Megahouses, vacant homes, speculation and affordability aren’t just issues for Vancouver. Reporter Graeme Wood in the Richmond News has been writing about the transformation of Richmond. Here’s an excerpt.
Mega Homes: Absent homeowners, foreign speculation, overdevelopment and skyrocketing land value has reached a boiling point
New homes in single-family home neighbourhoods are pushing the boundaries of floor space ratio, by uprooting lawns, and height restrictions, by adding a third level. It’s a result of increased land values and housing demand that has seen this resurgence of the megahome in Richmond. …
On Spires Road, one of the last bastions of “Old Richmond” is about to get a major makeover; Yamamoto Architecture Inc. has applied to develop seven market rental homes into 60 townhomes for purchase. The densification of the City Centre neighbourhood (one quarter of a major city block) is planned under the city’s Official Community Plan. But with a rental crunch in Richmond, renter Don Watters, who has lived on Spires for 25 years, doesn’t see the justification. “Where can we go and it be affordable?” …
Roland Hoegler, left, and longtime friend Don Watters have seen their Spires Road neighbourhood vanish with the densification plans of the City of Richmond. …
“The question is, who is benefitting from this change?” asks Hoegler.
His answer? The developers and real estate agents, who have incessantly harassed his “holdout” father to sell his home.
“Seven down, 60 up, you do the math,” he says.
“Who’s benefitting? It’s not the people like Don,” says Hoegler, pointing to high rises looming over Spires he says are mostly empty.
Richmond’s OCP states between 2011 and 2041 about 80,000 more people will move here.
“That number comes from an expectation of what portion of the projected growth of the region will go to Richmond,” notes Peter Hall, associate professor of urban studies at Simon Fraser University. The decision is inherently political, notes Hall, but Richmond has taken on about seven per cent of the 1.2 million more people projected by regional planners to live here.
New housing demand comes from three sources: inregion, out of province and out of country. Over the last 10 years, roughly nine out of 10 new residents (326,000) of Metro Vancouver were immigrants, according to population data. Richmond plans to accommodate about 55,000 of its newcomers in the City Centre and preserve single-family neighbourhoods by building townhouses along arterial roads.
According to Gordon Price, director of the SFU City Program, densifying the City Centre is a “relief mechanism” for singlefamily neighbourhoods; by building up housing stock, it gives the market more options. …
Price and Hall say land speculation and demand are raising the value of land in Metro Vancouver. So, essentially, it becomes a waiting game between the speculators/developers and the homeowner. “One way or another that land is going to be redeveloped to reflect the value of it,” says Hall.
Hall notes the slumlord mentality on Spires is a result of “planning blight.”
“When land is not rezoned for how desirable it is, what sometimes happens is the landlord will say, “I’ll wait out the municipal government and I’m not going to fix up this house. I’ll let the municipality get so upset and frustrated until they allow me to rezone it,” says Hall.
Starchuk notes many old homes are abandoned. The city has noted there are currently 36. …
The problem, Starchuk sees, is that not only is the land being heavily speculated on, many of the homes sit empty, resulting in the erosion of community.
There is no data to back up her assertions, however Price and Hall support the theory that foreign homeownership is a big part of it.
“There is no doubt huge amounts of land and apartment complexes are turning into safe deposit boxes,” says Price.
Residents of Richmond have gotten used to living in shameless messes due to construction of
Like so many other problems in Richmond, Starchuk says a discussion on restricting foreign homeownership — an idea floated in recent civic elections and common in other G8 countries— has never taken place.
That discussion should include provincial and federal politicians, Read more »