An article published by Vancouver Sun’s Kelly Sinoski talks about what we all know-finding an affordable detached home is pretty impossible. You have a handful of options including moving to the suburbs, buying a condo, or trying to find ground-oriented town or row houses.
The Urban Land Institute which does research on population and land-use states that in the 1990’s their studies indicated that Metro Vancouver would have a housing shortage “by 2021 unless it built 21,000 units annually-with 13,400 of those being ground-oriented,and 7,700 of them apartments”. The ULI was suggesting that for every apartment built, there needed to be 2 ground oriented townhouses or rowhouses.
Why? Because there was a common assumption that the baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964 would be downsizing into those row houses. Trouble is those boomers didn’t move from their single family houses, which may have been a good thing because ground oriented townhouses and rowhouses were never built in a ratio of 2 for every one apartment, and there is little stock.
Census Canada for 2011 information shows that between 2006 and 2011, Metro Vancouver added 38,340 ground oriented dwellings, and 35,870 apartment units. This is half the amount of housing that the ULI suggested. In five decades, ground-oriented dwellings have dropped from 85 per cent in 1961 to 60 per cent in 2011. While the laneway house has been another housing form that has been adopted, I have wondered whether better economies of scale and better pricing might happen if stacked townhouses and rowhouses were more ubiquitous.
How do we move forward for people who want to live in ground-oriented housing? With little ground-oriented townhouses and rowhouses in those west side neighbourhoods, its hard to convince those baby boomers to downsize from their single family castles to a more compact alternative. Is it too late to catch up?