Alex Bozikovic writes in the Globe and Mail on housing:  the hot topic now firmly entrenched at the top of the issues list in Vancouver’s civic election. [Ed:  the article may be paywalled].   It’s a terrific primer on the issue itself and on the political movement it has spawned among younger people in the city’s upcoming October civic election.

Daniel Olesiuk inside his Mount Pleasant apartment.
Thanks to MetroNews

Mr. Bozikovic starts by discussing the ideas of Daniel Oleksiuk and Abundant Housing Vancouver.

The brutal realities of Vancouver real estate are leading many young locals to think about these issues in a systemic way. And their central argument is powerful, once you understand it: That zoning, a form of municipal policy, protects expensive houses and forbids apartments that middle-class people can afford.
“We are a non-partisan group,” he said of AHV. “Arguing for more housing is something that seems to cross party lines.”

The ideas behind the issue are zoning, density and exclusion.  Coalescing around this issue is an emerging fresh young cohort of proto-pols looking for council nominations, since this is where some of the levers of power reside.  This includes the NPA, who have in the past seemed to represent only the very people opposed to up-zoning.  Talk about party lines crossed, generations divided and, one presumes, lively back-room discussions.
Bozikovic quotes Bruce Haden, of Urbanarium who hosted a recent Missing Middle Competition:

“Touching single-family house zones was until recently the third rail of municipal politics,” he told me in an e-mail. “I believe that those who are fearful of those neighbourhoods changing are now outnumbered by residents who are fearful of those neighbourhoods not changing, as they realized they may have to drive three hours to see their grandkids.
“Maybe people have figured out that being rich, old and alone on an empty street is not the most fun way to live.”

 

Comments

  1. Zoning for rental in SELECT areas a good idea worthy exploring. Certainly not an entire city or even a wholesale change as it is akin to wealth confiscation of the current owner. If an old house in Point Grey can’t be demolished but must be rental its value plummets potentially. Further research into this impact has to be done, unlike the current speculation tax which was far too hastily pushed through amid much resistance with poor to no research as to consequences on housing market, values and especially, new supply.
    To my knowledge, no city has such exclusive rental zoning for that reason. Building rental units is usually one of many options provided to an owner. But if such exclusive zoning exists elsewhere I’d welcome links to those cities.
    In addition, one has to be VERY AWARE of the consequences namely that supply might not come onstream due to enormous cost to build, red tape, lengthy timelines and poor financing vehicles available when one builds rental housing. Texas has some such options briefly mentioned within comments here https://pricetags.wordpress.com/tag/speculation-tax/

    1. Zoning for increased density conditional on it being rental is not wealth confiscation The owners can have the option of keeping the existing zoning but not using the additional rental zoning.

      1. At some point the house gets old and may be rebuilt. The zoning needs to allow keeping it single unit non-rental then. What weird zoning is that? Where has that been implemented ever?

  2. Imagine. Giving .99 cents a week to the owners of the Grope & Flail to get through their paywall. “Support quality journalism”.
    Right.
    Sign up now. The richest people in Canada want your money to help disseminate their views. The sheer audacity …
    With their $41 billion and growing, imagine the kind of housing we could have.
    This kind of wealth is repugnant. Shameful. Oppressive. It kills hopes and dreams.
    This is structural violence. Poor people live significantly shorter lives; and the lives they do lead is as wage slaves.
    There is political oppression; religious; military. This is economic oppression.

    1. Newspapers have to pay journalists. That’s why most established papers now have a pay wall after 6-12 articles a month.
      What’s your solution to rental crisis in Vancouver ? Constructive suggestions always welcome.

    2. I much prefer the G&M even with their $41B owners to the editorial diktats of Postmedia and its billionaire hedge fund owners.

  3. Houses were affordable until the BC Liberals and Federal Liberals decided selling citizenship and allowing unrestricted foreign purchases of housing was a path to economic success.

    1. Many seller made out like bandits. New $400,000, $2M or $4M condos don’t fall out of the sky, you know ?
      These new developments, even if vacant or foreign owned, provide loads of taxes (property taxes, PST, employment taxes, GST) AND massive employment: architects, plumbers, city planners, concrete pourers, truck drivers, realtors, lawyers, designer, marketing firms, elevator installers etc
      It is HUGE business in BC.
      Expect significant negative economic impact of this new 20% foreign plus 2% spec tax ie significantly reduced supply thus more layoffs while prices won’t move much and new taxes collected won’t be all that much as cheating galore and “renting” to friends and family members galore, too !

      1. The BC government os building 114,000 new affordable new homes. This new supply will also require architects, plumbers, city planners, concrete pourers, truck drivers, lawyers, designer, elevator installers etc, as well as non-profit operators and managers About the only occupations in the above list who may lose out is marketing firms and realtors.

        1. Over ten years .. maybe.
          Via ever mushrooming debt debt DEBT while ruining BC’s economy with ever higher taxes, government bureaucracy, minimum wages, high energy prices and uncertain investment climate for resources, LNG, pipelines or real estate. $15/h gaffer jobs to the rescue .. in subsidized housing.

    2. If one looks at timelines between affordability and interest rates, there is a pretty tight correlation between rising prices due to demand from record low interest rates. In the late 90s rates were 6.5% – 7.0% which kept thousands out of the detached house market, with the exception of double income families, and lower priced small lots and dilapidated crack shacks. There has been no change in the RS zoning that would free up the locked-in land that covers 70% of most detached home lots and the would encourage more diversity in housing design, with the exception of laneway homes.
      Today interest rates are at record low levels, and prices (mainly in land) are still high even with detached home sales dropping like a stone, a 20% tax on foreign owners plus a speculation tax and a vacant homes tax, and a huge amount of concentrated scrutiny by three levels of government on foreign trusts and money laundering.
      A prediction: housing prices will drop once interest rates climb upward of 4% and upzoning affords much more housing using less land. The effect of foreign buyers, though measurable, will prove be less than advertised, but local speculation will still be rampant.

      1. “… there is a pretty tight correlation between rising prices due to demand from record low interest rates and a lack of supply.”

      2. Rising interest rates do not make houses more affordable. They will also NOT rise significantly. If the the latest constitutional crisis due to the BC-Alberta pipeline battle triggered by eco-fascists is not solved soon it will trigger LOWER interest rates due to a deteriorating economy. Hold onto your wallets folks. It may get ugly in BC and gasoline prices in Lower Mainland may skyrocket. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/twinning-kinder-morgan-pipeline-will-lead-to-big-drop-in-gas-prices-says-expert I do understand that many welcome that and do not care (and most of them do not live in high end homes)

        1. Dude, you’re hilarious! So it is just a coincidence that interest rates have stayed low while housing prices kept climbing for the last decade?
          I actually don’t have a strong position either way on the pipeline. I doubt it will have much impact if it’s buit or not.

        2. Rising interest rates will lower demand at some point. It will also cause some personal mortgage-related debt bubbles to implode. Ergo pressure easing on the supply and corresponding incremental price drops.
          The second Kinder Morgan pipe is slated for bitumen export only and has nothing to do with domestic fossil fuel consumption. It’s also worth, at best, 50 permanent jobs. BC’s tech industries employ more people than the oil & gas, mining and forestry industries combined.
          The South Coast economy creates about $150 billion a year in wealth and encompasses over three million people. BC doesn’t need Kinder Morgan.

  4. Given conditions in Vancouver the best response to the affordable housing issue by far that I have seen to date is the deployment of factory production processes for the manufacture of modular construction. The advantages of this delivery strategy are many including very low neighbourhood disruption, building permit pre approvals and a controlled construction environment (a factory) with full recycle capability, a source of local employment, a new industry.
    Component housing can take on many appearances. Architects, artists, product designers, masters of the object in space, all can play parts in what can become an architectural renaissance for the city. To kick start an examination process, hold an International Architectural Design Competition: an exploration of modular housing design, its’ function, its’ appearance, its’ possibilities for Vancouver.
    We should turn housing into a desirable industrial design product, a fully equipped light weight home that morphs with options and features: cool designs in shape, materials, colors and configurations that are move in ready, that are marketed in showrooms like cars are today. Such a product would be simple to construct in a factory………………simple to deliver with a heavy lift helicopter.

    1. Indeed. There was a time you could order a great architect-designed Craftsman bungalow by mail order Sears catalogue (built-in cabinets, stained glass widows, brass door knobs and everything else), and it would be delivered in kit form by freight train, then by truck to the site. Today people think of modular housing as trailer trash assemblage or converted shipping containers.
      The potential is enormous for factory-built components (most architectural laminated timbers are fabricated this way in hundreds of possible shapes and curves) and wall panels. The house could be assembled very quickly to minimize its exposure to the weather.
      However, the cost today is in the land, not in the house per se (luxury homes excepted), so unless lots are up zoned for attached single family homes and low-rises, prices will still remain high.

  5. @Alex
    OK let’s not blow off this idea of factory production so quickly. The average person can not afford to purchase a home even if it comes with free land! That is because we are still in the horse and buggy days when it comes to building homes using the stick frame construction method. Just think about it for a moment, we have turned the city into one huge inefficient housing factory with a predictable result: unaffordability, unsuitable habitation, environmental pollution, and congestion everywhere. The average home consists of thousands upon thousands of bits and pieces all delivered piecemeal in trucks and vans by hundreds upon hundreds of tradesmen and salesmen over the course of two or three years, and all this happily financed through deficit spending with a payback period of 25-35 years for the new home owner. Whoopi do! How insane is this? When the average life expectancy in Canada for a male is 4160 weeks why waste half of that precious time working just to put a roof over your head? Worse yet why slave your entire life paying rent? Enough! Even the birds and the bees are better at solving the issue of shelter than humans are. It is time for an industrial revolution, it is time to modernize. And it is time to stop blaming zoning for all these woes, densification is not the answer.

    1. A house is not just shelter, just like a car is not just transportation. It is also
      A safe zone to retract, to relax, to be
      A place to raise a family
      An investment
      A place to express yourself
      A place to show off to others
      A place to have friends or family over
      A luxury item to appreciate
      A piece of art
      A place to store one’s stuff
      A place to eat
      A place to work
      A place to entertain and be entertained
      No one needs more than 150-200 sq ft of “shelter”. The rest is all or some of the above.

  6. Computer cut complete wall panels have been manufactured in the Vancouver region for many years. This industry exists.
    Interest rates will be decided and set in New York and Ottawa, regardless of the spat between BC and Alberta. As rates rise, and they will, monthly costs jump, even as BC real estate declines in value, as per the NDP. It evens out. Construction costs will stay around $300-$400 a foot. How could they be less? Plus the land. A small partly finished townhouse is going to be $450-$500,000 with permits and fees, plus the land.
    Many think the housing supply is plentiful now. As the costs of mortgages increase and all the new taxes take hold the market will slow and construction will too. With less new supply needed cheaper old properties will become more accessible and poor quality aging ones probably cheaper too.
    Expensive new properties will continue to be built for buyers unaffected by a weakened economy or higher interest rates. They will continue to climb in price as inflation from higher rates raises all costs.
    Once again, the middle class will find difficulty in finding product.

    1. In a desirable immigration region with limited land and decent weather ( like Lower Mainland ) home prices will NOT come down, EVER, unless there is a deadly virus that kills 30%+ of people or housing is expropriated on a wide scale.
      More taxes will make it even more expensive. The immigration debate is missing: what’s the right level and what’s the impact on housing, healthcare, transit, roads, policing or schools. It’s the elephant in the room yet no one talks about it. Why is that? Do we need to allow any immigrant to live in Lower Mainland, or is it perhaps appropriate to ask them to live elsewhere for 5 years ( say Saskatoon) or prepay healthcare for five years at cost (approx $700/person/month) ? Is it appropriate to have relatively affluent immigrants displace long term but less affluent residents ? What immigration levels are healthy, and which ones are unhealthy ? Those debates and associated policy decisions are utterly lacking today. Let’s just try a speculation tax. That’ll fix the issue ….
      Not

      1. Hi Thomas; as you may know, on November 1, 2017 CBC reported on the Trudeau Liberal plans for the coming years:
        “Canada will welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years, according to the multi-year strategy tabled by the Liberal government today in what it calls “the most ambitious immigration levels in recent history.”
        The number of economic migrants, family reunifications and refugees will climb to 310,000 in 2018, up from 300,000 this year. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019 then 340,000 in 2020.”
        There cannot be any mechanism within this country that will restrict where the vast number of immigrants decide to live.

  7. Factory production of housing is already a well developed industry in Canada that produces fully complete move in ready units at around $100 Canadian per square foot, making a 500 sq. ft. unit accessible at $50,000. These units are easily moved so they can be traded up or down, or bought and sold just like vehicles. They plug into existing infrastructure. They can be piled up or they can stand alone. They are here right now. What is needed is for architects to step up and popularise these systems of construction, for materials engineers to advance applications of new materials, for energy developers to advance solar power systems, for designers to make them even better than they already are, and for entrepreneurs to invest in production facilities.
    It is the product, its high quality, its utility and its affordability that will drive the necessary zoning changes to accommodate its appearance. The ‘we want it’ factor. This is the historical pattern of development: first comes the invention then comes public policy followed by regulation, this doesn’t occur the other way around. We should stop thinking that we can reduce the cost of housing by tinkering with a system designed to maximise profits for everyone involved (of which there are many).
    As pointed out else where in this thread it is important to understand what we mean by the term housing: what is basic and essential, what is desirable, what is luxury, what is wealth display…………….
    What is proposed here is a solution for the ‘missing bottom’, all the groups identified as in need according to the new policy on housing developed by the City of Vancouver.

    1. $100 sq’ including plumbing, wiring, windows, finishings, cladding, roofing?
      Please advise where to find this.

  8. Pierre,
    Move in ready in terms of systems means: refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, sinks, hot water heater, shower, tub, toilet, wash basin, grey and black water waste system, outdoor water tap, and power options of 12V or 110 AC, and fuel options of propane, B.C. Hydro electricity, photovoltaic cells, and Tesla storage batteries.
    In terms of rooms move in ready means: living space, washroom, bedroom, kitchen
    In terms of climate performance move in ready means: a windproof, waterproof insulating membrane.
    My preference is for a climate membrane that is a bonded composite of synthetic material acting as an insulating structural cell. It can take any shape and enclose any volume.
    The climate membrane would be shaped by forms holding liquid or granular material which is later removed as a newly formed object once material has solidified.
    I imagine a future of housing shapes unlike ones we have seen before that will fit into any back yard in any neighbourhood, shapes of wall and window interacting with inside and outside, shapes that are attractive and highly designed in the industrial sense, fine engineering, refined engineering.
    My cost estimate is based on industries using similar construction technologies or materials. In particular I based $100 on the manufactures suggested retail price for a 350 sq ft travel trailer with all the rooms and equipment as described above less all the elements for the road (wheels, brakes, springs, axles, hitches, lights, wiring). It may be a low figure but it is fully self contained.
    The design challenge as I have described it is to create appealing environments with these products.

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