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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One of the world’s most iconic vans is making a comeback…

But this time, it’s electric. Slated for production by 2022, the “electric microbus” is one of five new electric models in Volkswagen’s ID. series — a family of 100% electric vehicles, which includes a crossover, a compact, a sedan, and of course, the van.

Just like the classic VW van, there will be room for up to seven people with an adjustable interior that includes a table and movable seats. Volkswagen also intends on enabling all ID. series models with a fully autonomous feature option.

Distance, a major concern of many when it comes to purchasing an electric vehicle, is no longer an issue. The van will have an electric range of 400 to 600 km, comparable to pretty much any gas-powered vehicle. Further, Volkswagen has partnered with Electrify Canada (partnership formed by Electrify America in cooperation with Volkswagen Canada) to build ultra-fast electric vehicle charging infrastructure to give Canadians the reliability they need to confidently make the switch to electric. Planning and deployment are well underway, including network routes — you can check out the Vancouver to Calgary route here.

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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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The Sustainability Group at the City of Vancouver is hiring a Green Building Engineer to help us meet our Greenest City goals and respond to the climate emergency.

Link here.

The Green Building Engineer will lead the development and implementation of new policies, demonstration projects, pilot programs, and regulatory requirements to significantly reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with existing detached and commercial/multifamily buildings in Vancouver. We’re committed to increasing the diversity of our workforce and encourage everyone to apply.

Demonstrated professional experience planning and managing energy audits and renovation projects for existing buildings would be a highly valuable asset. Applicants are encouraged to share their mix of skills and experience with us.

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The wave of electric micro mobility: it’s happening fast here in Canada.

From e-bikes, to e-scooters, to e-boards and segways, increasingly cities in BC and beyond are speaking out about the need to accommodate such emerging technologies, while simultaneously grappling with how to do so.

Written in 1957, BCs Provincial Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), whose initial design was to regulate motor vehicles and their drivers, has proven to be a significant barrier in the creation of a more hospitable environment for these rapidly emerging technologies and their riders.

While e-bikes are now legally able to operate on BC roads (operators must be at least 16 years of age and wearing a helmet, with electric motors capped at 500 watts) how to accommodate users who wish to use different electric technologies — such as e-scooters and e-boards — remains a big question.

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This topic is under the radar which is probably why most people are not more indignant that in a city that prides itself on being green, sustainable, bikeable and smart we have a very very dirty secret~we don’t separate out our liquid garbage.

Think of it~we separate green waste from garbage, we compost what we can, and we are all educated on what to put in the blue recycling box. But few  people know  what the implications of a combined storm and sanitary sewer are to the environment. It just sounds like something that is mundane and boringly municipal. But what it really means is that when a combined sewer overflows, it is spilling untreated excrement into Vancouver’s surrounding water sources.

When I worked as the health planner for Dr. John Blatherwick the City’s Medical Health Officer, the separation of the combined sewer system was the first thing to be further delayed in any civic budget process.  Back in the 1980’s it was assumed that the entire city would be under a separated sewer program by 2020. But in checking on the city’s website that goal has been pushed back thirty years with  “We are working toward the Province of BC’s environmental goal to eliminate sewage overflows by 2050″.

When beaches are closed due to high coliform counts there is a public level of indignation that we need to do something to stop that. And there is-by finishing up the installation of a separated storm and wastewater sewage system that keeps getting delayed for other priorities.

While some of the city has separated storm and wastewater sewers, the parts that don’t have catchment water and liquid waste travel to the sewage treatment plant in one sewer. If there is a big rain event, stormwater can overwhelm that single pipe system, which means that untreated excrement overflows into water sources like False Creek.

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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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While the City of Vancouver dithers about reducing speeds to 30 km/h in their neighbourhoods, the City of Montreal just gets it done, and they are reducing speed on their arterial roads too. Montreal is not just doing lip service to Vision Zero, the concept that no serious injuries or deaths should result on city roads. They identified reducing speed limits as essential, especially where pedestrians and cyclists used the street.

In Vancouver we don’t talk about Vision Zero officially, as the previous Vision controlled council did not like the term for their own political reasons. It’s time  for this Council to take control and bring the right term  back.

It has been proven internationally that the one way to save lives on roads is to lower speed limits. That increases the survivability of a crash for a pedestrian and cyclist, and also allows for more reaction time for the driver. It is also more sustainable to travel at slower speeds, and allows the streets to function in a sociable way for residents walking and cycling, instead of just facilitating fast vehicular traffic.

As the CBC reports some of Montreal’s  boroughs have already adopted speed limits of 30 km/h in neighbourhoods and 40 km/h on arterial roads. Listen to the messaging from the Mayor of Montreal, who says that not only is it important to methodically implement slower speed limits for enhanced street use and livability, but that those limits need to be lowered quickly. They are serious about reducing injuries and saving lives.

Montreal’s Vision Zero plan is direct and to the point. Besides reducing speeds, they are banning heavy trucks from some of the street network, improving safety around schools, and improving crosswalk visibility. I have already written about the City of London banning certain trucks and requiring sideguards on others. London realized that one kind of truck was in three years responsible for 70 percent of that city’s cycling deaths. Those trucks  are now completely banned from the inner core of London.

The City of Montreal has buy-in from the  public health department, Quebec’s automobile insurance board and both the Federal and Provincial Ministries of Transport. Montreal has also led a fulsome public process engaging with citizens and over thirty different groups, including the trucking industry.

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