Housing
September 24, 2020

Lofty Elevators Goals in China, Practical Elevator Decisions in Nanaimo

Which country do you think has the most elevators? Did you know that it is Spain, with 19.8 elevators per 1,000 population?  But with 65% of Spanish citizens living in apartment buildings it makes sense that there are so many elevators. Compare that with the United States that have 2.8 elevators per thousand population, or China with 2.2 per thousand.

As reported in the New York Times by Keith Bradsher China now wants to change all of that, and hopes to retrofit as many as three million older walkup buildings with elevators, projecting the cost at roughly $100,000 USD per installation.

Why?  As China’s older population is aging, they have also acquired wealth, and are now demanding being better served by their government.

During the Mao regime in the 1960’s families were urged to have many children who are now coming to be 60 years of age. A subsequent “one child” policy in the 1970’s  means that these seniors do not have children and grandchildren ot assist them as they age.

The city of Guangzhou has taken advantage of a federal government grant of $93,000 per elevator installation and has already retrofitted 6,000 older buildings. That city required two-thirds of strata  owners to agree to the project before installation.

This “elevator policy” is seen as a national employment incubator to provide jobs for millions of unemployed migrant workers. But there is a wrinkle~elevators come from a very small group of global manufacturers and are dominated by names familiar to North Americans. Otis Elevator, Schindler, and Kone are prominent. So while those firms will get the contract to install elevators, the job of the building retrofit for the elevator will be done by a small group of specialized Chinese contractors.

Back to British Columbia which also has a lot of three storey walk up apartments in towns and cities that do not have elevators. What happens when a resident has a mobility issue and requires an elevator or a stair assist?

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Housing Outreach Partnership, Inc. is proud to announce that the third annual California Landlords’ Summit on Homelessness will be held on Wednesday September 30, 2020. Due to COVID-19 it will be held via Zoom.

This event brings landlords and property owners into conversation with homelessness service providers to learn how they can help end homelessness in California. Last year’s Summit resulted in 94 people receiving housing and saved public agencies over $2.6 million. This year’s Summit will explore the connection between homelessness and the housing crisis.

Our featured speaker will be Charles L. Marohn, Jr., PE AICP. Charles Marohn is the Founder and President of Strong Towns and the author of Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity. He is a Professional Engineer (PE) and land use planner with two decades of experience. He is featured in the documentary film Owned: A Tale of Two Americans, and was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen. He will discuss how cities can break out of the housing trap to create more naturally affordable housing.

Additionally, local experts will demonstrate how landlords can make sound business decisions by renting to individuals currently experiencing homelessness. We will cover topics such as housing vouchers, rent guarantees, tenant support and more. Other speakers will discuss California’s recent housing legislation.

CLSH 2020 is made possible by sponsorship from the Kern County Superintendent of Schools and assistance from the Income Property Association of Kern, California Apartment Association, Housing Authority of the County of Kern, and Hermit Communications.

Date: Wednesday September 30, 2020

Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon Pacific Time.

To register please click here.

Images: Homelessperspective, CLSH

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For anyone that has loved ones or friends in long term care facilities in British Columbia the pandemic has been brutal. Often family members provided much of the basic care, and also provided social and mental wellness support to people in these facilities.

And then came the Covid pandemic.

Jen St. Denis wrote in July about the management of the Veterans Memorial Manor at 310 Alexander Street which was not allowing visitors to come into the facility. This facility houses 133 vulnerable seniors and veterans who did not have much external  interaction but management felt  the “no visitors”policy was important to protect vulnerable residents during the Covid pandemic. Of course this policy also impacted the physical and mental health of some residents who relied on visitors for social stimulation and a way to spend their day.

I have previously written about Long Term Care for seniors which appeals to the “Greatest Generation” and the”Silent Generation” cohort (those born 1910-1924 and 1925-1945.) Those two generations considered having restaurant style prepared meals in central dining rooms, structured and organized activities, and personal service in room cleaning and management a luxury.

Of course no one imagined that a pandemic would force the closure of these long term care facilities in such a way that many residents became prisoners and confined to their facilities or to their rooms during the pandemic.

In June in British Columbia long term care facilities were asked to submit plans to the Province to allow one visitor at a time per resident for one half hour behind plexiglass or outdoors. Each facility has a different management plan, and family members cannot touch or assist the resident in any way.

Take a look at what Ontario has just unveiled.

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Housing affordability and the need for housing that is accessible to families is top of mind to many but as Emily Hamilton in Bloomberg CityLab points out the recent push to get rid of single family zoned areas may be the wrong focus.

Ms. Hamilton notes that it is not just zoning but also regulation that “stymie new, low-cost construction”. She defines missing middle as  low rise construction that is denser than detached houses, and notes that the missing middle housing in the 20th century included “bread and butter” moderate income housing such as fourplexes, sixplexes and rowhousing.

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This week I wrote about the over twenty million “land” titles  for one square inch of Yukon land that were printed out and sent to children a a prize in cereal boxes in the 1950’s. A 21st century version of buying small shares in land  has been written about in the Vancouver Sun by Susan Lazuruk.

There’s a new platform in town called Addy where investors can invest a loonie  ($1.00 Canadian to our non Canuck readers)  and “crowdfund” the purchase of a land title in Chilliwack British Columbia. There’s 520,000 shares available for $1.00 to $1,500 dollars and those investors will own 49 percent of the land and improvements, with the creators of Addy owning the rest.

Investors are told they can make a return on their investment and then sell back to Addy within five years.

This is not Addy’s first rodeo. In 2019 they  had 305 investors purchase a house on Trout Lake which will be torn down and redeveloped with three units. But Sauder School’s Jack Favilukis points out that ” real estate has had lower average yearly returns than the stock market, with “some notable exceptions, such as Vancouver over the past 20 years.”

There’s downside too including non budgeted expenses, and the chance of a severe market correction in real estate. It does however allow people to invest in real estate.

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Portland’s BLM protests may capture the news, but the Sightline Institute summarizes what their city council is likely to approve today: “the most pro-housing reform to low-density zones in US history.”

Portland’s new rules will also offer a “deeper affordability” option: four to six homes on any lot if at least half are available to low-income Portlanders at regulated, affordable prices. The measure will make it viable for nonprofits to intersperse below-market housing anywhere in the city for the first time in a century.

And among other things it will remove all parking mandates from three quarters of the city’s residential land, combining with a recent reform of apartment zones to essentially make home driveways optional citywide for the first time since 1973.

Portland’s reform will build on similar actions in Vancouver and Minneapolis, whose leaders voted in 2018 to re-legalize duplexes and triplexes, respectively; in Seattle, where a 2019 reform to accessory cottages resulted in something very close to citywide triplex legalization; and in Austin, whose council passed a very similar sixplex-with-affordability proposal in 2019.

But Portland’s changes are likely to gradually result in more actual homes than any of those milestone reforms.

Full story here.

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Further to this post below, the ever-visual Jens von Bergmann (@vb_jens) shows graphically what growth on the downtown peninsula looked like between the 1986 and 2016 censuses.

But perhaps even more startling than the thousand-percent growth on the peninsula is the drop in population density in a large part of Vancouver – as seen here:

The change-in-people per hectare from 1971 to 2016 is, as expected, predominantly on the west side.  But also note the purple in the neighbourhoods from the Downtown East Side to Grandview.

This data is so contrary to the popular memes that it really isn’t part of the conversation about density and growth in the city. Often, when something doesn’t fit the narrative, it just doesn’t get acknowledged.

As well, both right and left use different rationales to achieve the same outcome: a near zero rate of change   The former argues for maintaining character and heritage: the latter opposes the gentrification impact new development might bring   Both argue that bigger issues must first be addressed.

And that’s why Colleen Hardwick and Jean Swanson have the closest voting records on rezonings for more housing.

 

 

 

Jens adds further comment:

In my mind it’s the disparity on where growth is allocated that is under-appreciated. And how not adding dwellings means we are losing population.

As people get richer, they tend to consume more housing: larger places, smaller households, more spare bedroom.  That’s not a bad thing in principle, but if we don’t add housing to make up for it, it leads not just to a change in neighourhood demographics but even to an overall drop in population.

In some low-density areas (parts of the east side) we have managed to at least stem the loss by adding laneway homes and maybe some suites (hard to measure), but that hasn’t been enough in all neighbourhoods.  The west side has not seen much uptake on laneways and suites (despite ample construction, mostly 1:1 replacements of SFH).

Grandview-Woodlands, Strathcona and the surrounding area has seen the fastest growth in family income in the city, and we have not added enough housing units to make up for that. So the result is predictably a drop in population. And also an overall shift in neighbourhood demographics that the entire east side has been experiencing.

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From the Australian Financial Post is the story of this architect designed 27 square meters (that’s 290 square feet) apartment which sold for $600,000 Australian dollars, roughly $571,000 in Canadian dollars. The unit is in Darlinghurst, two kilometers away from downtown Sydney Australia.

In an art deco building and bought in 2013 for $340,000. Brad Swartz converted this studio apartment into a separated  one bedroom by making the kitchen into a platformed bedroom and incorporating the kitchen into the living room. He used a functional folding wall system to separate the two areas. That wall  also provides storage, a desk, and additional light into the bedroom space.

Mr. Swartz entered his renovation of his very small space in a design competition and won an award for the best apartment in 2015. That award led to many new projects, and a renewed interest on how to capitalize very small spaces.  When Mr. Swartz put the apartment on the market in 2020, he had over sixty groups come to look at it, with a young first time buyer making the purchase.

While there are examples of apartments being thoughtfully outfitted at larger sizes, this design was relatively unique in a space that is less than 300 square feet. As Mr Swartz concludes  “I hope in the future there will be more results like this when people actively engage in designing beautiful small or large apartments or inner-city dwellings without compromise.”

You can click on the YouTube video below for a tour of the small space.

image: idesignarch

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Across the country, people are looking for housing options that shape affordable, walkable, and desirable neighborhoods.

Daniel Parolek inspired a new movement for housing choice in 2010 when he coined the term “Missing Middle Housing,” a transformative concept that highlights a way to provide more housing and housing choices in sustainable, walkable places. This housing type includes a range of house-scale building with multiple units compatible in scale and form with detached single-family homes.

Join the Maryland Department of Planning and the Smart Growth Network at 10:00 Pacific Time, Tuesday, July 28, when Parolek, author of the new book, Missing Middle Housing, illustrates how these housing types, when designed well, can be a powerful tool to create the communities that people both want and can afford.

Date: Tuesday July 28

Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time

You can register at this link.

Images: Globest.com&MissingMiddleSydney

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By Christina DeMarco and Peter Ladner

Great ideas are as much about timing as content.

Remember the first attempt to block a car lane for bikes on the Burrard Bridge? If you weren’t around for that debacle, ask Gordon Price how it went. Years later, after more careful planning and community education, the lanes are in and thrive today.

Similarly, for decades, any attempt to expand the parts of the city where basement suites were legal was met with vicious opposition. Then one day in the early 2000s, city-wide legalization of suites was passed by council without a whisper of opposition.

Now, with the city more desperate than ever for new revenue and affordable housing, the monopoly of car use on so much city land being widely questioned, and gentle infill density on the rise, Thin Streets may finally have their breakthrough moment.

Is this a good use of valuable City land? The City of Vancouver has an abundance of road and lane space in their quiet residential areas.

Look at the street in the Streetview above. The equivalent of two city lots—worth, say, $1.5 million each—is being tied up to provide the luxury of a passing lane for two cars driving on that block at the same time. How often does that happen? Three, six, a dozen times a day? A two-way street isn’t even necessary. Many Vancouver streets work quite happily and safely with one lane of traffic: oncoming cars pause at the intersection until the lane is clear.

Looking at our future city through the “pandemic prism” has caused many of us to question the large amount of space unnecessarily dedicated to cars.

What if that “wasted” pavement could instead provide land at no cost for affordable housing, parks or other uses, simultaneously providing newfound revenues for a cash-strapped city, increasing pedestrian safety, and reducing traffic volumes, traffic speed, automobile collisions, asphalt maintenance costs, heat island effects, and rainwater runoff?

In Vancouver, dividing the typical little-used two-way 66 foot right-of-way in half produces two new 33-foot residential lots per block, and a narrower 33-foot right-of-way, with a 17-foot thin street, easily enough space for one-way travel, parking for cars, a sidewalk for pedestrians, and boulevards for street trees.

The two new lots are now available for a variety of uses such as affordable housing, park space, community gardens, and daycare centres.

A couple of years ago, the City of Vancouver made duplexes a permissible use in all RS zoning districts (single-detached housing areas).  This change allows two dwelling units plus two secondary suites/ lock-off units on a conventional building lot. Narrowing the north-south street for just one block can now create twice as many housing units by creating two lots with a 33 foot frontage. The land could be sold on a long-term lease to individual owners or the City could develop the lots themselves.

Not only that, but converting wasted asphalt into leased land for housing would immediately create a new revenue stream that has the potential of raising millions of dollars a year, forever.

 

Thin Streets is an idea that has been around since the 1990s, been the subject of city council resolutions, and otherwise in the “great planning ideas” pipeline for decades. In 2012, Ted Sebastian and Christina DeMarco (right), former City of Vancouver planners, teamed up with Charles Dobson, Professor Emeritus of Emily Carr University and submitted the idea to  the City’s  “Re-think Housing” competition to help increase the amount of affordable housing. It was one of the winning ideas.

Unfortunately, at that time, as with every time this idea has been proposed for some kind of pilot project, it has failed. The killer issue is making peace with the adjacent property owners and neighbours. Without their buy-in, political pushback has been vicious. Understandably.

Equally important as making sure a proposed block is suitable – e.g. no sewer lines would be covered up — is figuring out how to make this attractive for the neighbours.

Some possibilities:

  • The City could start by coming up with some exciting design ideas for this form of ground-oriented housing.
  • The City could buy adjacent lots and then lease them and the reclaimed asphalt to a developer or individual owners to build out affordable housing.
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