French architect Le Corbusier said that in 1923. Almost 100 years later, in the year 2017, it is estimated that more than half of all Canadian households will be headed by people 55 years and older. As the needs of homeowners change, they will demand more versatility from their housing.
FlexHousing™ is a practical approach to designing and building housing that allows homeowners to convert space to meet their changing needs. Based on the four principles of adaptability, accessibility, affordability and healthy housing, FlexHousing brings together the best of what Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) knows about building houses.
In addition to an aging population, lifestyle changes in recent years have prompted Canadians to look for more options with respect to the design and use of their homes. As envisioned by the famous French architect, homeowners want the ability to have home-based business offices, self-contained suites for aging family members, larger family rooms for home based entertainment, improved access to entrances, etc.
Mathilde Côté is a Senior Research Consultant with CMHC and she recommends that homeowners consult cmhc.ca for ideas on how to work with renovators to make their current homes, or homes they are planning to build, more adaptable, accessible and easy to use. “There are lots of ways that homeowners can maximize the use of their space for the long-term such as roughing in plumbing and pre-wiring. Then it can be put into service when it’s needed.” She adds, “homeowners can also reinforce bathroom walls during construction to allow for the installation of grab bars when and if its required” says Côté. “Other features may include non-slip flooring in kitchens side-opening wall ovens, to reduce the risk of burns and injury, and handrails that start before the top of the stairs and end just past the bottom to provide guidance and support.”
Affordability is a fundamental principle of the FlexHousing concept. As might be expected, the cost of a FlexHouse is slightly higher than the price of a conventional home of similar style and size. However, a FlexHouse has a number of short and long-term paybacks. For example, the installation of energy efficient windows can have a payback in as few as three years. In a FlexHouse, at least one bedroom should be designed to someday be divided into two smaller rooms. Framing an attic for use as a living space is the ultimate in flexibility. A variety of truss systems allow for the potential extra living space and converting an attic is less expensive than building an addition. Staying in a FlexHouse helps homeowners avoid the significant costs of moving including fees that relate to real estate agents, legal documents, building inspectors, shipping furniture and redecorating. The total cost could run up to $20,000 or more.
Almost ninety years after Le Corbusier made the statement at the top of this story, Canadians can get the right combination of performance and liveability from their homes with a little advice from Canada’s national housing agency. CMHC’s FlexHousing Pocket Planner contains checklists for all areas of the house including the corridors, kitchen, bathroom, living and dining areas, storage areas, windows, and even heating and air conditioning. It is available online at www.cmhc.ca, keyword search “Pocket Planner,” or by calling 1-800-668-2642 to order a copy.
As Canada’s national housing agency, CMHC draws on 65 years of experience to help Canadians access a variety of high quality, environmentally sustainable and affordable homes. CMHC also provides reliable, impartial and up-to-date housing market reports, analysis and knowledge to support and assist consumers and the housing industry in making informed decisions.