Sustainable housing and real estate in Kitchener-Waterloo Region


The accidental environmentalist.
September 13, 2009, 8:00 am
Filed under: Rebecca Sargent, Sustainability | Tags: , ,

Now you may be surprised to hear this, considering that I write a blog about sustainable housing, but I do not consider myself an environmentalist. I do not feel like I am one of the green, tree-hugging folk.

I do live what most would consider a fairly green and simple life. I haven’t really been shopping in a few years now, aside from groceries and the occasional need for office supplies for my business (mostly 100% recycled paper and re-filling the ink cartridges in my printer). I think very carefully before I make a purchase and try to research its impact whenever possible. My clothes are all second hand from the thrift store or handmade creations by friends. I live in a very minimum square footage, use all non-toxic cleaners (thank goodness for baking soda), and take great measures to reduce my daily energy usage. I grow some vegetables and herbs for the fresh goodies through the harvest and to preserve to last me as far as I can get through the winter. Aside from chocolate (which I can’t imagine ever giving up!), I try to eat mostly a localvore diet, although I’m not extremely strict on this. I dream of the day when I will be able to live in a fully self-sustaining home, off the grid, growing all my own food myself.

So why do I write about sustainable housing, and why do I seem to care about environmental issues so much?

I’ve always considered myself a fairly good person. It has never been my intention nor want to cause another being harm and I have always been concerned with human rights and freedoms. It is with this purpose that my so-called “environmentalism” came to be.

I was once a fairly heavy consumer. I desperately wanted the latest and greatest, and coveted these goodies with great lust. I dreamt of a high-tech, gadget-filled existence and thought the tree-huggers to be unrealistic idealists with their head in the clouds.

That all began to change– slowly, but surely–after extensive world travels and years at university studying about global affairs began to really open my eyes. I read (and write) constantly about human rights and have for at least most of the past decade. I dream of a day where the basic human rights (you know, like those ones agreed upon by many nations–including our own–through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights over 60 years ago) are actually ratified and guaranteed by the governments of the world. A world where everyone has the basics they need to live a healthy and happy existence.

For me, environmentalism coincides with this dream. Pollution, in my opinion, violates my human rights. It affects my health and well-being and the health and well-being of my family. I should not have to endure a barrage of toxins if I don’t want to do so willingly.

Unfortunately, we have little choice in the matter. Our air and water is filled with toxic pollution and it is only getting worse. In some places, people are experiencing severe health problems due to the high toxicity levels in the air, ground or water. Their right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of themselves and their families is being infringed upon by polluters.

High levels of consumerism are having an immense impact on pollution levels. We live in a society where we are expected to shop. We are expected to have a home computer and a cell phone and a big screen TV. We are taught from a young age to value material things. Unfortunately, this value for the material happens to contradict with many people’s value of doing no harm. It was this contradiction that led to my gradual life change.

Not only does the need for the latest-and-greatest cause tremendous pollution, which will harm the planet and the beings living on it, but many of these latest-and-greatest are also incredibly human rights abusing in their production. Now, I’m not just talking about sweat-shops, even thought almost every store in North America probably has at least one product created by sweat-shop labour. The abuses go much deeper.

Think about where your products came from and what it took for them to get from raw materials in and on the ground to your home. They have probably traveled hundreds if not thousands of miles, creating mass amounts of pollution along the way only to wind up in a landfill at the end of it.

If the product has metal components, it is possible that this metal was mined by slaves and you would never even know it. It is quite possible that it also provided financing for a murderous warlord to continue warring. For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find an electronic product such as a cellphone or laptop computer that hasn’t helped in some way to finance civil war or helped to continue the rape, torture or death of innocent civilians.

It is with this in mind, that I began to look into what I was consuming, why I was consuming it and how it was impacting the world. It is with this in mind that I became an “accidental environmentalist”. I started searching out the sources of the products and services I was using daily and whenever I found one that didn’t meet my ethical standards– I stopped using it. As I stopped using all the products and services to such a high degree– I noticed that I didn’t need or miss them after they were gone for a while. As I started looking into environmental issues more and how they were affecting the people of this planet, I started reading about the different renewable and sustainable technologies that exist. I starting thinking– why aren’t we using these? They make so much sense, not only from an environmental standpoint, but they are also more cost effective and efficient.

Reversing or slowing climate change has never been a prime goal for me. Not infringing on other people’s human rights, however, IS.

The next time you think about going green, think about this. Probably the number one greenest thing you can do for this planet and the beings living on it is to STOP CONSUMING SO MUCH STUFF!!

Everything you consume had to be created. It had to use goods mined or extracted from the earth, causing pollution and depleting often non-renewable resources, and is perhaps even using slave labour or causing war and death along the way. When you throw it away at the end of its usage it will probably wind up in a landfill leaching into our water supplies. So think before you buy– do I actually need this? Chances are, you probably don’t, and after a while, you probably won’t even miss it.

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Condos are moving… August market remains fairly steady.

There were 520 unit sales in the month of August in the Kitchener-Waterloo region, a 19.3% increase from August of the previous year, with an average sales price of $255,311 for residential properties. Of the 482 residential properties sold, 278 were single family detached homes, 46 were semi-detached, 33 were freehold townhomes, 122 were condos, 1 cooperative home, 1 link home and 1 mobile home sold during this period.

The incentives for first time home buyers appear to be affecting the market as both condominium and semi-detached home sales were significantly up from last year with a 62.7% increase and 31.4% increase respectively.

Of the 482 residential properties, 454 were resale homes and 28 were newly constructed homes.

The volume of sales was highest in the $200K-$300K price bracket, which constituted nearly 49% of all sales (235 units). There were 9 sales in the under $100K price bracket, 131 sales in the $100K-$200K price bracket, 69 sales in the $300K-$400K price bracket, 23 sales in the $400K-$500K bracket, and 12 sales over $500K. There were no sales over $1 million this month.

Kitchener west of King Street topped the sales again this month with 208 units sold in August. Waterloo west of King Street followed this with 102 sales during this time period. Waterloo east of King Street had 79 sales, while Kitchener east of King Street had 93 sales. Kitchener east properties seem to moving more quickly as sales volumes were up 78.8% from last year’s numbers and nearly 20% from last month’s.

In total there was $131,995,819 in sales in real estate in the Kitchener-Waterloo region for August, up nearly 15% from last year. Residential sales accounted for the majority of these sales, with $119,428,287 of sales recorded ($80,282,630 in single family detached homes and $39,145,657 in other single family dwellings). Multi-family unit sales were worth $4,529,500, vacant land sales were worth $1,356,000, and commercial sales at $6,682,032.

The average sales price for a single family detached home last month was valued at $289,829, down about 3.4% from this time last year. The average sales price for all other single family dwellings was valued at $193,790, up about 2% from last year. The average semi-detached home sold for $210,510, while the average townhome sold for $224,399. The average condo unit sold for $180,968, the average cooperative unit for $132,900 and the average link home for $229,900. The average mobile home sold for $21,500.

There were a total of 599 new listings processed in the Kitchener-Waterloo region in August, 327 new single family detached homes, 182 other single family homes, 26 multi-family units, 6 vacant land properties, and 58 commercial properties. There are 1,665 active listings still available to search from, with 710 single family detached properties, 421 other single family properties, 78 multi-family units, 53 vacant land properties, and 403 commercial proeprties still on the market.

If you have any questions about any of these statistics or require further information– please be sure to ask me at rebecca.sargent@century21.ca.



Visions of integrative-sustainable housing.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been dreaming of building my own earthship on a large acreage (enough for a woodlot, orchard and gardens)  for many years now. I think about this all the time and hopefully someday in the no-so-distant future it will become a reality. I love growing vegetables/gardening, and definitely love the idea of living in a home that can provide me with self-sustaining renewable supplies of food, energy and water.

Integrative Sustainable city

I also have dreams of a more integrative city in the future. A city where green spaces collide with living spaces and buildings can “live” on their own. Buildings that can collect and store energy, collect and clean water, and even grow food for their occupants, not to mention help clean the air.

It doesn’t matter whether you believe climate change is “hype”– these types of building and designs make sense in many other ways. In a world where security is an issue and people are told to create “emergency preparedness kits” for their homes, it makes good sense to not have to rely on a grid that could be possibly unreliable. It also saves money, create oxygen and creates a more natural looking setting.

It makes good sense to have a way to feed cities within the cities. This ensures that in case of emergency there are still food sources available to the population. It’s also much, much cheaper to grow your own produce from seeds than buying it and it tastes so much better because it hasn’t ripened on a truck or sat in storage at some facility before being shipped. There are even services out there now in some cities that you can hire to come and tend your vegetable garden for you if you don’t want to grow them yourself. They can be grown on roofs, sidewalks, and any space big enough to hold a pot. The spaces on roofs and boulevards can also be rented out to others for them to grow produce or flowers.

city gardening

It makes good sense to have energy available on a renewable individual basis without having to be attached to some massive grid. Again it’s cheaper– much, much, much cheaper. Installation costs can be returned on utility savings in short periods of time and if you are collecting enough energy, you never pay for utility costs again. You only have to worry about maintenance and replacing the systems every 15-25 years. Again– in the case of emergency– you still have power. Makes sense.

reed bed waste treatment

It makes good sense to have a way to clean and collect water. We all need water to live, and we use a LOT of it. There are many creative ways to reduce, collect, treat and clean water that have been converted to home use and could be done on a much larger scale. Reed bed waste water systems,  for example, have very low operational costs compared to other types of waste treatment options because they use gravity for the main pumping instead of coal-burning fuel. They also look better from the outside, because instead of a massive treatment facility spewing out sludge there is only a space full of plants (creating more green space).

green roof

The city I imagine uses space wisely– more efficiently and thoughtfully. It integrates and maximizes spaces like the roofs and walls of buildings in innovative ways. It diversifies the usages of the land– combining retail space with business space, with residential space, with farm space, with industrial space, with recreational space, and making them all work together, reducing the need to travel for daily activities.

green wall

These types of initiatives are starting to happen all around us. The more we invest and use these types of systems– the better they will become. Ontario has started to implement Smart Growth policies in an attempt to redevelop the land to help prevent urban sprawl.

sustainable city growth

So let’s start creating energy, creating useful space and creating clean air instead of using energy, destroying useful space and polluting the air. It just makes sense!



Unique starter home on quiet street near downtown core!

THIS HOME HAS NOW SOLD!

Are you a first time buyer looking for that perfect starter home at a great price? Look no further!

11 Reinhardt Street, Kitchener

asking $164,000

Front

The last home on quiet street with only 5 properties, this unique starter home is right in the downtown Kitchener core. You can walk within minutes to King Street, shopping, schools, parks and many other amenities; the #18 bus comes  just out the end of the street on Weber.

Front 2

The home has had many upgrades including 100 AMP service, plumbing, and potential in-law suite with separate walk-out entrance in the basement.

Kitchen 1

The kitchen, in soft taupe, has beautiful laminate (faux wood) floors and all newer stainless steel appliances (electric stove and fridge).

Kitchen 2

Some original glass hardware on the door give a touch of character.

Dining Room 1

The kitchen-adjacent dining room features an original built in cabinet with frosted glass panels.

Dining Room 2

Living Room 1

The living room features newer laminate (faux wood) floors and soft colours.

Living Room 2

Bathroom 1

Main floor bathroom directly off the living room with full shower/tub.

Bathroom 1, toilet

Bedroom 1

Bedroom 1 upstairs

Bedroom 1, other view

Bedroom 2Bedroom 2 upstairs

Laundry

Laundry area down the stairs from the kitchen. Features front loading washer and dryer.

Rec room

Downstairs rec room features double sink cabinet and walk-out entrance to the side of the home. Possibility of converting to in-law suite or bar area.

Rec Room 2

Downstairs bathroom

Downstairs bathroom has stall-shower and closet space.

Downstairs bedroom/office

Downstairs bedroom/office is approximately 14′ X 10′.

BackyardBackyard 2

Why don’t you come see it for yourself?

Please call me today for an appointment at 519-591-4299.

Schools in the area:

Public Schools:

Grades JA-06  King Edward Public School;   709 King Street West; 519-578-0220

Grades 07-08 Margaret Avenue Public School;  325 Louisa Street;  519-578-1910

Grades 09-12 Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate; 787 King Street West;  519-745-6851

Catholic Schools:

Grades JA—08 St. Teresa   Grades; 270 Edwin Street;  519-743-2131

Grades 09-12 St. David Catholic Secondary School; 4 High Street;  519-885-1340

French Schools:

Grades JK-06 Mere Elisabeth Bruyere; 280 Glenridge Drive; 519-880-9859

Grades 07-12 Pere Renee De Galinee; 450 Maple Grove Road; 519-650-9444