July 11, 2018

Vancouver’s Density In a Picture

The majority of Vancouver’s land is zoned for residential use, but forbids apartment buildings.  (click to enlarge)

Thanks to @GRIDSVancouver for this rendering of the opportunity in Vancouver to change zoning and provide more housing for more people.

My question: how will this play out in the upcoming civic election? A split across traditional left-right dimensions? Emergence of new poles of opinion  density increase, or status quo; rezone or not; rezone much, or a little; rezone on arterials only; rezone only mansion-oriented pockets; rip out bike lanes?

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  1. Thanks Ken for providing the link to GRID Vancouver’s Twitter feed. There’s a lot of very informative comments and links there.

    It’s graphics like the above that illustrate that Vancouver’s housing affordability crisis is Pandora’s playground. Land supply constraints are clearly demarcated in bright yellow, which is one big land price escalator during times of high demand. Along with record low interest rates (recent small rate hikes hardly bring them back to the 7% levels of the late 90s) demand is still very high, even though detached home sales (with a big hunk of land attached) have plateaued and pushed demand toward condos (with virtually no land attached). Place local speculation and foreign buyers on top of this already superheated pile and there’s your crisis.

    Our housing diversity achievement is absolutely pathetic. Using less land to build more housing and more ground-oriented housing choice designed for today’s demographics, providing suites to increase family income while also lowering parking stipulations and increasing transit to remove the car ownership burden from family budgets, and adding regulations to dampen speculation**, building thousands of units of public rentals, and you’re now on the track to offering housing with reasonable list prices and affordable rents.

    Vancouver’s recent Making Room housing initiative seems like a very good foundation upon which to build, with more consultation to refine it. I’d count on the experience of staff to get it right by its mid-2019 implementation, considering this is a major change in political direction after 80 years of preserving millions of square metres of sprawling open space within RS zones.

    Unfortunately people like Elizabeth Murphy, Patrick Condon and some neighbourhood reps seem to be doubling down on armouring the sprawling yellow zones indicated above against any invasion of home hungry middle and lower class families. I’d even say theirs is a distinctly wealthy West Side view. Murphy published what one GRID commenter called a “5-alarm fire” op-ed in the Saturday Sun slagging Making Room and council. My first thought was it was a somewhat unprofessional performance. It also seems to be a change for Condon who used to promote infill housing and the Missing Middle while decrying “spot rezoning” until the devil incarnate (Vision) opted to actually get behind the Missing Middle with Making Room, which is already based on years of consultation (with no action until last month). Now, according to Condon, Making Room is a “city-wide spot re-zone.” That statement is incoherent. Making Room seems to in fact allow for the necessary flexibility but within defined parameters and principles that will remain in public consultation for almost a year. I’ll bet that flexibility is based on the deep experience of city planning staff dealing with 10,000 different city-building circumstances. Condon’s one plan seems rather simplistic by comparison.

    ** The Broadway Plan initial report states categorically that the City will develop policies and initiatives to limit or dampen real estate speculation in the Broadway corridor which will see such pressures build with the construction of the Broadway Line. The City has a few powerful tools, like CAC, DCC and zoning policies it can use. One can hope they will use the successes in that policy in other areas too.


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