Housing
April 19, 2019

Ghost Apartments in Seattle

. It’s odd that Vancouver, with its ongoing crisis in affordable rental housing, doesn’t pay more attention to Seattle – fast-growing, tech-boom city that it is – where the problem has been so much new rental stock available that the fear has been too many ‘ghost apartments.’  That’s changing, according to the Seattle Times:

The Seattle area is filling up new apartments faster than any region in the country, suggesting demand for housing is starting to catch up with the record construction boom — not a great sign for tenants hoping landlords get desperate and drop rents.

The new figures offer fresh insight into the years-long, multibillion-dollar experiment being waged by developers as they build more apartments in the city of Seattle this decade than in the previous half-century combined, betting on the long-term economic health of the region. Will enough renters eventually materialize to fill them, or will the city have a skyline of empty ghost apartments? …

(Market analyst Carl) Whittaker cited the region’s strong economy and foreign immigration pull for leading the country in drawing renters, as well as the fact that the metro is building more apartments to actually house them. Only three metro areas in the country — New York, Dallas and Los Angeles — built more apartments than Seattle last year. …

For a while it looked like developers might have been too aggressive with all those new units: Vacancy rates had been rising, recently reaching their highest point since the recession. Building owners struggling to fill up tons of new units all at the same time resorted to offering concessions like a free month’s rent or thousands of dollars in gift cards. The supply-and-demand equation flipped so suddenly that Seattle rents went from soaring at the fastest rate in the country to among the slowest.

Now, generally speaking, apartments in Seattle are filling up nearly the same rate as they are opening.

As PT has noted before, the fundamentals are beginning to shift in Vancouver too: falling house prices, increased supply in some areas, more to come.  While the housing crisis continues, it’s changing, and perception lags behind.

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In principle, the idea of infill in already built-out neighbourhoods is seen to be a good one, especially to broaden the choice of options.  At the community planning stage, there’s general acceptance.

Reality is tougher.  Two prominent cases for apartments on parking lots have received a lot of pushback – in the case of the Delbrook proposal in North Van District, council rejection; in the case of the Larch Street proposal in Kitsilano, considerable neighbourhood opposition.

Even in the West End, one neighbourhood you’d expect would welcome infill, the dilemma of scale and relationship to the existing fabric becomes apparent in these two examples.  The first – around five storeys, about the same as those examples mentioned above – was submitted almost immediately after the approval of the West End Community Plan in 2013 – a proposal for a rear parking lot at Cardero and Comox, as reported in PriceTags in 2014.  The comments detail the complaints.

Nonetheless, it is now under construction:

 

The other, a half block away, at 1685 Nelson, is considerably different in scale – actually an extension of to a heritage-quality house – but also meeting resistance.

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As Price Tags blog does more PriceTalks podcasts, we’re looking for more contributors to join the team. If you have a knack for organization, media production, and sharing engaging content, this might be for you.

Here are the basic requirements about this unique opportunity:

  • You must be a resident of the Metro Vancouver region
  • Familiarity with Zoom recorders and common audio equipment is a must
  • Some audio-editing experience (ie. Adobe Premiere, Audacity), or comfort with a wide range of computer platforms and software, and a willingness to learn

We usually record about once a week, typically on weekends at the Inspiration Lab at the Vancouver Public central branch, with occasional special events at other locations.

We’d like to do more editing and production with the interviews, more on-location recording, and shorter items on particular topics. Indeed, we’d look to new team members for ideas and innovation.

Depending on the candidate(s), interest and experience level, and availability, this could be one or more volunteer roles with possibility of honouraria, or a paid contract.

Interested?  Let us know at pricetags (at) shaw (dot) ca.

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Canadians always love getting big-deal American recognitions. This is one – the Pierre L’Enfant International Planning Award.

It should also help reassure the mayor, who has been heard expressing some reservations about viaduct removal. Cost, presumably, that could go for, oh, housing, not to mention placating some pissed off constituents.

But I don’t think he’d like to piss off June Francis if he announced that the viaducts will remain and Hogan’s Alley renewal won’t.

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As TransLink prepares to update Metro Vancouver’s transportation plan through to 2050, it will be convening discussions with the public around the future of how we’ll move.

 

Technological advances in electrification, automation and the sharing economy are converging to reshape the transportation sector. Shared micromobility is already taking many cities by storm with the rise of electric scooters and dockless bikes. How will Metro Vancouver adopt these technologies in a way that supports our quality of life?

You’ll also have an opportunity to demo an electric scooter or e-assist bike following the event.

Reserve here.

 

Emcee: Bowinn Ma, MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale and Parliamentary Secretary for TransLink

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Nothing new or surprising here for Motordomheads, but a real nicely paced visual summary of three case studies: Portland’s Harbour Drive, San Francisco’s Embarcadero and Seattle’s Alaskan Way – real-life examples of what happens when a section of freeway is removed or closed.

Why, why does Carmageddon never happen?  (Confident prediction: same with Vancouver’s Viaducts.)

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Last Wednesday, the mayor addressed a full class at the Board of Trade, with a PowerPoint lecture that outlined the City’s progress on the housing crisis.

Not your grandfather’s BoT

With some helpful slides and a low-key professorial manner, he articulated some obvious but rarely made points:

  • We have in this society “a full-blown capitalist housing system” – 91 percent of housing developed by the private sector; 9 percent public.
  • Maps don’t end at Boundary Road.

  • The key to addressing labour supply needs and provide access to jobs is a good regional transit system.

Then, another chart:

Snap quiz: how many of us knew the City had almost reached its housing target for the shelterless?  In fact, except for minimum wage citizens, the results look pretty good.  Or so the mayor thought until he saw the media coverage.   Because good results, as the politician in the mayor noted, is not how data is portrayed.  But it is why the debate and discussion has shifted more and more to affordable rental.

The dilemma, as Kennedy stated, is this:

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105 Avenue Connector Road, Surrey 

At the 6th Annual Bike Awards on February 28th, HUB Cycling awarded five municipalities for their efforts to #UnGapTheMap across the region.

The first category of infrastructure winners were part of the 20 in 20 Infrastructure Challenge, launched last year as part of HUB’s 20th Anniversary.

Third place went to the City of Burnaby for completing nearly 20 Quick Fixes,  ranging from re-paving parts of the Sea to River Bikeway, trimming foliage that obstructed bike lanes and urban trails, and re-painting faded lines and shared lane markings.

A close second went to the District of West Vancouver, who also nearly completed 20 Quick Fixes, including removing narrow bollards and adding reflective diamond paint along the Spirit Trail, adding wayfinding signage at Ambleside Park, and installing rapid flashing beacons for safer crossings along 27th and 29th streets at Marine Drive.

And coming out on top was the City of Surrey, who doubled the 20 in 20 target with over 40 Quick Fixes. Highlights included adding new wayfinding signage, widening narrow bike lanes, and removing and or widening several narrow baffle gates that now allow people cycling with trailers (often with children inside) to pass through.

The Cities of Vancouver and Surrey also won an Infrastructure Improvements Award for providing All Ages and Abilities (AAA) cycling infrastructure at East 1st and Quebec (below) and along 105 Avenue (above).

East 1st and Quebec, Vancouver

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