December 18, 2018

On Spatial Justice, with Jennifer Bradshaw & Stuart Smith of Abundant Housing Vancouver

“The price of exclusivity in Shaughnessy, Kerrisdale and West Point Grey is gentrification everywhere else.”

Much has been said about Vancouver’s housing crisis, and much has been promised. But now things are about to get real — and advocacy groups are ready. Particularly at Abundant Housing Vancouver.

AHV is a voice for more — policy reform (renter protections, land value capture, zoning laws), non-market housing, and purpose-built rental units. For this, not to mention the specious claims they’re in the pockets of wealthy developers, they’re also the target of vitriol from the anti-supply side crowd, status quo preservationists, and a grab-bag of Twitter trolls.

AHV directors Jennifer Bradshaw and Stuart Smith joined PT Managing Editor Colin Stein for a chat about what pulled them into housing advocacy, what they’re pushing for, and how they deal with the endless antagonism. And of course, to help define ‘spatial justice’…the implications of which may change the city, and the region, forever.

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One of the more remarkable aspects of the housing affordability crisis in Vancouver is the endless bloviating about community amenity policies and consultation processes, yet we are unwilling, or unable, to discuss actual root causes.

Stuart Smith is a director of advocacy group Abundant Housing Vancouver, and has done a lot of research on factors that have gotten us to where we are today, like exclusionary zoning. My notes from a meet-up over beer in early May include the names Sonia Trauss, Kim-Mai Cutler, and Stephanie Allen.

A few weeks ago, on the first of two days of public hearings in council chambers to debate the motion to amend RS-1 zoning across much of the city to allow for duplexes — an offshoot of the Making Room report (spoiler alert: it passed) — Stuart was one of the voices supporting this motion.

He was too short on time for an anecdote which would have served as an important educational moment — he shared it with me afterwards, along with the above map:

90 years ago, Harland Bartholomew drew this map. Its explicit goal was to constrain and separate apartments, and people who live in apartments, from detached homes, and the people who live in detached homes.

Many proponents of this map knew it would ghettoize apartments, and the racialized and marginalized people who were most likely to inhabit them at that time. They considered this a feature, not a bug.

This was a radical change to traditional ways of building a city. It’s been 90 years. The experiment has failed. It’s time to move on. It’s time to make room.

It’s possible this 90-year old zoning plan ultimately influenced the housing tempest we find ourselves in today.

If you buy into the idea that past is prologue — or, if you’re skeptical of Making Room and the duplex motion in general — watch and listen to the final 90 seconds of his Stuart’s actual presentation. It’s worth it:

The full text of Stuart’s five-minute presentation to Council follows.

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