Within the by-election’s campaign yak-o-sphere, large-scale re-zoning gets a lot of air time. Here are two thoughts on the expected push-back. Both point to a powerful hot button, and make me wonder what the candidates are up to. Perhaps re-zoning at large scale platform planks are simply trial balloons, leading to poll-by-poll analysis of the by-election vote to see where and how party support has changed. And whether anyone will make the big plunge in 2018.
First is UBC Prof. Thomas Davidoff in a letter to City Council about the upcoming small Ryerson development proposal and the ensuing big debate. Hint: he’s in favour. Along the way, he tackles the big political boogeyman — local residents fearful of reduced property values. As we all know, it is a long-standing tradition for neighbourhoods to be fearful of any change. It might chop potential capital gains.
Certain groups protest that property values will be destroyed by the new development. I have seen no evidence in support of that claim. The new community centre and open space will be a positive amenity that will enhance property values. . . .
. . . The neighbors of Ryerson are in an extraordinarily good position to absorb any damage that hypothetically might be done to property values, as each of the single family neighbors is sitting on millions of dollars of housing wealth. (That housing wealth would be greatly enhanced if the entire neighbourhood were brought up to an urban density, rather than the antiquated suburban density that prevails in the neighbourhood due to current zoning.)
[Ed: hopefully PT’s readers can see the full text of the letter. It’s published on the GooglePlex of products, in Google Docs, and seems to be somewhat in the clear.]
Here’s another look at this issue, from none other than PT’s founder, Gordon Price, in November 2014. The focus may have changed somewhat, from heritage home policies to large-scale high-density re-zoning. But the big question to aspiring public servants and their political parties remains the same:
It’s basically the same question with respect to affordability:
Are you willing to bring in any policy that would, by design or result, negatively affect existing property values?
Because if you’re not, how can you address affordability generally – that is, beyond targeted non-market projects or special programs for rental housing? If existing values don’t fall, won’t all new housing be just as expensive as determined by the market if not by the higher costs of new development?
Since it comes down to voters, not abstract questions, will you tell the couple above that their loss of half a million justifies your interventions for the greater long-term good? That they should be happy with the incredible increase they’ve seen on their house, not the relatively minor loss.
And if you can’t, why should the rest of us believe that you intend to do anything that would bring down values enough to make this city ‘affordable’?