Housing
August 13, 2019

Order your Prefabricated Modular Home on Amazon for $50,000

Amazon has entered the prefabricated housing market in their offer of a house for 50,000 Canadian dollars or 37,000 U.S. dollars. Made in Beijing by Hebei Weizhengheng Modular House Technology company this house comes resplendent with solar panels, a kitchen and bathroom, and all wiring and plumbing in place for hook up to local systems.

Delivery to your site does cost an additional $1000 U.S. dollars.

The house itself appears to be a shipping container  but is already drawing criticism from small home builders. As the founder of Tiny Home Builders observes in the Seattle P-I:

This container home’s pricing is not unreasonable for a 20-foot home.Yet although it’s touted as a “container home. This does not appear to be a true shipping container conversion, so quality and rigidity may not be as high.”

Other issues include building materials that may not be the same in North America, andt the cost of accessing  electrical services and city sewers.

With a 25 day time from order to arrival, the 20 by 40 foot house’s location  will need to be approved by local planning authorities, and if is ancillary to the main dwelling you will need to figure out the correct location on the lot. Of course you will need concrete footings to place the dwelling, and potentially a crane to move the house into place.

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Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of three- (arguably four-) storey frame apartment buildings were constructed in Vancouver after the Second World War.  Here’s a classic at Comox and Bute in the West End.

Though (not arguably) the blandest architectural housing ever built in this city (at least Vancouver Specials had balconies), it supplied quick accommodation to meet the post-war demand for affordable rental apartments in non-car-dependent locations. That’s how we handled housing crises in the past: lots and lots of cheap, plain housing and apartments.

So what happens to that stock when it gets old?  Here’s an example of what that same apartment block looked like last week:

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At our live Price Talks recording on June 26th, Gord introduced the idea of a “grand bargain” having been struck on the North Shore (episode available here).

Price Tags contributor and North Vancouver writer Barry Rueger explains the theory, and gives it some shape and colour:

During the Q&A that followed the Price Tags taping at the North Vancouver District Public Library moderator Gordon Price asked Holly Back, a member of the City of North Vancouver council, how she felt about the “bargain” that had been struck between the City and the District.

The bargain is straightforward: the City will build lots of new housing, more than a thousand new rental units, and low income and supportive housing, while the District will do nothing, in order to preserve a suburban community of single family detached homes.

As the City grows, the District will remain unwelcoming—to both outsiders and population growth.

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Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail in an article entitled “It’s absolutely heartbreaking to see such stupidity about Vancouver’s affordable rental housing market”  weighs in on the City of Vancouver’s Council majority nixing a planned 21 rental unit project at 4575 Granville Street, which would have abutted an eight bed hospice. This rental project was under the auspices of the City’s Affordable Housing Choices Interim Rezoning (AHC) policy. As it is a rezoning, it requires the associated public hearing to garner residents’ comments, as well as Council’s approval.

Council voted 7-4 to reject the rental housing proposal, and the voting did not go along party lines. There was a litany of reasons for this choice, including items like developer profit margin and parking capacity that could have been been negotiated with the Directors of Engineering and Planning.

 Mason observes “those who didn’t want to see a rental project go up in this neighbourhood used the hospice as a pretext, saying construction would have been too disruptive for those using the facility.”

Mason also states “Rental townhomes are precisely what the city needs. There are an increasing number of small, rental apartments, but not anywhere near enough units for people with families. That’s exactly the need this project would have filled, yet council killed it in a moment of fantastic short-sightedness. (One councillor thought the underground parking lot being proposed was too big. Seriously).”

Price Tags publisher and former City Councillor Gordon Price was blunt on the turning down of this rental project by local residents who used the hospice as a fulcrum for defeat. Gordon in his Price Tags post blasts that this City Council indicated: 

No matter what we as councillors say, no matter what policies we pass, no matter what support you get from staff, no matter how great the need we acknowledge, none of that really matters.  If enough of the residents complain, we will protect the status quo.”

I have a unique perspective on hospice care. In the 1980’s I was involved in the confidential acquisition of property for an AIDS hospice on Granville Street.

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From @nm_nvan:

Here’s an update of each councilor’s record of voting for the 311 market rental units in the 8 projects that have come to council this term. Renter advocate @JeanSwanson  managed to maintain her perfect record of voting against market rental units.

When one crosses the bar from activist to councillor, usually one grasps the difference between politics (the art of the possible) and ideology (where the perfect drives out the good).  In that respect, Swanson’s record is not unexpected. The curious one is Pete Fry’s.

 

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City Council voted down a 21-unit rental townhome project for Shaughnessy by a 7-4 vote.  The ostensible controversy was the adjacency of a  hospice, which threatened to close if the project was built – a dubious outcome, given that many hospices exist in much less pleasant prospects.  The reality: Shaughnessy was threatened with higher density, and with rentals – unpleasant prospects for a community that is synonymous with exclusivity.  And they spoke up.

There was a lot of debate, a lot of angst, a lot of rationalizations.  But the most important message coming out of council, whether deliberate or not, is this: ‘No matter what we as councillors say, no matter what policies we pass, no matter what support you get from staff, no matter how great the need we acknowledge, none of that really matters.  If enough of the residents complain, we will protect the status quo.’

North Vancouver District sent a similar message to the development community and housing advocates with their rejection of the Delbrook affordable-rental project – a more egregious case to be sure, but similar in outcome.  ‘Nothing is good enough if the neighbours object.’

The message is devastating for developers who believed council was sincere in wanting to encourage secure market-rental projects and more choice of housing in existing neighbourhoods.  But the impact is more significant when considering the upcoming city-wide planning process.  Council just clarified that they are shifting to the conservationist end of the Bushfield-Prest chart.

Regardless of their rhetoric, desires, intents or instructions with respect to the goals of the plan, in the face of opposition to the outcomes the majority will likely side with status quo.  Those in threatened neighbourhoods can now breathe more easily, knowing that regardless of process, they need only prepare for battle when intent is translated into proposal.

When Jean Swanson votes against rental unless it is social housing, when Adriane Carr votes against new housing unless it is ‘affordable’, when Pete Fry, Michael Wiebe and Sarah Kirby-Yung say they’re for denser development but not today, when Colleen Hardwick wants to give communities a de facto veto, when Rebecca Bligh favours the comfort of the dying over the needs of the living, they’re sending the same message as the conservationists in North Vancouver: ‘We don’t believe the housing crisis is all that serious.’

Necssary acknowledgement, then, to Melissa De Genova, Christine Boyle, Lisa Dominato and Mayor Kennedy Stewart who struggled with the issue and in the end voted in favour.

 

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Can’t make the Price Talks event next Wednesday?

On Tuesday, June 25th, a coalition of five North Shore community agencies are hosting a panel discussion on possible solutions for North Shore seniors experiencing the impacts of the housing crunch.

Solutions to be discussed include the proposed affordable housing development on the site of North Shore Neighbourhood House, and the proposed Seniors Roommate Registry which, according to Hollyburn Family Services Society, is already attracting interest.

This event will be a ‘community conversation’, including brief presentations from the panel, engagement with representatives from the three North Shore municipalities, and audience participation.

Creative Housing Options for North Shore Seniors

Tuesday, June 25 • 10 am-noon
Delbrook Community Recreation Centre
851 W Queens Rd, North Vancouver District

Panel:

  • Bunny Brown, President, Special Services Society, and a home-sharer for 10 years
  • Michael Geller, housing property developer, on municipal zoning, bylaws, and options for heritage home owners
  • Joy Hayden, Hollyburn Family Services Society, on the North Shore Seniors Roommate Registry

Presented by:

  • Lionsview Seniors Planning Society
  • Capilano Seniors Action Table
  • Capilano Community Services Society
  • Hollyburn Family Services Society
  • North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Committee

To register, call 604-985-3852, email Lionsview, or just show up — the public is welcome.

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Do you live or work on the North Shore? Are you a fan of Price Talks, the podcast? Want to hear — and be part of — a discussion about decisions on housing, transportation, and public spaces in West and North Vancouver?

Join Gord and a panel of local residents and pundits in a public chat, and a live recording of Price Talks:

Wednesday, June 26
Doors @ 6:30pm | Recording @ 7:00pm

North Vancouver District Public Library – Lynn Valley Branch
1277 Lynn Valley Road, North Vancouver

Register here — tickets are free.

After the recording, the conversation will continue next door at Brown’s Social House.

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There has been a lot of discussion in Parksville on Vancouver Island regarding Orca Place a nearly $7 million housing project for 52 homeless or at risk of being homeless residents which is currently under construction. The facility will be staffed with two employees at the facility at any time, and have over twenty people on the payroll. Support workers “will be responsible for maintaining security and safety within the building, and to maintain a good neighbour relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood.”

Despite these assurances a $52 million dollar seniors residence planned to be across from The Orca housing complex has been cancelled, with the seniors’ home founder placing the reason directly on the planned homeless residence.

It’s a huge disappointment — we were looking forward to it,” said Berwick founder Gordon Denford in an interview. “The last thing we wanted is where we are at today. But the risk is too great to our seniors, our future residents and our employees.”Denford stated that the placement of  Orca Place “is totally incompatible with a large residence that is home to approximately 250 vulnerable seniors, along with approximately 150 full- and part-time employees and a daycare for 30 of their preschool children.”

Nearly 150 jobs, tax revenue and development cost charges of more than $2.5 million, to be split with the regional district will also be lost.

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Hopefully, PT readers are following my exploration of Tel Aviv’s White City on Instagram. As mentioned in the leading post above, this historic neighbourhood shares a lot of characteristics with others of its ilk:

Mid-century modernist beachfront neighbourhoods have an eclectic combo of dense housing, a mix of uses, unique businesses all kinds of restaurants, stirred together with social tolerance.  There’s often a gay village embedded within.

They were often the first suburbs of rapidly expanding cities or linear developments strung along beaches, a few blocks deep, served initially by streetcars and transit with limited parking.   Like Ipanema in Rio, like Miami Beach in Florida, like Venice in California.

They’ll have their beachfront attractions, of course, but usually a block in or leading perpendicularly from the waterfront will be a commercial street cluttered with restaurants and shops, still served by the transit that shaped them   Think Denman and Davie.

They’ve had their up and downs, starting off as attractive middle- and upper-class developments, sometimes as beachfront escapes, sometimes as single-family speculative real estate, sometimes as apartment districts and then gone into decline in the early 20th century until after World War II.   Like the West End, some were largely bulldozed and replaced with higher density rental apartments, some were simply passed by – until rediscovered in the late 20th century and then increasingly gentrified in the 21st.

What shall we call these districts?

Despite their variations, they share enough in common to have a generic name.   MiCe,Hi-Di-on-the-beach.   Okay, not that one.  But help us out.

Scot and I have been developing a list.  Here’s what we have so far:

  • White City – Tel Aviv
  • West End and Kitsilano – Vancouver 
  • Santa Monica and Venice Beach – Los Angeles
    Ipanema and Cocacabana – Rio
    Miami Beach – Florida
    Sea Point – Cape Town
    St. Kilda – Melbourne
    Potts Point and Bondi – Sydney
  • Oriental Bay – Wellington
  • Surfers Paradise – near Brisbane
    Waikiki – Hawaii

Add your own below!

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