Sunday, January 27, 2008

Where is Bucky Fuller when you need him?

For the past month my husband and I have been attending open houses on the weekends with the intention of purchasing our first home.

To say that the quality of housing in our city is "pathetic" is an understatement.

We have seen houses for sale that are in very bad shape and in need major renovations. I do not like doing renovations. We also saw houses for sale that have been gutted and restored and are absolutely stunning, the price hovering around $499,000. Purchasing one of those latter homes would require us to fall into serious financial debt and probably eat Kraft dinner everyday for the next 20 years. I am not prepared to do that.

We have even toyed with the idea of purchasing a condo to keep the cost down ( I do not like condos) but with the added monthly condo maintenance fees hovering from between $300 to $800, you might as well buy a small starter home and have a small garden too!

It comes as no surprise that most young couples today have to move to the burbs (yech!) in order to get more bang for their buck but then spend 3 hours a day traveling to and from work.

We need to remain in the city because our jobs are here, as well as our friends, our fitness gym, our doctors and naturopaths, and as such it suits our lifestyle. We don't own a car nor do we want to. In the summer we bike or walk around the city. We enjoy having shops and markets within walking distance. We also like like to do our part for the environment. Living in the city enables us to do this.

Conceptually speaking, the Buckminister Fuller, energy-efficient and low-cost "Dymaxion House" is just what I need. Fuller designed several variations of the Dymaxion house, which was basically a home building kit which could be propped up on site. Made of aluminum sheeting and designed to resemble a 'flattened bell' - this pod-like structure would certainly be a welcome sight in today's quest for sustainable living. Equipped with a mist shower for water conservation and other energy saving amenities, Bucky's Dymaxion is a perfect match for my lifestyle. Unfortunately, it would never fly in my city.

Instead, my intelligence and my bank account have been insulted by the real estate market. $300, 000 gets you a starter home - what MLS likes to refer to as a "renovator's delight" (gag!). Many of these houses require a new roof, a new furnace and/or air conditioner, new electric wiring to replace the knob and tube, hardwood to replace the mite-infested broadloom, new tempered glass, double pane storm windows to keep the heat and the cold out, and what on earth does one do with a driveway if they don't plan on purchasing a car??

Cities around the world have already begun introducing a variety of alternative housing arrangements for the modern and environmentally aware home buyer, pod-like structures reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller's designs and futuristic, sci-fi movies.

The UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan and many more countries around the world have woken up to the benefits of living small, and energy efficient. The UK has introduced an idea for new age housing called the ecological kit house. Even in Mexico, once considered an underdeveloped country ecological houses are sprouting up like jalapenos peppers.

I want a small, low cost ecological house. I would like my home to have energy efficient technology and a small garden so in the summer months I can grow my own tomatoes and peppers.

Instead, I get nonsense like this.


kickpleat said...

wow, houses in toronto are cheap compared to vancouver! you could never find anything like that for under 600,000! have you thought about co-op living? i read a blog about someone in toronto who has a lovely home in a co-op. it's a great way to live small and build community!

Bijoux said...

Kickpleat - I have definitely heard about the outrageous housing prices in Vancouver from friends of ours that currently live there. Some young couples with children are actually leaving Vancouver in search of affordable housing elsewhere.
One couple we know, are heading back to Ontario to buy a house in a smaller rural town. Personally, I would love to live in Guelph but would dislike the commute into the city tremendously.
I still find $300,000 for a fixer upper pricey. Maybe I'm just cheap or poor - or both! LOL
We haven't really given co-op living much thought. I had a friend who waited over a year to get into a co-op apartment and then complained about all the problems she was facing. She now lives in Vancouver.
I don't know anyone currently living in a co-op here in T.O. Most of our friends have either purchased a condo or a house and are encouraging us to "get on with it." *sigh*