February 27, 2020

Mark Sakai on Building For a Warming Future, the Grand Bargain, and Housing Affordability

Director of government relations for the Homebuilders Association Vancouver and 4th generation Japanese-Canadian Mark Sakai talks internment, immigration, growing up in Steveston and housing.

Housing. What’s important? Mark asks: can you find the housing you want at your stage of life? Single family housing? Spoiler, it still dominates, but you’re probably going to look in Maple Ridge or Abbotsford, or Brandon, Manitoba for that matter, unless your pockets have depth and breadth. Two-thirds of the residential land in Metro Vancouver is primarily reserved for a “certain type of housing” that is unaffordable to most people. Is it time to re-think the grand bargain?

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They call him Downtown Charles. Okay, he calls himself that, but it fits. For the past 27 years, Charles Gauthier has led the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, one of hundreds of BIAs that sprung up across Canada (and the world) in the past 40 years.

Beginning in 1992, with a downtown business core saddled with double-digit commercial vacancy rates, Gauthier has helped usher in new programs aimed at stimulating greater public engagement in more public spaces. More promotional and support programs for downtown businesses.  And with all that, sustained growth and livability in one of North America’s most densely populated and heavily commuted downtowns.

More tellingly, Gauthier has led the BIA — staff, Board and Policy Council — into tough conversations, many of them public, about policy issues once considered outside the purview of the business community. That’s because they’re issues at the core of what makes this city tick — bike lanes, transit, housing policies, and intersectional diversity and representation. First in traditional media, and now on social media, Gauthier has become a voice of reason (and in Gord’ view, “master of the segue”).

Today, just prior to yet another BIA renewal process, and as a new council votes on a number of important motions about active transportation and densification, Gauthier say’s he’s ready…to fight the NIMBYs.

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Contributor Ian Robertson writes to suggest that Vancouver’s rental market has, just maybe, jumped the shark.

A “den” just wide enough to slide a twin bed into, for almost $900/month. If we’re being generous, it’s all of 40 square feet. It may even come with access to common areas, like the kitchen and a bathroom.

But hey it’s a room, and it’s downtown in a building that has this sweet rooftop deck!

Except — wait, how do you get this view from Alberni Street. And is that BC Place from 2011?

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