Why every developer needs to know about the Living Forest Communities model

Doug Makaroff and his team at Living Forest Communities , based in Victoria, British Columbia, have created the Conservation Community Model that puts real estate to the service of conservation through the creation of attractive light-on-the-land residential hamlets modeled after traditional European villages, that will pay for the conservation of the majority of the land. 

The primary objective of the model is to establish and maintain sustainable, natural forest ecosystems in perpetuity through land conservation, ecosystem based forestry and agroforestry. The small light-on-the-land real estate component of the project acts as the economic kicker to make the entire model viable. This is the only known model in the province that works to preserve large areas of land through the free market system.

Dubbed the “85/15 Model”, Living Forest Communities registers restrictive covenants with a trusted third party conservation group or municipality on 85 per cent of the land for eco-system based forestry, value-added manufacturing, and conservation. The remaining 15 per cent of the land is used for organic food production, clustered hamlets of homes, shops and compatible eco-tourism activities.

The current Living Forest Communities Project is located close to Shawnigan Lake, just 45 minutes north of Victoria on Vancouver Island.  At the Elkingtion Forest project the homes have been designed in a European style with the front doors opening onto a public square or green space, while the back decks overlook 1000 acres or more of wild forestland.

Even though the development footprint is less than 15 per cent, the Living Forest Community model provides investors with a solid return on investment.   In exchange for a lower land cost, Living Forest Community staff (former municipal lawyers and planners) arrange for conservation tax credits to go to the current landowners, and/or arrange for life leases or the transfer of future building rights to the heirs as part of the rezoning process. There are also lower servicing costs due to the clustering of the development, with shorter, narrower contour hugging roads, more efficient integrated water, wastewater, rain water systems, and other light on the land infrastructure.

There is a strong demand for beautifully designed, unique, handmade homes surrounded by pristine natural environments and Living Forest Communities is about to make this dream come true for 77 homeowners.  Potential home buyers like the concept of living in a conservation community where the members jointly act as watershed and forest stewards.

The eco-system based management of the forest according to Forest Stewardship Council principles leaves the forest feeling like a park, even after some timber has been gently harvested. One interested buyer recently said that the Living Forest Community model “is like having a home in your own provincial or national park.” 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this model is the incredible amount of public support and media relations that these kind of projects have recently been achieving. Doug Makaroff, President of Living Forest Communities explains, “It really helps when the largest and most vocal environmental groups are standing behind you at a public hearing and writing blogs to their members to rally further support.”

However, he adds that developers should not see this as a clever trick for flipping already clear cut land out of forestry into suburban styled development.  “When we talk about this model, we are only looking for large parcels of land imminently threatened by clear cutting where there is the potential to prevent the loss of habitat and carbon sequestration. We only consider parcels over 200 acres that are at least 70 per cent covered by trees that are at least 50 years old. We design the clustered hamlets so that they are nestled into the landscape.”  Local employment, local food production and alternative transportation options work to further ensure that they are truly creating sustainable communities that will thrive long into the future.

The Conservation Communities bring a highly differentiated product to the real estate market.  While traditional developments have often created conflicts in communities this model offers a win-win-win solution for many regions.  There is an appetite from local municipal governments for this kind of sustainable solution to community land use issues, the eco forestry and agro forestry portions of the project will create meaningful employment and the community will benefit from the intact and healthy watershed and forests for generations to come. 

To learn more about Living Forest Communities and the current Elkington Forest property please visit :https://www.livingforestcommunities.com or call Doug Makaroff at 250-386-6600.

Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

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Ann launched RENX in 2001 as a part-time venture and has grown the publication to become a primary source of online news for the Canadian real estate industry. Prior to…

Read more

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