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The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade had a forum on  housing affordability and how to get young people living in the Metro Vancouver area. Encouraging transit accessibility and enhancing housing affordability is mandatory if Metro Vancouver is to thrive.

Glen Korstrom in  Business in Vancouver describes this forum as having two main approaches. The first is for municipalities to ” eliminate all single-family zoning while encouraging more townhomes, row houses and other gradual forms of densification in those neighbourhoods.” The second is to speed up building approvals and processes so that the 110,000 estimated units that can be built with existing zoning already in place can be expedited. Both approaches are radical-the first challenges the bastions of green lawned single family neighbourhoods; the second means honing municipal approval systems already decimated by retirements and inadequate staffing numbers.

“Why not rezone all the single-family zoning in the whole city in one day?” asked Reliance Properties president Jon Stovell to echo an idea espoused by Tsur Somerville, senior fellow with the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business’ Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.”

Allowing rowhouses or townhomes to be built in any single family neighbourhood would be politically challenging-but as City of Vancouver George Affleck suggested  “But we don’t need to do that. There’s enough density to meet the demand that we have in the city if we just loosen up the process for these places to be built and make it easier for smaller developers.”

What is interesting is such a radical idea brings out the importance of supporting seasoned developers that can do it right, and expedite development approvals for those builders across the region. The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade stated “We can give incentives to people who want to do developments around transit. The linkage between housing affordability and transit is undeniable, so if someone is going to build a three- or four-storey condo complex near transit, put them at the head of the line.”

Some of the other recommendations that have come forward will get some eye rolling from city hall administrators-allowing bonus density to encourage more density; “pre-zoning ” transit-oriented sites during the planning process; and ending the process of negotiating community amenity contributions (CACs) individually with each project.

What will be important will be developing a balance between developers’ wants, community needs, urban design and livability, so that the finished product becomes part of the  place we all want to live in-an affordable, accessible-home.

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