Housing
May 28, 2019

Urbanist Jeff Speck in Vancouver~Walkable City Rules and the Cheese

Last week Jeff Speck was in Vancouver as part of the Jericho Talks series looking at the future planning of the Jericho lands site in Kitsilano. This 90 acre site has the chance to display the best ecological principles with its unique partnership of Canada Lands Corporation, the City of Vancouver and three First Nations, the Musqueam, Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh.

Jeff is the author of Walkable City and Suburban Nation and has just released his latest book, Walkable City Rules.He truly believes that great cities result in investment in walkability, bikeability and equity, and these expenditures are necessary to create great places to live and work. Jeff started his career working with new urbanism champions Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater- Zyberk and has continued that relationship for a lifetime.

Creating good walkable and bikeable places is an equity issue as the less income people make the more likely they are to walk or bike. In an evocative discussion, Jeff Speck insists that municipal planning and engineering departments must work together  and must place the highest density at transportation “nodes” or hubs.

In the United States two-thirds of children are expected to get diabetes, and vehicular deaths are rising. Designing good walkable places means creating walks that are healthy, useful, safe, comfortable and interesting. Smaller street blocks such as in Portland Oregon create visual interest for pedestrians, and there are many quick fixes to make walking easier and more comfortable. Jeff notes that by simply removing the painted centre line on streets that cars go 7 miles per hour or 11 kilometres per hour slower, and less wide lanes (ten feet wide according to NACTO, (National Association of City Transportation Officials) slow vehicles as well.  Studies done in the 1990’s show that removing traffic signals  and replacing those with four way stop signs significantly reduce crash incidence. It is time for engineering to catch up with the 21st century concept of creating livable connected places that address physical and mental health, and allow for generations of people to interact on the street walking and biking.

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There is an interactive workshop being  held in Victoria this Thursday on the new “Residential Rental Tenure Zoning”, a new planning tool to create rental housing. The  workshop is sponsored by the Housing Research Collaborative,  a new initiative at UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. Residential Rental Tenure Zoning (RRTZ) in the Capital Region

30 May 2019, 1:00 – 4:30 pm

An interactive workshop for local and provincial government officials, non-profit organizations, property developers, landlords and interested citizens about this new zoning tool

Cross-sectoral discussion will follow the the presentation of a range of viewpoints, including preliminary findings from SCARP research on international analogues of RRTZ, a rental industry perspective, and themes from the recent Victoria Housing Summit.

Location: Arbutus and Queenswood Rooms, Cadboro Learning Commons, University of Victoria, BC

Register: bit.ly/RRTZVictoria

Admission: Free, but space is limited

PIBC credits: Eligible

Questions: rose.southard@ubc.ca

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Dirty Money 2: the Dirt on Housing Prices

The province recently released Peter German’s report on money laundering in the exotic car industry, following last year’s exposé of B.C. casinos. At the same time, it released SFU Professor Maureen Maloney’s report on how laundered cash is being used to buy Metro Vancouver real estate, inflating B.C. housing prices by at least five percent, along with recommendations for needed reforms. The B.C. government has just started a public enquiry to get more details on this corruption, but in the meantime, hear from the experts themselves.

Join Peter German and Maureen Maloney to hear how these scams operate, their impact on B.C. and Canada, and what this means for you.

 

Thursday, June 20

12:30 – 1:30 pm

SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, ICBC Concourse (Lower Level)
580 West Hasting (enter off Seymour)

Free Event | Registration is Required

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In cities across the States, councils and legislatures seem ready for sweeping change – in this case, sweeping away the constraints of single-family zoning to force or incentivize cities to accommodate more density and, arguably, more affordable housing.  What seemed to begin in Minneapolis is now gaining momentum – and pushback.

There’s a report, column or opinion piece coming every week (thanks to Sightline for keeping track). Here’s a sampling.

In Washington:

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a wide-ranging set of housing reforms sponsored by Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon. The representative hopes the measures will address some of those key barriers to housing. The new laws will offer a financial carrot for cities to allow more density, loosen regulations to reduce the cost of constructing subsidized affordable housing, limit opportunities for legal challenges against new development, bar discriminatory bans on supportive housing for people exiting homelessness and more.

In Oregon:

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Michael Alexander sends highlights from the recent Urbanarium discussion, provocatively titled “The Single-Family Zone Is Dead. What Next?”

 

Planner/developer Michael Mortensen gave every audience member a T4 tax receipt with their “income” shown – in proportion to income levels in Metro B.C.

He had the audience stand and, as he read off each income from low to high, those people sat down. At $200,000, the remaining few left standing represented the fewer than eight percent of Vancouverites who could qualify for a single-family home purchase, if they spent 40% of their gross household income on shelter.

If your gross income is $85,000 a year, you can afford a home costing $647,619. A typical Vancouver single family house costs $1.3 million. Double your income, and you’re still priced out.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart, member and past Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Planning Committee, worrisomely noted that while the metro region has an urban containment boundary, “many new councillors haven’t bought in” to the concept. He said that councillors in neighbouring Port Moody recently disapproved a 400-unit townhouse project next to a transit station. 

(Port Moody isn’t alone. The District of West Vancouver voted down, 5-2, affordable housing and a senior daycare centre on city-owned land, and essentially gave the planning decision back to the land’s neighbours.)

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. 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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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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I’ve seen at least at two studies which demonstrate that ‘gentrification’ does not necessarily lead to major displacement of poorer residents.  But that goes against the dominant narrative, so is often not acknowledged – or it’s dismissed.  Indeed, the meme that investment or development leads, ipso facto, to gentrification is spreading, most recently at the open house for the Kits Larch Street rental project:

 

Here’s another perspective from Jesse Van Tol, chief executive officer of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition:

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In cities across the world, housing systems are undergoing immense change. Homes are being transformed into liquid commodities, and as such, are increasingly unable to meet the social need for residential space. This has painful consequences for households and urban life, in the form of residential alienation, precarity and displacement. But in many places, resistance movements are growing.

Join us April 23 to hear sociologist David Madden explore the causes and consequences of the commodification of housing, drawing lessons from London and New York City

David Madden is associate professor in sociology and co-director of the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics. He works on urban studies, political sociology and social theory. His research interests include housing, urban restructuring, public space and critical urban theory. He has conducted qualitative, ethnographic and archival research in New York City and London. He is co-author, with Peter Marcuse, of In Defense of Housing: The politics of crisis. His writing has appeared in leading academic journals as well as the Guardian, the Washington Post and Jacobin.

David Madden’s talk will be followed by a panel of local respondents to give the themes of his talk a Canadian context on a local, provincial and national scale:

  • David Hulchanski, University of Toronto
  • Penny Gurstein, University of British Columbia
  • Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
  • Question period hosted by Jen St. Denis, Star Vancouver

 

Tuesday, April 23

7 PM to 9 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM)

Room 1200-1500, SFU Segal Building, 500 Granville Street, Vancouver

Admission: $5. Free for students with valid student ID.

Reserve your seat!

 

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