17 December 2020
In November, the first residents moved into their homes at Southlands, an agrihood in Tsawwassen on the outskirts of Vancouver. Agrihoods — residential neighborhoods built around working farms — aren't new, but they're on the rise.
Southlands takes a semi-urban approach to suburban living. Housing is relatively dense, making the development's footprint smaller and increasing walkability.* Walking and biking are encouraged; residents can stroll to the community's stores and cafes, or bike through the surrounding parkland. Southlands will include 950 homes and several organic farms. A market square hosts farmer's markets connecting residents with their neighborhood farmers, and providing hyperlocal food.
Over the past year we've seen people move out of cities, fleeing the pandemic, lockdowns and crowded apartments. They took up cooking, grew their own vegetables and bought food from local farmers. Blend those trends and out pours an agrihood. Whether these shifts are permanent remains to be seen. But remote working, online shopping and even telemedicine make suburban living more attractive than it was a decade ago, and — most importantly from a sustainability perspective — make suburban residents less reliant on cars.
Where we'd like to see this trend move next? Build agrihoods that aren't just for wealthy homeowners, but for renters, too. Add subsidized housing and create communities that are diverse and vibrant in addition to being green. It's estimated that 25% of the roughly 1,000 malls in the United States will close over the next three to five years. Many of those were originally built on farmland. How about turning malls into housing, and the parking lots (back) into small-scale farms...? :-)
* For more on that, 15-MINUTE CITIES is one of our 21 for 21 trends