December 18, 2018

Four and a Half Minutes on Vancouver Housing (Video)

Uytae Lee of About Here recently teamed up with The Mix to do a short primer on the insanity that has been Vancouver’s housing market for the past decade-plus.

Consider it a stocking stuffer for the out-of-town urbanist in your life who still hasn’t gotten the full story.

The Mix’s website also includes a complete transcription of the video.

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“The price of exclusivity in Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale and West Point Grey is gentrification everywhere else.”

Much has been said about Vancouver’s housing crisis, and much has been promised. But now things are about to get real — and advocacy groups are ready. Particularly at Abundant Housing Vancouver.

AHV is a voice for more — policy reform (renter protections, land value capture, zoning laws), non-market housing, and purpose-built rental units. For this, not to mention the specious claims they’re in the pockets of wealthy developers, they’re also the target of vitriol from the anti-supply side crowd, status quo preservationists, and a grab-bag of Twitter trolls.

AHV directors Jennifer Bradshaw and Stuart Smith joined PT Managing Editor Colin Stein for a chat about what pulled them into housing advocacy, what they’re pushing for, and how they deal with the endless antagonism. And of course, to help define ‘spatial justice’…the implications of which may change the city, and the region, forever.

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The New York Times noticed that in some big cities, something radical is happening:

Oslo plans to ban all cars from its city center beginning next year. Madrid is banning cars owned by nonresidents, and is also redesigning 24 major downtown avenues to take them back for pedestrians. Paris has banned vehicles from a road along the Seine, and plans to rebuild it for bicycle and pedestrian use.

This opinion piece lays out the reasons for this move away from Motordom – or at least the reasons why it should.  This is not news to Vancouver, but we’re just at the point where the new council has yet to indicate whether we’re going to renew our commitment, whether we’re going to speed up our progress, or settle for the current pace of change.

Indeed, some are speculating that many on council would, if they could, spend the money it will take to demolish the viaducts more on affordable housing rather than on more amenity for the already blessed.



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Simon Fraser professor Anthony Perl was perfectly right when he called the proposed ten lane multi-billion dollar Massey Bridge a “loser” on CBC radio, noting that the existing Massey Tunnel could be upgraded for trucking traffic, rail cars, and of course public transport. But the report just released by the Provincial government written by Stanley Cowdell and associates is well worth having a read. It coherently lays out the issues, the misses, and the facts on creating more capacity crossing the Fraser River near the existing Massey Tunnel.

The report which can be read here fearlessly lays out the rationale for why the new crossing was being considered by the previous Liberal government, assessed the solutions, and provides independent findings and recommendation for going forward on the crossing.

It is a document that provides the history of the crossing and how an overbuilt ten lane bridge was planned for (the span was not to have any pilings in the water) and outlines that the various governments and councils may not have agreed upon the bridge concept, but that their interests align in providing safe, efficient movement.

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The following video features new Vancouver city councillor Colleen Hardwick speaking to the amendment, drawn from the “Making Room” housing program — itself an outcome of the staff-driven 10-year Housing Vancouver Strategy — that would allow duplexes across the city.

It’s actually two parts, featuring…

  1. Candidate Hardwick at a public hearing in September, on concerns about the process used to approve the original “duplex motion”; and
  2. Councillor Hardwick addressing the council amendment about a process, proposed in November, to facilitate the rescinding of the motion.

(Hint: The first part is not like the second part.)

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Meanwhile back in Richmond it is no surprise that there is pushback from people owning farm property about Richmond’s proposed  restrictions of limiting the amount of area that houses can be built on, and how big those houses can be.  I have been writing about the fact that the City of Richmond previous council allowed for houses of almost 11,000 square feet to be built on the best agricultural lands in Canada, with additional houses of 3,200 square feet on the same property for the “help”.

Despite the fact that these properties are protected by the Province’s  Agricultural Land Reserve, the City of Richmond council participated in enabling these properties to leave their agricultural designation at agricultural land prices, and be developed and sold as private gated estates to offshore buyers. Those buyers  escaped the foreign buyers’ tax, and were able to keep the taxing on their property to agricultural rates by raising a crop or a cow.

Some of these properties have houses in the 17,000 square foot range. This is way beyond the 5,382 square foot  (500 square meters) house mandated by the Province for agricultural lands, to ensure that these properties would remain in agriculture and be accessible to future farmers.

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Today  the Provincial government is releasing their independently appointed technical review on the  previous Liberal Provincial government’s decision to build a ten lane bridge replacing the Massey Tunnel. This project was estimated to cost 3.5  billion dollars and would  further industrialize the sensitive Fraser River delta at this location, and lay waste to fertile farmland.

There has been a prudent approach to the release of this report, with the Province hosting meetings with impacted municipalities and with the  Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council in advance of the release of the report. The previous Liberal government has been unabashed at their support for this overbuilt bridge that would have just created congestion between the bridge and Vancouver, and stressed the sensitive Fraser River estuary.

Expect to hear that the Province will fund  safety improvements to the current tunnel, and that local First Nations as well as the Mayors’ Council will have to reach a mutually agreed decision on what any  new crossing will look like.

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From the New York Times Canada Letter:

When a senior American cabinet secretary shows up for an interview, it usually involves a motorcade of sleek, black cars complete with a “security package,” as they euphemistically call the guys with guns.

When Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister, showed up this week for our public discussion at the University of Toronto, she came by bicycle.

Through the snow.

She didn’t seem to think much of it. This is Canada, after all.

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