by Michael Mortensen, MA MCIP, RPP – a Vancouver Developer & Planner abroad |

Vancouver City Council approved the advancement of an Affordable Home Ownership PILOT program on April 20th. Based largely on “Shared Equity” models of affordable housing drawn from the US and the UK, the program identifies sites along arterial roads well served by frequent transit systems and close to Local Shopping Areas (LSAs) as potential locations for 6-storey developments provided they generate targeted affordability outcomes. “Inboard” sites within 100m of these sites would be eligible for 3+1/2 storey forms of development (stacked Townhouses, Rowhouses etc) provided they meet similar affordability targets.

Public Involvement

Council directed City Staff to consult broadly with:
* Regional & Local Employers
* The Public
* The Development Industry; and
* Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation 

Eligible Sites


Back to the Future? Vancouver’s Streetcar Suburbs

The policy map above appears to be a natural iteration/evolution of Commercial/ Mixed-Use “C-2” and “C-3A” zoning on the streetcar grid that has defined much of our city for almost 130 years – a development template based the dual logic of electric mass transit and pedestrian mobility, married to convenient local shopping. The notable hole in the grid above is of course the Cambie Street CanadaLine corridor which is the subject of more intensive forms of redevelopment, serviced by the rapid transit line.

In my old neighbourhood at Main and 26th , I’ve seen a few new arterial buildings –  built under existing zoning –  that maintained great neighbourhood shopping in small stores at grade with new rental and ownership units above, notably the rental building at 28th Ave with the “East is East” restaurant and the new Liquor Store, and the BlueTree development on the NE corner of Main and King Edward Ave (which replaced a contaminated gas station). They’ve been positive additions to the community and they have added and retained valued local shops and services.

main street.JPG

Main and 28th Ave, Vancouver BC

Here in the UK where I currently work, the idea of shared equity housing has been around for quite a while, typically included in large redevelopment programs and in the redevelopment of Council-Owned or Housing Association-Managed Social Housing Estates. I think that what is also interesting about the program is the income mix and the degree to which the interests of Shared Equity owners are highly aligned with those of other owners.The challenge is to find the 20% or so “public equity” and to resolve the equity questions in how that public asset is shared.

Provincial amendments to Vancouver’s City Charter are required for the City to enter into these agreements.

Read the Council Report here: