, terraces, parks, parking lots, that are used by the community and managed by the strata council.

In North America, there’s often a negative association that comes with multi-family developments. Particularly because there’s been such a huge focus on the “single family home” in sprawling suburbs since the start of the 20th century. 

When we typically think of these developments, we often think of a series of cookie-cutter units that share near identical features. However these homes don’t always have to take the shape of a two-storey suburban complex. If thoughtfully designed, they can elevate any neighbourhood. 

Custom homes
Typical American Pacific Northwest Suburb.
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Need For Neighbourhood Diversity

In growing Okanagan regions, there’s a need for more diverse housing options to deal with the population growth and affordability issues these areas are currently experiencing. According to the most recent regional housing strategy in the North Okanagan, there is a projected need within the next three years for more diverse housing in Vernon. It indicates a need for half of the new builds to be either two-bedroom or small ranchers, one quarter in studios, and the remaining quarter in 3-plus bedrooms.1 In growing cities such as Vernon or Kelowna, the challenge is that many are afraid of losing the character or “charm” of their local neighbourhoods. Multi-family or multi-generational in-fill developments could potentially be the solution for this, offering cities more housing diversity without building in an intrusive way.

The Missing Middle Or “Little”

Multi-Family Homes
European courtyard housing.
Image Source: Adobe Stock.

Some builders and developers are catching on to this idea of the “missing middle” or even “missing little” for housing opportunities.2 Low-rise in-fill developments such as additional dwelling units (ADU’s), walk up apartments, courtyard housing, or row houses offer just that. We believe this type of housing has huge potential to offer families many benefits and build tighter-knit communities through the sharing of the amenities such as parks or daycares. 

Building Community

As local custom home builders in the Okanagan, we’re mostly excited about the potential that multi-family developments have to build community here. Through including a variety of unit types within the same development, this can allow for a more mixed demographic, reducing the amount of gentrification and allowing for more opportunities for affordable housing. 

Multi-family developments also encourage the sharing of amenities between neighbourhood units. This could include anything from shared laundry, to community kitchens and gardens, to shared gear storage. It also potentially opens up the sharing of certain amenities such as parks, daycare or coworking spaces to the surrounding neighbourhood. 

Multi-Generational Housing

Although outside the realm of multi-family developments, multi-generational living is also a housing alternative that could make low-rise neighbourhoods more liveable. While every family is multi-generational, every household is not necessarily. These types of living arrangements typically mean that there are more than two generations of the same family living under the same roof.

Since Covid lockdowns, it’s estimated that more than ever Canadian families are living under the same roof as other immediate family members.3 For many immigrant and working class families, this has been a common arrangement for generations, either out of necessity or socioeconomic circumstances. It’s clear that there’s been a shift where people have wanted to be closer to family than ever. 

Busting Myths About Multi-Family Living

While we specialize in both single family homes and multi-family developments, our aim as custom home builders is that every project is unique. We try to educate our clients about the different housing options that are out there, and only build places that we believe are worth living in. We’ll save the claiming of rooms between you and your in-laws!

Work with us today!

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Multi-Family custom Homes
Thunderbird Manor Affordable Housing Project, Built by BWC.
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  1. Regional District North Okanagan. (Dec, 2021). North Okanagan Regional Housing Strategy.
  2. Cardicelli, Terra. Mazzeo, Terra. (2021). Elevating Low-Rise Development, it’s a Swell Idea
  3. Battams, Nathan. (July, 2022) Sharing a Roof.