The Livable Region
August 28, 2018

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From newsletter to blog, Price Tags has provided a balanced and often unique perspective on urbanism. So do our commenters: Price Tags is a forum for civil, spirited dialogue — something increasingly needed in our disruptive times.

To keep hearing those voices and maintain that forum, we’re asking you to make a sincere gesture with a small donation.

For a limited time, all contributions will be matched, to a total of $10,000, thanks our very first donor. Your donation will be effectively doubled — and here’s where the money will go.

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Colin Stein is now our Managing Editor 

Since launching in 2006, Price Tags has provided “Perspectives from Vancouver.” This blog has specialized in stories and analysis on urban design, development and planning, with a special emphasis on transportation, both local and global. Co-edited by Ken Ohrn and Sandy James, Price Tags is also known for its active discussion forums.   

To date, it’s been a volunteer effort. Now it’s time to take Price Tags to the next level. 

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A unanimous pick by the Price Tags editors for the most Potentially Polarizing Planning Work~The Amazon solicitation from cities right across North America for  its first location outside of Seattle. Why? Amazon says it will invest 5 billion dollars (those would be American dollars) in the construction of its second headquarters. Of course over 238 proposals  came from cities putting in a bid to Amazon to become the second headquarters. Amazon has had those bids since the middle of October and plans to make the grand announcement in 2018.
And here is where it is polarizing. Of course Vancouver put in a bid, as reported by Price Tags Vancouver here. But there is a good side and a bad side to this. While 50,000 Amazon staff workers would be located here, they will all need a place to live. And while Amazon will bring in new money and salaries, will those tens of thousands of high paying jobs also raise the salaries of local Vancouverites not working with Amazon? Or will those high paying jobs in Amazon make the Vancouver market more unaffordable?
 
Amazon did have some basic requirements, asking for a city with a one million person population, an international airport  and a place that was “stable and business-friendly”.  Oh of course, one more thing~Amazon also said “Incentives offered by the state/province and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process.”  
Price Tags Vancouver’s Gordie 2017  for most potentially polarizing planning work.

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Statistics Canada  and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released some new figures about housing in the Metro Vancouver market, and those statistics open up more questions about what is truly going on in this region. As Jen St. Denis writes in Metro News  buyers who don’t live in Canada like newer, bigger units are  buying a more costlier product that local resident  buyers. When Duke of Data and Simon Fraser University urbanist Andy Yan reviewed the figures, he found that new condo units started between 2016 and 2017 had a much higher percentage of non-resident owners. In Vancouver 19 per cent of these condo units were owned by non-resident buyers; the numbers were 24 per cent in Richmond and 23 per cent in Coquitlam.
Only 11 per cent of Vancouver condo units built between 2001 and 2005 were owned by non-resident buyers; 11 per cent in Richmond and 6 per cent in Coquitlam.
The City of Vancouver is embarking on a new Ten Year Housing Program to build and densify neighbourhoods and provide more of the “missing middle” of housing, often in the form of townhousing. But as Andy Yan observes, Vancouver is experiencing the “hyper-commodification” of real estate, and  those townhouses being built for local families are proving to be very attractive to foreign owners. Between 2016 and 2016 187 townhouses were built in Vancouver. Of that 21 townhouses or  22 per cent of those new townhouse builds, over one fifth of that housing stock went to non-resident owners. The benchmark price for a townhouse is $861,900 in East Vancouver and $1.2 million on Vancouver’s west side, suggesting that the policy may need to be rethought about who is going to live in these and how they are going to afford them.
“The numbers are part of an effort by Statistics Canada and CMHC to collect and analyze more data on Canada’s housing market. In recent years, enormous price spikes in Vancouver and Toronto have led economists and housing experts to question how much of that effect is due to money flooding in from overseas sources. But a lack of data has stymied efforts to quantify the phenomenon.” 
Questions are still being raised about the figures themselves, as some economists have been suggesting that the foreign money needs to be tracked, not just the foreign buyer who does not live in Canada and pay tax elsewhere. These figures do not include the flipping of property titles prior to building occupancy permits, or show when non-resident buyers purchase property in someone else’s name. In Metro Vancouver, non-residents own condos that are worth on average $161,200 more than those owned by full-time Vancouver residents, while single detached homes owned by non-residents were worth $707,800 more than those owned by residents.” 
And in Vancouver itself non-residents like the most expensive parts of West Vancouver and the area inclusive of the University of British Columbia’s endowment lands. The statistics suggest some sobering realities of non-residents’ buying power and interests in the property market. However it does not track or  follow the trail of foreign money in real estate market transactions. That analysis may reveal more.

Source: Metro News, Andy Yan

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Instead of concentrating on issues like housing diversity, seniors needs, and affordability the City of Vancouver council is wading back into predictable waters. The Mayor wants to change the City’s logo once again in an elongated process sure to take up lots of staff time. As Wanyee Li reports in the Metro News, the wordmark approved last February may be rescinded today “in response to public outcry after the original proposed version was revealed. Residents mocked the gotham-fonted logo due to its simplicity and $8,000 price tag while local designers signed an open letter that criticized the process used to create the new logo.”
As Price Tags previously reported, this Council has turfed the Vancouver logo used throughout the Olympics for a rather bare bones version of the same, in Vancouver Canuck hockey colours. Price Tags also talked about the original logo and gave a bit of background in a previous post. But never mind, it appears this is a public involvement exercise and Mayor Robertson is going to let the public “provide feedback on a new wordmark”.

“The new process, if approved Tuesday, will involve both public feedback as well as collaboration with the Graphic Designers of Canada, according to the motion…Local designers have said the original bill, $8,000 was too low and that top-of-the-line city logos could cost as much as $200,000 to design.” You can take a look at the motion to Council put forward by Mayor Robertson on this wordmark process here.  It is not called what it is, which is changing the City’s logo. It is  called “Modernizing the City’s Visual Identity”. The reason for the change according to the Council motion is that “Vancouver’s last visual identity was created over a decade ago, prior to the need for social media-friendly graphics and key City policies including the City of Reconciliation”. 
You can see the old logo and the “new” $8,000 dollar three-month old logo about to be booted below.The budget for the wordmarking  exercise will be set after the Council meeting, but won’t include the hours of staff time this process takes. Stay tuned.
 

 

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You just can’t make this stuff up. Mizrahi developments is preselling a twelve storey boutique apartment building in Ottawa with units going from $400,000 to $2 million dollars. Now you’d think they’d take a full-page out of the Ottawa Citizen newspaper to advertise the concierge, the lap pool, the entertainment suite (which includes a dining room and adjacent catering kitchen). But no-a full-page ad on April 8 proclaims  first off-“Even Your Car Gets Special Treatment”.
When You have groceries or other packages that need to be brought in from your car, the valet will help. Your car will also be parked for you in the underground garage, and retrieved for you when needed. There is also a washing bay in the garage, so your car can be cleaned for your next outing. This kind of hospitality is usually found in a five-star boutique hotel. To make it available in your home is all part of the philosophy at Mizrahi Developments. At 1451 Wellington West, you’re part of a redefinition of urban living in Ottawa”.
And in the newspaper link, Mizrahi provides no amenity for pedestrian foot traffic, but does address “garbage smell”. “If you ask Mizrahi about the traffic at his site’s intersection he will tell you he has considered it and has consequently designed his building so pedestrians will not be affected by smells from trash left out on the sidewalk because there will be no garbage stored outside the building. ” No talk of benches, trees, semi-private spaces or softening of the ground plane.
And here’s the intro video provided by the developer. There are boats and a few bikers in the beauty shots but no walkers-and no winters. Does this define refined living in Ottawa?

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