The temperature is going up. As the election approaches and the City moves towards a ‘Making Room’ rezoning in traditional neighbourhoods, positions are hardening.
On one hand, a desire to take change slow (if not stop it outright), reflected in the columns of Elizabeth Murphy in The Sun, especially her latest: “city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning.“
The city’s consultants confirmed as far back as 2014 that there is more than enough existing zoned capacity to meet population growth beyond 2041. Yet the city continues a manic rush to rezone.
The most recent example is the rushed rezoning of Kitsilano RT7/RT8, Cedar Cottage RT10 and all the RS zones citywide of 68,000 properties, all without public consultation. The public hearing for all of this is coming Sept. 18 at 3 p.m.
But there’s another constituency, rarely if ever heard until recently, that insists these changes are not ambitious enough. Some of them composed an open letter to Council to spell out what they mean and what they want. Here it is:
Comments to the proposed Amendments to the Zoning and Development Bylaw for Most RS Zones to Allow Two-Family Dwellings (Duplexes) to Increase Housing Choice
As members and practitioners in the architecture, design, development, building and urban planning community in Vancouver, we the undersigned seek a more ambitious array of redevelopment options for Vancouver’s RS1 (single detached) zones that would allow for more density and a wider variety housing choices that better meet our social, economic and environmental needs. This type of change is exceedingly overdue. Almost 60% of our City is zoned for single detached housing forms that are currently affordable to only 8% of Vancouver households (based on gross household income).
Our analysis and experience suggest that the proposal before the council to allow duplexes with lockoff suites within single-family zones is far too modest; it will not generate the affordability or choice of housing needed by most Vancouver households. We simply need to make better and more intensive use of the land in neighbourhoods already richly served by transit, local shopping, parks and amenities neighbourhoods that are hollowing out due to unaffordability.
Our professions have documented alternative forms of more intensive development that could be sensitively incorporated in Vancouver’s RS1 neighbourhoods. Vancouver’s architecture, design, development and urban planning communities have expressed these ideas on countless occasions, be it through the city’s Housing Re: Set program and Urbanarium’s Missing Middle competition. An array of practical and beautiful solutions have been shared and put forward to respond to the question of how to best densify our single-family communities while meeting the strategic goals set in the city’s housing plans. These solutions evoke typologies that blend the old concepts with progressive ideas around form, tenure, density and diversity.
The two family amendments currently before Council fail to draw upon these innovative, rational and creative resources. Rather, the examples shown in the proposed policy look only to modify and reuse antiquated and regressive guidelines. This approach does little to resolve our housing affordability challenges. A simple pro forma analysis suggests that the proposed guidelines will only perpetuate another form of exclusive housing available to only a slightly larger fraction of Vancouver households.
Using old rules to solve current problems will not work. We have documented a number of viable housing forms that could be permitted in RS1 zones to create much more affordable and attainable homes for people who live and work in this city. An incentive-based approach could generate an array of more affordable new housing choices with more modestly sized homes in forms that remain sensitive to neighbourhood character — to create stronger more livable communities throughout our city. In this light, we recommend that Council revisit and expand the proposed amendments and champion projects that meet the spectrum of needs set out in the City of Vancouver’s 10-year housing plan and strategies.
We strongly advocate a more fulsome approach. We have outlined our recommendations below. We are optimistic to see these must-needed changes within our single-family neighbourhoods and look forward to being active participants in creating further solutions in partnership with city staff.
Scot Hein, Former Senior Urban Designer, City of Vancouver
Adjunct Professor of Urban Design, University of British Columbia
Registered Architect, USA
Marianne Amodio, Architect AIBC, LEED AP
Marianne Amodio and Harley Grusko Architects Inc.
Jake Fry, Smallworks Studios and Laneway Housing Inc.
Michael Mortensen MA, MCIP RPP
Director, Livable City Planning Ltd.
Bryn Davidson B.Eng. M.Arch. LEEDAP