March 4th Information Event

Friday, February 15, 2013

More on Pocket Neighbourhoods

Earlier this week, I posted about pocket neighbourhoods as an alternative to the typical single-family neighbourhood that you see today in Langley. The following video is from a pocket neighbourhood developed in Whidbey Island in Washington State. Ross Chapin, who is a pocket neighbourhood architect, gives an overview of the concept and a tour of a typical house in the project.

The one thing that struck me was the smaller scale of the houses. I actually lived in a house when I was growing up that was built during World War II. The pocket-neighbourhood sized house featured in the video reminded me of that place. While tiny by even today’s compact-lot-sized-house standards, it was enough room for a family of four. Beside being an alternative to typical single-family neighbourhood design, I think it would also be a good alternative to mobile home parks. A pocket neighbourhood would provide the similar community feel of a mobile home park, and reasonably priced housing that doesn’t naturally depreciate in value.

The pocket neighbourhood concept with row housings. Source: Erin Upham

I found a master's thesis project by Erin Upham from the University of Oregon’s Department of Architecture that shows that the pocket neighbourhood design can be scaled to rowhousing. Upham also found that compared to typically designed single-family neighbourhoods, the pocket neighbourhood concept can yield a 1.5 to 12 times increase in density that you wouldn’t even notice. This would result in 7 to 12 units per acre when pocket neighbourhoods are used in place of typical signal-family housing, and 20 units per acre when built with row housing. If pocket neighbourhoods were clusters around higher-density, mixed-use nodes and/or corridor, they would provide the perfect density to build a transit oriented community (a recommendation in the Township's Housing Action Plan) that won’t feel like Vancouver.

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