November 24, 2020

Brussels Belgium Skipped Apartments, Went to “Maisons de Maitre”.

Bloomberg’s Feargus O’Sullivan has been writing an interesting series on housing in world cities. He took a look at Brussels Belgium where instead of opting for tall apartment buildings as a 19th century solution to housing many in the downtown, stone and masonry decorated single family homes were adopted. These houses are tall, thin, and all have entranceways directly onto the street frontage.

These houses are fittingly called “maison de maitre”  or master’s house, for their size and facade splendour and were built and lived in by the “wealthy bourgeois”. Like the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, these houses are not grand mansions for the truly rich aristocrat, nor were they as plonky as a standard townhouse. The main floor had three large reception rooms with dividing doors that could open, an open space concept way before its time.

 “The result is an interesting hybrid, combining floor plans reminiscent of London townhouses, plot sizes similar to old Amsterdam and servants attics like in Paris — all brought together with an elaborate, unmistakably Belgian decorative style.”

There’s a lot of ornamentation on the front facade of these structures which can be kindly called a “baroque streak” but were largely influenced by the aesthetic movement.

While Brussels did try a Paris redevelopment plan in their downtown similar to Baron Haussmann’s in the 1860’s, the locals hated “Haussmann-style” apartment living.

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The Smart Growth Network, Maryland Department of Planning and the State of Maryland present “Blueprint for Greening Affordable Housing”.

Every affordable housing project can achieve the fundamentals of good green building design and practice and contribute to creating sustainable and resilient communities.

Kim Vermeer, President and Founder of Urban Habitat Initiatives Inc., and Walker Wells, Principal with Raimi & Associates, share innovative practices, the latest affordable housing financing strategies, and examples of places and projects where these strategies have worked in practice.

You can click on this link to register.

Date:Thursday, November 19

Time: 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time






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Several years ago when I was visiting family in Prince Edward Island I saw a Vancouver postcard in a rummage sale. It seemed completely out of context and it was encased in a plastic envelope and it was expensive.

I bought it and held onto it, without doing any research.

The postcard had a surprising subject~there is a house with a craftsman styled front door, ionic columns, stained glass upper windows and a family posed in front of it.

The family is dressed in Edwardian dress, with the mother holding a hand muffler and wearing a scarf. The father has a hat and wears a long suit with a stiff starched shirt collar. The child is in a sailor suit, the type that was very popular in the 1910 to 1920 period. At the family’s feet is a dog that looks like a brittany spaniel.

The card was a custom one, created for this family, showing off their prized asset, their house. And on the back of the card, there was a handwritten inscription:

“2825 Clark Drive E. Vancouver B.C. A glimpse of us and our new home with units. Kind love and best wishes for a very happy Xmas and New Year to you all. Edie, Arthur, Willie”

When I started to research the house I feared that it would be demolished. But it wasn’t. It is still there, near 13th Avenue on the west side of Clark Drive.

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Last week I wrote about how no one imagined that a pandemic would force the lockdown of assisted and long term care facilities. Many residents became prisoners and confined to their facilities or to their rooms during the pandemic.

As the Province’s Seniors’ Advocate Isobel MacKenzie stated, while there are 147 residents who have died of Covid 19 in long term care facilities, sadly  4,500 residents have died of something else. Those 4,500 people were isolated from their families at their time of death. Surely we can do better. Hopefully an announcement of a new visiting protocol will be part of  a report with the results of a survey about visitor restrictions to long-term care and assisted living homes. Called Staying Apart to Stay Safe the report is scheduled for release on Tuesday November 3 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time.

The news conference can be watched here in this livestream.

I have written about Ontario deciding that family, comfort and care was important to facility residents. Ontario realized that facility operators had been inconsistent in providing clear policy on visits by caregivers (including families).  Ontario is now allowing  two designated caregivers to visit at any time including during a covid outbreak subject to “direction from the local public health unit”.

In June in British Columbia  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. And it’s not easy to see your loved ones.

One Price Tags commenter, David Walker describes his experience with this policy below.

“My in-laws are in a private care facility and have been cut off from family since the spring. Over the summer months we were able to book 20 minute visits outdoors under a gazebo with a floor to ceiling plastic sheet separating the two sides. At more than 3 metres apart and with the sheet in place it was often impossible to hear one another. More recently we sat outside with a microphone and speaker while my father-in-law sat inside with his own microphone and speaker. A large window allowed us to see each other more clearly than we’d been able to through the plastic sheet of summer. My mother-in-law is in a different part of the care facility and she was, at the time, locked down because of a potential COVID exposure. Those brief “visits” have to be booked weeks in advance.”

Mr. Walker also describes the need for public facilities to recognize that senior couples are living longer, and in those last few years of life requiring assisted living may need to housed together, not apart. He noted that government run care facilities are designed for widows.

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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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