Policy & Planning
August 17, 2018

Data Overload: Housing Vancouver Strategy Data Book 2018

You want data on housing?  The City has data on housing – 150 pages worth.

And hence the problem.  Who is going to skim that amount of information, much less take the time to find the specific data they need if it’s not searchable on something other than a dense pdf document?  For that matter, for a topic on everyone’s tongue, how many people even know there is a “Housing Vancouver Strategy”, much less what it aims to achieve?

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Finally — entering the final stretch of a hot, dry summer, the Province of BC’s Minister of Agriculture says she is going to do something about the flagrant misuse of council authority in the City of Richmond.

As The Richmond News reports:

Lana Popham the Minister of Agriculture is now saying it directly~she is closing the barn door  on Richmond’s agricultural land speculators this Fall. Ms. Popham states “Legally limiting house sizes on protected farmland is among 13 recommendations for “immediate legislative and regulatory change. We can expect to see changes coming forward in the fall with regards to that.”

Previously, this council green-lit the development of the best agricultural lands in Canada into exclusive private estates for the very, very rich — many off-shore owned. Of course, these particular land owners receive the unintended additional benefit of a ‘super’ land-lift, as their agriculturally zoned property becomes a McMansioned playground for the well-heeled from elsewhere.

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John Atkin lives in the architectural and heritage weeds.  As an historian and city insider, he knows the details on how this city has changed.  Here, for instance, is an excerpt by John (with Elana Zysblat, James Burton and Denise Cook) from the West End Heritage Context Statement for the West End plan. 

This section provides a summary of zoning changes in the West End as new forms of development emerged, particularly the highrise tower, and how the city planners both encouraged and responded to redevelopment.  (I’ve added the illustrations.)

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A bold-looking mixed-use Oakridge Centre is rising in the city, on 28 acres, at the site of a Canada Line transit station. Henriquez Partners Architects have designed something that is billed as the largest development in Vancouver’s history. Completion date looks to be 2025, costs somewhere around $5B, with 2,548 new residential units, and two 40+ storey towers among 12 other buildings. And it’s right in the middle of a predominantly single-family residential area, with rising density nearby.

Part of the design rationale is, however, specifically to generate density at an important transit hub.  Mission accomplished, it seems to me.

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There is little doubt that in October 2018, Vancouver voters will put in place an almost all-rookie City Council (40 candidates now in the mix).  The winning Mayor (now 11 seekers) may be a rookie too, or may be experienced in another level of government, but not at civic level on Vancouver-related issues.

It does bring up the topic of learning curve — a substantial issue for anyone stepping into a leadership and decision-making role amid the swirl of a complex enterprise, which the City of Vancouver most certainly is.

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TransLink, UBC and City of Vancouver engineers and planners have told us what they think about the technology for the Broadway to UBC rapid transit line.  There’s no room for more busses on this monster corridor, and LRT has too-low capacity.

This information came out at the July 28 Town Hall meeting mentioned recently in Price Tags along with significant background.

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It is shaping up to be an interesting municipal election year with the main hot topics being polarizing, and forming camps “for” or “against”.

Here’s an example. There appears to be a grittiness that is translating to people being either “for” affordable accessible housing, or “against”. And Vancouver City Council contributes to this polarization in their recent last-minute decision to approve a 400 foot tower containing 40 storeys~but only if it contains rental housing.

Otherwise the developer can build the same amount, but in a lower building size. The height would be capped at 300 feet and does not pierce the view cones that provide mountain views from various points on Cambie Street and from Queen Elizabeth Park. The developer can also build market condo apartments with no fettering rental implications from Council by respecting the view corridor height limit.

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The City of Surrey is ready to “speed up traffic”, reports the Surrey Now-Leader, in transportation news from the second-most populous city in Metro Vancouver (and the province).

Going into a civic election in October this year, Surrey council has decided that congestion is a noteworthy issue, and that the city can build its way out of congestion by widening roads and improving bridge interchanges. It’s called the Congestion Relief Strategy (2019 – 2023).

To be fair, there is mention of “complete streets” and bike lanes. But it comes along with potential widening of the roads that parallel the light rail lines, to maintain capacity on them.

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China has a problem in their real estate market where vapid speculation has increased prices.

As Reuters has reported, a record 200 property-tightening regulations were implemented in early 2018, designed to cool the market.

But demand has continued in cities with lower property values; despite the supposed reforms, housing prices have escalated even faster to June 2018, and demand for housing has resulted in over three years of  progressive monthly price increases.

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The 90-acre Jericho Lands, a huge greenfield, sits in Vancouver’s West Point Grey neighbourhood. We all wonder what will rise there.

It’s mostly a former military garrison, now owned by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil Waututh Development Corporation, and the Canada Lands Company. You’ll find it amid some of the priciest real estate in Canada, featuring very low density, and very expensive single-family homes. The Lands offer potentially spectacular view sites and nearby ocean-front parks. (Read some background  on this site HERE, HERE, and HERE).

Amid the enormous pressure inherent in shepherding an allocation of this multi-billion dollar site, it’s hard to get much of a sense of the possible, ultimate outcome; a veritable bonanza of opportunities to reshape an entire community. What’s to come — cheesy car-centric suburb? A forest of high rises, ripe for speculators? A complete community for average humans — what?

But maybe something beyond platitudes and vague statements is slowly emerging.

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