At Vancouver City Hall, December 18:

Vancouver council approved a contentious rezoning application to build a five-storey rental building at Larch and West Second Avenue in an 8-3 vote Dec. 18. after a public hearing that attracted dozens of speakers, for and against. …   The Larch street building will produce 63 rental units — 13 for moderate income households.

Some neighbouring residents, who formed Kits Neighbourhood Group, campaigned against the Larch Street project, arguing it didn’t fit neighbourhood character, the building is too high, dense and bulky, and not enough affordable units are being provided to justify the incentives being offered to the developer.

Imagine trying to approve hundreds of these ‘missing-middle’ developments one by one – or even through a mass rezoning to allow them anywhere.  Imagine a ‘Kits Neighbourhood Group’ city-wide (as Colleen Hardwick undoubtedly will).


Meanwhile, at Surrey City Hall, December 16:

Alison Brooks Architects has won approval for a residential-led scheme in Vancouver, Canada, featuring a series of towers, the tallest a 38-storey skyscraper …

The project for Rize Alliance Properties will create 1,126 homes on the site in the burgeoning City of Surrey (City Centre) …

It was waved through at a City of Surrey Public Hearing …


Do the math: 63 versus 1,126.  Do the political calculation: one project tries to nibble away at The Grand Bargain, the other reinforces its expediency.

What are the odds that the City of Vancouver will provide enough housing of any kind, incentivized or not, to make a substantial difference in the housing crisis?



  1. Point well taken. There’s no way to even make small dents in the problem at the rate the COV’s currently moving. The current Council is doing little to resolve the need for more affordable housing, let alone resolving homelessness.

  2. Yes, it was difficult but it did get approved in the end. The process brought up issues that some people hold. It’s good to know about those and they should be considered of course.

    What tends to happen is that things get built and people adjust and learn to like it. In this location it scared some people thinking that 20 story buildings were next. They’re wrong about that though. What’s next will be more like more 5 story buildings.

    Those opposed need to figure out just what it is that they’re concerned about and instead of just simply opposing any new thing, make sure that their concerns are addressed in the new things (that are coming and that are inevitable.)

  3. This is the tale of differences between neighbourhoods within one city as well.

    Council approved twin 7-storey buildings under the same rental program in Renfrew with much higher impact of the 5-storey building in Kits. Here’s the clincher:

    “Every piece of correspondence the city received was in support of the Renfrew projects, as was every speaker who came to address council Thursday. Not a single homeowner or representative of neighbourhood association came out to speak in opposition.”

    The only difference was the distance to rapid transit (existing and proposed), and the attitudes of residents. In Kits the sense of entitlement is Ice Creme-thick. In Renfrew it is accepting and accommodating. Kudos to the city for approving both, though with Kits certain councillors have demonstrated either impossibly narrow financial criteria for approval, or are pandering to the NIMBY vote while calling themselves Green.

  4. That’s hardly a like-for-like comparison. The Surrey project is in the City Centre, and involves replacing 154 woodframe 1970s apartments with 172 concrete rental apartments and 954 condos. The new rental apartments will be more expensive than those they’re replacing. Although Rize is helping existing tenants with a relocation package, the affordability of the new units is only relative, (it’s cheaper to buy or rent in Surrey than in Vancouver).

    A fairer comparison might be the six projects under construction or recently developed on or near Davie Street in the West End. They will create 1,070 new units, so on a comparable scale to the Rize scheme, but as a result of the West End Plan policies, only 216 are strata units, 758 are market rental and 96 are non-market rental, to be owned by the City and managed by a non-profit manager. Some market rental units were redeveloped, but there was almost 100% replacement with non-market units, so affordability was actually improved (as the previous units were market rentals).

    Given that Surrey is bigger than the City of Vancouver, and has more easily developed land than Vancouver, they might be expected to be building more housing than Vancouver. The Metro Plan certainly anticipates that. However, the Metro Housing Data Book shows that in the past five years (2014 to 2018) there were 20,008 housing starts in Surrey, and 31,182 in the City of Vancouver. There were more starts in Vancouver than in Surrey in every year.

    Vancouver saw 45% of all the purpose-built rental housing starts in the whole of Metro Vancouver. The numbers of purpose-built rentals in the same 5 years saw Surrey with 2,948 housing starts, and Vancouver with 11,269.

    1. Thank you for that context. I’d love to see this comment be highlighted on the main feed of pricetags, as I expect many will skim through and miss this and therefore come away with a sadly distorted view of reality.

    2. I would be curious to know what the numbers are since Gil Kelley took over the Planning Department. The projects mentioned along Davie St. were all under the last director of Planning. Not much has been done since Mr. Kelley took over, despite promises made by the current council (who have not approved any big projects since being sworn into office).

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