Vision Vancouver by-election candidate Diego Cardona has proposed a new 6-home housing type (design and rezoning details t.b.a.).  He’d allow replacing a single family home with up to six families. That’s up from the current three (home, suite, laneway).
And density continues to lead the platform popularity contest. How, one wonders, will Cardona’s proposal do at the polls? Particularly in those ‘hoods where voters are sitting on SFH equity, and worry about it being negatively affected by density. Or any other change.
Is this another trial balloon floated by a potentially 1-year councilor?

A Vancouver Special for 2017: if elected, Cardona will introduce a motion to have staff bring forward a ‘Vancouver Special’ for 2017 – a new building type that could go immediately in all single-family neighborhoods but double the number homes. “Currently up to three units – a single-family home, a basement suite, and laneway house – are allowed on a single-family lot, but that’s not enough. We could easily increase that to 6. Let’s develop a new kind of Vancouver Special for 2017 that can double the number of homes in our single-family neighborhoods and give a new generation of Vancouverites an opportunity to live in our city.”


  1. The current three units is inevitably four and is advertised as such by builders and agents, blatantly, or with code such as ‘nanny suite’.
    The practice of building townhomes on arterials is reminiscent of a grocer selling his rotten fruit first. We drove past some being built on Granville near 60th today. Our location is vastly superior – no comparison, but its purported value is so much less because of zoning. You’d have to more than double the assessed value of our location to pry us loose. So people with bags of cash are forced to buy into these godawful locations because of zoning constraints. These are not market forces at work, but ideology. Bouncing the current four units to six is a bagatelle.

  2. I wonder when the relative decrease in the population of single family neighbourhoods will be sufficient to make ideas like this politically palatable. I also wonder if we’ll see a resurgence of interest in the ward system as that balance of power shifts.
    Either way, I hope this ends up being more than just a trial balloon.

  3. I’ll look forward to seeing Diego Cardona’s 6-home proposal on a single family (RS-1) lot. And whether it has any similarity to the 4-unit idea for a 33 ft. wide lot I showed Neal Lamontagne last year which he then posted on PriceTags in April, 2016. To view that “back of the envelope” sketch, look under “AUTHORS” in PriceTags’ left-hand margin -nlamontagne- and click on “Another smart take on small scale: Ralph Segal on densifying RS-1”. And be sure to peruse the 23 comments from some savvy folks such as Michael Mortensen, Frank Ducote, Thomas Beyer, jolson which are just as relevant today as they were last year. Of course, the number of units in that modest idea can easily be increased to Diego’s 6 homes by adding one more on top of each of the two structures shown, with just a few more feet of height added to today’s RS-1 ht. limit. The key to any number of variations on this theme is to avoid getting hung up on density (FSR) as a number, increased from present 0.6FSR to 1.5, 1.75….take your pick…and then test it to arrive at an optimum but liberal maximum, recognizing the over-arching objective of delivering more housing supply. And recognize that parking provision on site can and should reduced – no more than 2 spaces on a 33′ lot (possibly 3 with a bit of a squeeze). Finally, anticipate and facilitate within the new zoning schedule the ability to strata title.

    this is a 6-plex building form already approved (according to the listing) at 3304 Euclid street: lot only for sale at $2.8M
    A nearby lot (with laneway access at 5505 spencer st) but in regular RS1 is for sale at $1.095M
    This anecdotal sampling explain why the Vision policy is everything but affordability
    in addition to add much less supply than touted as previously explained:
    new home built in RS1 are already 4 units : visit nearby 3378 Church street (open house this weekend)
    The chore of the problem is not whether we can fit 4 or 6 unit on a 33 ft lot, but
    1/ if land division, or strata is allowed to lower the ownership entry point. So far the Vision policy has aimed to do exactly the reverse.
    2/ do we have a mechanism able to capture land lifting allowed by upzoning? From the example above, it is clear what is in place doesn’t work, and it doesn’t seem Vancouver is interested to fix what is the main engine of land speculation…
    If the Cardona proposal doesn’t address the 2 above points, it will just make the city more unaffordable. nothing else substantial will be achieved.

  5. Just reading about six units jammed into one lot gives me claustrophobia. Most of the windows will be sunless; blinds and shutters will be drawn because you’re facing the unit right in front of you. Units will be dark. The spaces between the houses will be havens for slugs and passageways for racoons, not greenspace for people.
    The old Bosa building at Patterson Station is incomparably superior, though adequate exposure to sun is still an issue. I wonder how deliberate the choice of entryway was to this building – long and low. There is a visceral sense of refuge; like going into a cave.
    Safdie’s Habitat is a building that people desire – a cool factor – even after all these years. His all too brief talk on TED is worth listening to. Structures like megalomaniacal Corbusier’s Unite d’habitation are worth revisiting too. Six units on a lot? In a city that has an attitude as big as Vancouver? What would Corbu have said about six stick built units on a lot?

  6. There is a 6-unit stacked townhouse development, each with 800sf 2-bedroom units on a single lot on the SW corner of Brunswick St. and E. 7th Avenue in Vancouver, right across the street from Dude Chillin’ Park. People who live there love it. This example is very instructive for lowrise densification (3 storeys).
    I’m not sure how this configuration would work on an interior lot, though, for the kinds of reasons Andrew Carnegie mentions. But the stacked form is preferable to separate ‘boxes’, IMO, if one is seeking cost savings and construction efficiencies.
    Keep the conversation going!

    1. Also thinking of Koo’s Corner on Pender in Strathcona (Bruce Haden designed it and lives there too), and two more at Georgia x Heatley and a conversion of an old Catholic school at Georgia x Princess. Obviously Strathcona isn’t all RS1.

  7. I lived in a 3 storey walk-up over ten years. One couple had lived there twenty years when I moved in. They stayed renters. They could easily have bought, but must have liked their corner location with a view; and they relentlessly pissed away their money on motorcycles, and trucks with campers.
    These 3 storey walk-ups should be more common; their plans cheap to buy and easy to get through the planning process. This building had a single depressing coin laundry. That’s not enough, but a w/d in every suite is not needed either. With all the frou frou around kitchens and baths, a communal laundry area needs to be taken aesthetically and not stuck in a dismal leftover space. It should be large, with windows, ventilation, and big folding tables. Some plants would thrive in this enviro. That would be good too.
    The 9 On the Park is superficially attractive. My number one criticism is the location of kitchen sinks. This is the single most important place to have a window, for natural light and views. Facing a wall while washing dishes or getting food ready does not lift the spirits. They’re placed this way to consolidate plumbing stacks, but saving a bit here means losing quality of life.
    Number two big criticism is open concept. When I spend time in our kitchen, I wear custom ear plugs to block the sound of the fridge. In decibels it’s not that loud, but there’s something penetrating about it. A new fridge didn’t help. When not in the kitchen, the door to it is closed. This noise affects me 20′ away. To have a living room in this space is madness inducing. The way some houses are built with an extra Wok kitchen and sliding door approaches the problem, but the fridge should also go into this space. Shut the door and dine peacefully.

    1. Thanks to that renowned “socialist” Derrek Corrigan we are losing scores of three story walk-up and their affordable apartments in Burnaby. Will his wife’s NDP colleagues now move to block such behaviour?

      1. A good number (not all) of that “affordable” housing was privately owned and run into the ground by slumlords. Burnaby is no exception.
        By all means, preserve the best structures (e.g. South Granville, Mount Pleasant, Port Coquitlam old town)), or replace them with a higher number of affordable housing units. But let’s not fool ourselves that all housing advocates who show up screaming at meetings actually live there.

  8. Thanks, Frank, Michael & Arnie Carnegie, for extending this thread. Frank, I looked up on Google Map your Brunswick & E. 7th example and yes, very pertinent in that corner lots, even 33′ wide, are indeed special, with rowhouse potential.The street level E. 7th view on Google shows a lady walking her dog and a pizza guy delivering to the ground level unit! Perfect! This example by Cornerstone Architects is on a 50′ wide lot in RM-4 (1.45 FSR) and actually has, I believe, 8 units. The only issue I have with this built form is its neighbourliness (lack of) on the interior (side) property line vis-a-vis Arnie’s point re: inadequate privacy and overshadowing of neighbour which of course could be mitigated in the design while still preserving this corner lot potential.
    My “back-of-the-envelope” overly simplistic sketch was specifically to deal with Vancouver’s ubiquitous 33′ wide interior lots while still maintaining some at-grade garden area, albeit reduced, i.e. without underground parking. Obviously 50′ wide lots do not present as challenging a design problem.

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