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Jen St. Denis in Metro News reports on the Mayor of Vancouver’s speech to the Urban Land Institute. Unlike  real estate marketer and philanthropist Bob Rennie who used to do a lot of research and was inspirational in his take on the future of the city, the Mayor’s speech did not add a lot that was new.

He also said a few things that were puzzling.  On one hand stating that the city would attempt to provide more units while discouraging speculation, the mayor also said that “there are design solutions out there that allow density without land assembly . Simple things like how we allow duplexes, more infill, townhouses, rowhouses.”  Yes but townhouses and rowhouses mean density achieved with assembly of property.

The City’s proposed policies are nothing too new-allowing low-rise apartment building owners to add an extra storey, converting existing duplexes to become fourplexes, and focusing on rental construction near high density transit stations have all been  previously discussed. The Mayor did acknowledge that with housing prices now over one million dollars for a single family home that the city was becoming a “resort” that was not inclusive of families and businesses.

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“Instead of “fixating” on density, Robertson said the city would attempt to encourage new housing that people will live in — not hold as under-occupied investments. The vision, he said, is to see “schools filled with students, neighbourhood high streets filled with shoppers, parks filled with kids.”

But what will provide new housing that people will live in and thriving schools full of children living in Vancouver is density. At some point the City needs to either stop the speculation or increase density.  Increasing density will be easier to achieve.

It’s also informative to take a look back at the speech given to the Urban Development Institute by real estate marketer  Bob Rennie to the Urban Development Institute last year. In that speech, Bob noted  “there are 197,000 more people working in the city than there is room for. It would take 76,000 new units to house them, which would mean building 380 condo towers or mowing down 12,000 single-family houses and replacing each one with six townhouses.” Bob also stated that the City would not be able to bring housing in at a lower cost than that available elsewhere in the region. And finally, Bob addressed the elephant in the room, directly to a Provincial minister who was present. Any density solution in isolation of transit won’t solve our affordability problem.”

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