December 7, 2017

The Green Rule: 20-Storey Teardowns

Jim Green, best known as a housing advocate in the Downtown East Side and COPE/Vision city councillor from 2002-05, made a comment on Vancouver’s future, according to Matt Meehan of Concord Pacific, that I’m going to call the Green Rule:

In the future, any building under 20 storeys in downtown Vancouver is a teardown.  They just don’t know it yet.


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  1. I guess that depends on how far in future he was projecting. What is the lifespan of a typical concrete highrise? I’m surprised that many who purport to be green glefully cheer the demolition of these large building, with all the attendant waste it represents.
    And it all nicely ties in with an article in today’s paper about growing income inequality is shaping Metro Vancouver:

    1. From the article”
      “The wide-open supply argument has been thoroughly tested and it’s been found wanting,” he says. “The problem has simply been aggravated. I think now, finally, people are recognizing that supply is not a problem solver, but in fact a problem generator because it is pricing up land all the time.”
      As for the city’s new housing strategy, which acknowledges that unabated development is not a solution, Dr. Ley says it’s a start.
      “I wish the city of Vancouver had held this position a decade ago. I cannot quite understand why what is obvious to most Vancouver residents has taken so long to become the policy position at city hall. Anyway, thank goodness it is now.
      “I’ve been saying exactly what [planning director] Gil Kelley said, ‘there is no silver bullet that is going to solve the problem.’ The best we can do at this point is to mitigate, to try to make sure the problem doesn’t get worse, and make what changes we can. And all three levels of government have to be involved in that.

      In other words — more supply! But this time targeted to income through public investment and policy. Still, supply is supply is supply, and this time it will be accompanied by new CMHC mortgage qualification rules and a slow upward climb in interest rates. Now those elements will tend to downwardly affect demand.
      The entire Supply Myth narrative implies by extension that we need to stop supplying housing because it jacks land value. I would sure like to see the geographer’s analysis on that with respect to prices.
      I notice that foreign money is not being blamed for the entire affordability crisis in this Gold article. Now she’s back to blaming development / construction / increased density / etc. for doing what it does everywhere on Earth: Increase values. Even building a single car garage in Gimli will increase land values. It’s a matter of scale. That’s basic economics. But I do think there’s a good chance she’ll also restart blaming Smart Growth and other planning initiatives that seek to balance and increase urban efficacy.
      Once again, land supply constraints and diversifying the range of housing types were completely ignored.

      1. Alex, you seem to be misunderstanding what has been dubbed “The Supply Myth”. That has been applied to the building of strata titled properties, of which the continued overbuilding has resulted in none of the promised affordability. The increase in supply that is needed is on the rental side, as you cannot indulge in classic speculative behaviour with a rental unit.

        1. No misunderstanding. Just forgot to mention that rental is part of the new initiative. As I’ve said before, in large enough affordable rental supply, market demand will diminish. On that we seem to agree.

      2. Great comment Alex … there is undoubtedly a nuanced position between that of ‘build moar’ and ‘build nothing, ban spec and 4N$ instead’ … unfortunately thats where the argument seems to always end up (on FB and Twitter especially).

  2. Just a thumbs up to the Jim Greene Residence at 415 Alexander; that and the Pensylvannia Hotel on Hastings. Why can’t more buildings have stacked bays/oriels? It makes a world of difference to the interior perception of space – like the Sam Kee building – cheap on foundation work too.
    One redeeming feature of our crappy 100 plus/yr/old house is the huge bay. Meanwhile, pretty much all of the tacky granite-bedecked open concept Vancouver Spec Schlock are strict flat surface rectangles. Do these carpenters know how to build a bay?

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