So what kind of year did Price Tags Vancouver have? There were 1,359 posts published, and 456,000 page views. Over 8,600 comments were made on Price Tags Vancouver, with thirteen contributors providing content.
As reported in the Vancouver Courier the Musqueam First Nation is going ahead with the development of 21 acres of land they own close to the University of British Columbia. This comprehensive community will house 2,500 residents within four 18 storey highrises, townhouses and mid-rise buildings and will be called “Lelem”~”home” in the Musqueam language. Properties will be lease-hold with 99 year-long leases.A community centre, child care centre, grocery stores, restaurants, public areas and a park will be designed within this new community. The property is bounded by University Boulevard, Acadia Road, Toronto Road and Ortona Avenue and was given to the Musqueam First Nation in 2008 as part of a reconciliation, settlement and benefits agreement with the Province of British Columbia.
The Musqueam First Nation chose a developer for the first phase that has had a lot of experience in Vancouver, Polygon. Polygon is locally owned and operated for nearly 40 years, and the choice of Polygon was because of “leadership in design and development across all of their projects,” said Chief Wayne Sparrow in a news release.” The history of the Musqueam First Nation and their art will be a signature interpreted in this development. The development is expected to take ten years to build out and will create 1,900 jobs.
The Musqueam Capital Corporation will oversee the development of this land and has the former Mayor Michael Harcourt and Gordon Harris who is President and CEO of the Simon Fraser University Community Trust on their board. The chair of Polygon is Michael Audain who founded and developed the Audain Art Gallery in Whistler and supported the commissioning of the reconciliation pole at the University of British Columbia which was carved by Haida master carver James Hart and raised on the university’s main mall. This project is historically important as it is the first mixed use multi-family development undertaken by a First Nations in Metro Vancouver. Fittingly the principles espoused by the Musqueam for this new area focus upon community and belonging ““with a focus on global oneness and value for people and the environment.”
One more reason for the Mayor of the Corporation of Delta supporting the Massey Bridge, despite all the other Mayors in Metro Vancouver nixing the project-Delta is getting a new casino! Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about the casino debacle in Delta . This new addition will be located directly east of the Massey Tunnel on the Delta Town and Country Inn site. The British Columbia Licensing Commission (the BCLC) apparently made the decision “after listening to the community and the clear feedback from the Corporation of Delta that the only suitable site on which it would consider a gambling and entertainment facility at this time is the Delta Town and Country Inn.”
The commission hired a third-party consultant that “undertook a detailed analysis of this location utilizing existing player data. This analysis shows that the Delta Town and Country Inn site will capture incremental revenue, with minimal impacts to adjacent gambling facilities in Richmond, Surrey and New Westminster.”
So why is this detrimental? As the Atlantic magazine notes, a Canadian study found that the 75 per cent of casino customers who gamble casually only provide 4 per cent of revenues. “A range of studies reviewed…estimated that between 40 to 60 per cent of casino revenues are earned from problem gamblers…drawn from the ranks of the vulnerable elderly.Half of casino visitors are over age 50, but casinos market themselves to the over 70 and even over 80 market, to whom gambling offers an escape from boredom and loneliness into a hypnotic zone of rapid-fire electronic stimuli.” With more than 15 per cent of the population in Delta over 65 years of age, the new casino will have a captive market driving to the casino’s motordom location.
Meanwhile the Richmond News reports about a theatre group that performs theatrical plays for seniors in Richmond with only one theme-the deleterious impact of gambling. Supported by the “community engagement provider” of the B.C. Responsible and Problem Gambling Program, the plays aim to warn vulnerable and lonely seniors about the danger of gambling.
“We came up with the idea five years ago to deliver meaningful messages to the public, especially seniors, through drama. We found that seniors often have a shorter attention span, so traditional methods like lectures are not very effective on them…Things that happen to older adults might make them a vulnerable group, like retirement from work and bereavement. Also, they have access to pensions and savings, and gambling might be an attractive source of recreation for them.”
The Licensing Commission continues with the party line. “BCLC respects the authority of local governments to choose whether they want a gambling facility in their community. Throughout this process, BCLC is committed to engaging with stakeholders and the public to incorporate their feedback into these plans.”
Delta gets another industry that is not 21st century focused, and certainly not sustainable in any way other than the 10 per cent revenues the Corporation will receive, which will be in the 1.5 to 3 million dollar range. All of this for a business that is all-consuming and only spits out their customers once they have no money.
Price Tags Vancouver reported yesterday about the dual mandate or double jobbing of the new Rookie MLA from Delta who was also keeping his Councillor seat at the Corporation of Delta. As reported in Price Tags this has raised some Delta taxpayer eyebrows, folks that would like to see a separation between the Province and the municipality, and were also looking forward to some fresh thinking in a burb that needs some new ideas on communities, sustainable economy and industry diversification.
Immediately the same afternoon The Delta Optimist wrote that the new MLA Ian Paton, a stalwart supporter the Massey Bridge was also keeping his council seat to prevent an election. Yes you read that right. This has nothing to do with democracy-“Mayor Lois Jackson said by not having a by-election to fill his council seat, it will save the municipality $250,000.” Imagine, there is over a year in a mandate, and there is no democratic will to gain an interested and eager member of the community for that Councillor seat. Who might have some good ideas. But by not doing the right thing, the Corporation will save money.
Mr. Paton stated that both the Mayor and the City Manager asked Mr. Paton to also continue his Councillor position despite the conflict of interest of being an MLA. Mr. Paton says “I’m as keen as mustard to be on Delta council. I get up every morning and my first hour or two is dealing with municipal issues. I’m more than capable of doing both jobs and doing both jobs very well.”
It is uncomfortable that Delta Council and the Liberal party leader are happy for Mr. Paton to do his dual role and do not see the conflicts this represents. Meanwhile on Monday evening a block of residents approached Delta council with a lengthy signed petition for a street closure with traffic calming, as they were severely impacted by vehicles short cutting to arterial streets. Delta staff had no solution, saying that the street did not come up as a major crash site with ICBC statistics. Of course it does not, it is a residential street where speeding cars are ending up in side yards and taking out hedges. But this is also an example of the increasing disconnect perceived between Council and Delta residents, and the need for more community building and working with neighbourhoods, looking at innovative solutions. Sometimes the solution is not to save money, but to actively work with the community, be part of change, try new concepts. That new kind of thinking is also needed with the Massey Bridge in abeyance. Having a newly elected independent Councillor that does not represent the “same old” approach would be a good first step.
At the end of August Angus Reid conducted a survey of Metro Vancouver residents about their preferences for a new Massey Bridge at the Massey Tunnel crossing on the Fraser River. Remember that this survey was paid for by the Association of Consulting Engineers of B.C. and the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association. Both of these organizations would have a lot of people quickly employed if the multi-billion dollar ten lane bridge was to be built. Indeed, that was solidly in the Liberals’ Provincial election platform-build the Massey Bridge, employ 6,000 British Columbians. Don’t ask whether the bridge is in the right place, is sustainable, overbuilt, or a threat to the estuary. It’s about jobs.
Respondents throughout the region were asked the following survey question: “As you may be aware, the provincial government has developed a plan that would see the four-lane Massey Tunnel replaced with a new, higher-capacity bridge over the Fraser River. What are your views on replacing the tunnel with a bridge?”
Now that question has a little bias-it is assuming the replacement of the existing tunnel with a new, shinier, higher performance huge bridge. Respondents were not given any other alternative. The way it was written and said will of course make folks go for the unseen shiny penny, not the existing plodding tunnel which has been so slandered by the Corporation of Delta as antiquated, congested, and dangerous. Never mind the fact that it has performed like a solid workhorse for nearly 60 years and has 80,000 daily vehicles, and that similar designs to this tunnel are still in daily use in Europe. Let’s not consider that the tunnel technology could be part of a hybrid solution of either twinning with a new tunnel or working in concert with a smaller new bridge.
Local press including The Vancouver Sun’s Stephanie Ip reported the survey results, which (of course) suggested that 75 per cent of regional respondents “said they would like to see a higher-capacity bridge built to replace the aging tunnel.” Those results were even collected by political party, showing that ” those who voted for the B.C. Liberals in the spring election were most likely to support the Liberal-launched bridge project, with 90 per cent voicing support. However, 64 per cent of those who voted NDP also support the project.”
And there’s some interesting stuff-only 37 per cent of respondents in Richmond/Delta, the people most impacted by tunnel “congestion” favoured the new bridge. Which gets us back to why this survey was even conducted in the first place-if you are asking folks farther out in the region what they want for an efficient driving experience, of course a new bridge sounds perfect. But for Richmond and Delta drivers, the loss of Class 1 arable farmland, the degradation of the banks of the Fraser River for industrial businesses, and the honking huge size of this multi-billion dollar bridge brings up more questions about the most efficient way to support regional transportation. An overbuilt bridge in the wrong place doesn’t solve congestion. It merely moves it.
Kudos to the current Provincial government for reviewing the billion dollar Massey bridge and working with Metro Vancouver and the Mayors’ Council to figure out what the transportation needs are on a regional basis. Let’s start planning our transit and transportation to ensure that all residents have mobility and accessibility. Let’s ensure the plan at the Massey crossing is truly the best fit, and considers all the options, not just an “either/or” on an overbuilt expensive 20th century bridge.
Price Tags Vancouver has written extensively about the existing loophole where properties in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) can be purchased with no foreign buyers’ tax, and where large mansions in the 10,000 square foot range can be built. Usurping agricultural land for a residential estate can also get your property taxes reduced to agricultural levels too, by growing a few grapes or allowing a few calves on your property. Of course once this arable farmland is gobbled up for private estates, it is no longer at a value that a farmer can afford to buy, and takes away from future food security.
In British Columbia roughly five per cent of land is zoned as agricultural land reserve an innovation from the 1970’s that protected land for agricultural use. While provincial rules regulate the land use, each property can build a single family dwelling and owners can get relaxations from building and use restrictions. When the City of Richmond deliberated about the astoundingly large mansions being built on farmland in their jurisdiction, they decided to “limit” the size of houses on the ALR to 1,000 square meters-which is still a 10,000 square foot mansion, and does not stop the degradation of agricultural land into residential mini-estates.
Metro News reports that this horrifying evaporation of farmland has been observed by the Green party leader Andrew Weaver. Weaver noticed that when the foreign buyers’ tax was introduced, buyers looked elsewhere for investment property not fettered by the tax. “Many non-residents are buying land zoned for agricultural use but instead of farming, they’re building large homes and selling the property for inflated prices.We’re seeing a preponderance of mega-mansions starting to appear on what formerly was agricultural land in parts of Metro Vancouver…Using agricultural land for pricey homes instead of farming drives up real estate prices and decreases food security. We’re now in a situation where land and houses are being treated as commodities that are traded like gold or potash or silver as opposed to their purpose.”
UBC professor Tom Davidoff is even more blunt, saying “limiting large homes on agricultural land makes sense. I think it’s wrong to have people building mega-mansions and treating them as residential real estate if the whole point of (agricultural land) is not to be residential real estate. Better you should turn it into apartments than ridiculous luxury homes.” While the BC housing minister is reviewing the foreign buyers tax to see whether it has had an impact and should be kept, Mr. Weaver is also reviewing whether farmland should be available for purchase to foreign nationals.”We want to encourage people to come live here, work here, pay taxes here. What we don’t want is third-party, offshore interests using our land, our homes as tools for speculative investment.” It remains to be seen what action will be taken by the Provincial government to reverse the carving up of the most fertile soils in Canada-and the farms of Metro Vancouver.
In the same way that on-line shopping trends and changing retail tastes are taking a bite out of the stand-alone shopping mall, there are other industries that will be similarly impacted-most notably for Metro Vancouver, the Port of Vancouver’s shipping. As reported in Business in Vancouver grain shipments and containerized cargo has had an increase of four per cent versus the same period of time last year, but the way cargo is managed is drastically morphing.
The challenge for the Port and other ports in North America is the tremendous sea change in how global freight is moved, and also how that freight is handled. “In its 2017 Port, Airport and Global Infrastructure seaport outlook for North America, real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang Lasalle lists five trends to watch in the freight and logistics services arena. Among the five are bigger ships and bigger shipping line alliances. Both will place enormous pressure on port cargo efficiency and infrastructure because they will concentrate the number of container ship dockings in larger vessels at fewer ports.”
This is going to require efficient loading and distribution centres, which means more industrial land beside the port for distribution centres, similar to the logistics centre on the Tsawwassen First Nations land besides Delta port. Metro Vancouver’s very low vacancy rate of 2.7 per cent for industrial land has meant that commercial real estate groups are looking longingly at land in the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) as the way to procure property for distribution centres. The Port of Vancouver has also been optioning agricultural land in the ALR for potential industrial expansion, using senior government status to option agricultural land at values far more than property owners can achieve selling for agricultural use. And the Port is not looking for a tiny bit of agricultural turf-as previously reported in the Vancouver Sun Port Metro Vancouver’s land use plan is looking for 930 hectares of space, “more than 10 times what the port now has in reserve.”
The Port already owns about 1,457 hectares of land of which only about 81 acres, the Gilmore Farm in Richmond is undeveloped. While the Port is renewing its farming leases on the land, the City of Richmond worries that this agricultural land will soon be transferred into Port industrial usage.
It’s an interesting conundrum-how do you maintain access to the most arable farmland in Canada and make it so that farmers can own it and farm it? How do you restrain McMansions from usurping this land as private estates? And how do you address the fact that the Port can claim “higher authority” as a federal governmental body and pay off agricultural land owners with much higher values than that received on the farm land market? And is the insatiable appetite of the port for stockpiling goods and distributing them going to remain the same in a time of e-commerce and disruptive technology?
Port Metro Vancouver’s CEO has said “Without suitable land, we will not be able to deliver economic growth to support the growing population. And without careful planning, we will not be able to make best use of the land we manage.”
Rob Shaw’s article today in the Vancouver Sun does not pull any punches-and finally there is some truth-telling in the Provincial government’s ranks about what was REALLY going on with the lack of co-operation at supporting accessibility and good public transportation in Metro Vancouver. Kevin Falcon who used to be minister in the Liberal government said the party “lost considerable urban ground to the NDP because ethical issues chipped away at their credibility, and because of the lengthy political dispute over funding Lower Mainland transit projects…lack of progress over transportation projects, and just a little too much politics and not quite enough initiative”.
There’s been a lot of drama-the Province insisted that the Mayors Council put forward their proposed way of funding transit to a 2015 plebiscite. The Province also “nixed or delayed potential local funding sources for transit, such as a vehicle levy, road pricing or carbon tax expansion, and the result has been a multi-year fight with local politicians over money.”
And that’s not all. At the end of the campaign the Province announced that the Mayors Council would have to hold another referendum for new revenue resources to fund things like the Broadway subway or Surrey rapid transit.
“Nobody in government is perfect,” said Falcon. “But I think it’s a mistake to say we’re going to force a referendum before we make any major transportation decisions. At the end of the day, the public hates that kind of politics. What they want to see is leadership in action.”
Of course the bridge tolls, the lack of Uber or ride share and the need for taxi reforms also didn’t help to smooth things over either for Metro Vancouver. And the Massey Bridge, overbuilt and in the wrong place to support regional growth and industry became a Port project, completely against the principles established by Metro Vancouver and the Mayors Council-supported only by the Mayor of Delta with the Port in the backyard.
Yesterday was a very exciting day for planners and statisticians who eagerly anticipated the new release of Census Canada data. As the Globe and Mail reporters Tavia Grant and Jeremy Agius noted, the “greying of Canada’s population is accelerating, as new census numbers show seniors now outnumber children for the first time in the survey’s history.” While 16.9 per cent of the country’s population is over 65, those 15 years and under number 16.6 per cent.
An aging population will impact all kinds of businesses that will need to cater to “older empty-nester single person households” as well as “government budgets to pensions, health care, the labour market, consumer trends and social services.”
There has been a trend through lobbies such as Generation Squeeze to advocate for better policy, affordability and accessibility for people in their 20’s to 40’s, with the thought that seniors are taking a lot of the resources. As Jen St. Denis reports in Metro News Vancouver’s high prices mean that while Vancouver attracts young people in their 20’s, who are leaving the city once they reach the 35 to 44-year-old age group.
While the City of Vancouver has recognized the need for housing for families and is focusing on lower and middle-income residents, Simon Fraser University’s Andy Yan notes that both children and seniors over 65 have been left out of the city’s new housing plan, and that both of these populations have specific needs. Metro Vancouver’s population grew 16 per cent overall between 2006 and 2016, but the number of people over 65 within that cohort grew by 35 per cent. It is clear that there is not yet strong policy representation for this growing cohort which will need specialized housing close to walkable and accessible services as they age out of their residences. Canada still has the “lowest share of seniors than in any other G7 country except the United States”.
The statistics also indicate that more seniors are moving to British Columbia when they retire, with seven of the top ten places with the largest amount of older people here. Not surprisingly four of those are on Vancouver Island, known for a salubrious climate. There is going to be a lot more information being interpreted, but the message is clear-we need to rethink the policies to allow everyone to live in Vancouver and age in place in a way that enhances liveliness and accessibility. It is going to be a tall order.
In a press release from the Musqueam Nation, Chief Wayne Sparrow stated “Musqueam has not been meaningfully consulted nor accommodated for the GMT (George Massey Tunnel) project. This project is in the core of our exclusive territory and the Provincial and Federal government have not received Musqueam’s consent.” Other media have picked up thisunfulfilled duty to consult where indigenous rights and title exists.
This lack of consultation is a gaping omission given the Province’s claim through the Minister of Transportation that they have undergone a robust consultation process, even though this seems very slim on their website. And the Musqueam Nation have a very valid reason to be listened to and accommodated in any process impacting the Fraser River at this location-they have inhabited this land for thousands of years.
The proposed Massey Bridge lies squarely in the “heart of Musqueam territory and the BC (British Columbia) government has not received consent from Musqueam to proceed. It is in an area that has been occupied by Musqueam since time immemorial. GMT is surrounded by heritage sites, and other culturally important sites, including fishing areas in the Lower Fraser River that Musqueam has Aboriginal rights to fish, which are protected by the Canadian Constitution after a Supreme Court of Canada ruling (R. v Sparrow, 1992).
The Musqueam note that the tunnel removal “will add to the negative cumulative effects in Musqueam’s territorial waters in the Fraser River. BC and Canada have not considered these effects as they continue to approve projects like this”. And the First Nations is quite clear about what they think of this project: “Musqueam will not stand for the continued degradation of our lands and waters. The BC and Canadian government have much work to do with us to ensure the GMT project can proceed according to Musqueam conditions”, said Chief Sparrow. He added, “Musqueam is leading in areas of stewardship and management in our territory, and will raise the bar on all future projects in Musqueam territory. We are not against development, but it must be done in ways that include Musqueam values, and ensures the protection of our rights.”
The Musqueam values are being echoed by others who have done their due diligence and realize the ecological degradation of the lands and the river that will occur, including the damage to the river in the removal of the tunnel and further dredging to accommodate larger ships.The Province will say they are not doing this work which is partially right, because in this shell game the dredging would be under the auspices of the Port which is a federal authority.
When the stewards of the land, the Nation that has solidly lived here for thousands of years before Canadian Confederation speak, we all should be listening. The fact that this First Nation was not actively consulted is surprising. As the Musqueam First Nation says on their website, colonization resulted in “our traditional and customary system of authority quickly became secondary without the awareness of native leadership“.
It looks like the Province is still going bull-headedly on that same path, regardless of the devastating impacts on the Agricultural Land Reserve, the sensitive eco-system of the Fraser River delta and its shoreline, the wishes of the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council and the interests of the First Nations who have rights to this Territory.
The New York Times is reporting that Millennials-those born between the early 1980’s and late 1990’s or early 2000’s-may have reached the “peak” of inflow into cities, and that outflow of mid-30’s couples to the suburbs has commenced. This may be the biggest outflow to the suburbs since the Great Recession of 2007.
“Dowell Myers, a professor of demography and urban planning at the University of Southern California, recently published a paper that noted American cities reached “peak millennial” in 2015. Over the next few years, he predicts, the growth in demand for urban living is likely to stall…Are large numbers of millennials really so enamored with city living that they will age and raise families inside the urban core, or will many of them, like earlier generations, eventually head to the suburbs in search of bigger homes and better school districts?”
With the two factors of people getting older and having less tolerance for low paying jobs and small urban apartments there may be a trend back to the suburbs. Downtowns do have walkability and a high concentration of people under 25 years of age.
“Despite the initial fears, the removal of fast lanes does not worsen traffic conditions beyond the initial adjustments,” explains Paul Lecroart, urban planner at IAU and a specialist on this issue. “In all the cities studied, the evaporation of traffic is an important element to observe”. Here is what is interesting-when a fast lane is removed, overall traffic decreases by 14 per cent after several months. Why? “The reasons that lead to traffic evaporation can be several, one of them is the so-called “induced traffic“: when you create a fast lane, you automatically create traffic.”
Another study in 1992 by the Ministry of Transport in France estimated that the creation of a French motorway increased car volume by 40 per cent. Take the motorway away, and in the long term, traffic decreases. “The reduction of traffic is mainly due to behavioural change: people start adapting to the new spatial configuration. The behavioural changes that brings ‘traffic evaporation’ are: change of itinerary and of schedules, the frequency of travel, the mode of transport (shifting from cars to two-wheeled vehicles, bicycle, etc.), but also car-pooling, new family organization, moving or working remotely.”
The French term of “traffic evaporation” is related to the Braess paradox which states” that adding extra capacity to a network may reduce overall performance and increase travel times. As in a game structure, if drivers have the possibility to choose their own route autonomously they will behave selfishly. This means that each driver will aim at improving its respective travel time by arriving first: all drivers will take the new “fast” road and will thus cause congestion.”
Take away the “fast lane” and you reduce that congestion, as seen in Paris’ work reclaiming the right bank of the Seine for pedestrians and cyclists which you can view here. A YouTube explanation of the Braess paradox is linked below.
As reported in Business In Vancouver by Patrick Blennerhasset, despite what you are hearing about housing sales slowing, prices being asked for houses in the region are not dropping. February sales were 41% less than in February 2016. However statistics gathered across the region show that “while home sales and listings have returned to their 10-year average, prices across the region remain high in the wake of 2016’s record-breaking year, according to new Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) statistics.”
Townhomes and apartments also experienced marginal price increases, with one realtor stating that buyers were now turning to these housing forms. Townhomes and apartments have had a substantial increase in benchmark pricing compared to last year. People are also being a bit more cautious putting their housing on the market with new listings dropping nearly 48% from February 2016.
Realtor Daren Germyn stated “Depending on what area in Surrey and what type of property, you’re looking at very different markets regarding competition and pricing. Inventory that is more affordable, like townhomes and condominiums, is very popular right now and with the lack of new product coming in compared with what is common for this time of year, demand is outpacing supply, and it’s fuelling a fast-paced attached market.”
Surprisingly sales of houses and townhomes in White Rock/South Surrey have fallen 67% and 57% respectively. But even with few houses selling there, benchmark prices have increased dramatically, with single family homes prices increasing by nearly 24%. While housing sales are more in line with the normal historical real estate activity, the hoped for decrease in sales prices has not happened-yet.
By 2030, one-quarter of all Canadians will be over 65 years of age, which will have profound impacts on Canadian cities, urban life, housing and health services. The City Program of Simon Fraser University hosted a lecture on Friday March 24 on Aging, Design and the City.This well attended lecture was also available on-line and attracted an international contingent of people who joined via the internet.
Director of the City Program Andy Yan brought together a host of speakers from various backgrounds and institutions to commence the conversation of what happens to Metro Vancouverites as they age-do we stay in our houses, or do we go? And where do seniors go to, and what is the housing seniors are looking for?
Elizabeth Tang from CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) noted that in focus groups across Canada, people aged 55 to 75 have a lack of concern for planning future housing. Even seniors older than 75 years of age are not thinking of changing from their current dwelling. Factors influencing their choice to age in place included their personal health status, the cost (especially in Vancouver) and the quality of life. Co-housing, where seniors have their own accommodation but share common areas and kitchen facilities appear popular, with Burnaby’s Nikkei Place, Maple Ridge’s Ridge Meadows Seniors Society and Vancouver’s PALS (Performing Arts Lodge Society) being mentioned. PALS also has a children’s daycare on site allowing seniors to have interaction with children and their parents.
Vancouver architect and developer Michael Geller noted that everyone has a different idea of the best place to age, be it in France, a fine hotel, or even on cruise ship. He identified five future trends: People aging in place with supportive governmental programs, more senior friendly duplexes and townhouses; more purpose-built rental and ownership buildings, as well as co-operative and co-housing options; enhanced buildings offering the “continuum of care” with different types of housing and levels of care; and more “alternative tenure” buildings with a mix of ownership and lease housing options.
Architect Eitaro Hirota described the work NSDA architects are undertaking in care facilities, and the importance of sun orientation and the need for communal spaces that can be private, semi-private and public. Simon Fraser University researcher Dr. Habib Chaudhury discussed the parameters needed for age and dementia friendly communities, as well as two assessment tools developed for wayfinding and walkability.
This session provided an introductory discussion on the trends and impacts of aging on the city and on services. There will not be enough age appropriate housing to go around. Just as there is a pinch in the market for young people looking for entry-level housing, there will be a dearth of housing for seniors. The Nikkei Place in Richmond houses 40 seniors with an average age of 89 years. The waiting list to get into the Nikkei Place is already eight years long. We need to adapt our policies, programs, cities and housing to reflect the growing numbers of seniors that will rely on these services in their waning years.
Both Peter Ladner in Business in Vancouver and columnist Daphne Bramham in the Vancouver Sun have featured comments made by Larry Beasley, the former Co-Director of Planning at the City of Vancouver. Larry is a thoughtful and analytical planner whose mindfulness shaped the downtown peninsula into a world-class paradigm. I’d also credit him along with his engaged and artful planning staff in refining the concept of Vancouverism-the mixed use form, space and structure that is admired by many.
It’s no secret that even though there were over 27,000 Metro Vancouver unit building starts in 2016 (which is 57 per cent over the 10 year average) that not enough people are getting housed. As Peter Ladner notes “With the average household at 2.6 people, that’s enough supply for almost 70,000 new people, but population growth last year was 30,700 people. We’re building more than enough to accommodate local population growth, but not investment demand.”
In a global economy where housing is being bought for an investment instead of as necessary accommodation, there is not enough housing to go around. The foreign buyer’s tax and increasing property taxes could add to the supply, but more is needed.
Larry Beasley “has concluded that we need to build out a “third sector” to deal with middle-class affordability: new supply that’s secured for locals and for certain groups of consumers.” Larry is thinking of a “semi-market” housing targeted to middle-class income earners. One example would be reviving self-owned co-ops, where some units subsidize other units. Or we could follow Melbourne’s requirement for new big job centres to include employee housing. Or ramp up inclusionary zoning to require new high-end condo developments to include some fixed-price units. Madrid and Whistler are two places that have created non-profit home ownership: homes sold to local workers to build equity, but they can be sold only at a pre-determined rate, with little or no profit.”
Larry Beasley describes this third sector of housing as “semi-market, and could include co-housing which includes some shared living space. Such a third housing sector would require collaboration between governments, developers, banks and non-profits. Most notably, such housing could include “as much as 30% of the housing market, securing the kind of affordability that would guarantee the diversity of our region for years to come.”
The dynamics between shopping centre developers can be quite complex and rather secretive. CBC is reporting on the dramatic unfolding of a B.C. Supreme Court decision between Ivanhoe Cambridge, the owners of Burnaby’s Metropolis Metrotown Shopping Centre (and owner of Tsawwassen Mills Mall) and Concord Kingsway, an arm of Concord Pacific real estate development. Concord Kingsway owns a Sears store and the land that it sits on at Metropolis.
In 2013, Sears Canada issued a news release describing its intention to turn the site into a massive mixed-use development that would include residential and office high-rise towers with retail on the ground floor, including a new store for Sears. In 2015 Sears closed a $100 million dollar agreement with Concord Kingsway to jointly develop the site.
However, there was a an agreement signed in 1986 which was not signed by the two developer parties which stated that both Metropolis and the Sears site were to be “operated, supplied, maintained, repaired, altered and reconstructed as a unified, first class, integrated regional shopping centre”. Sears said that the agreement is vague. Ivanhoe Cambridge said that Sears cannot redevelop into a mixed use project without its permission.
It’s an interesting stand-off as Sears is redeveloping its holdings into a mixed use project that can capitalize on the housing market, is close to transit and also achieve city driven goals related to housing density. The court decision was that Sears needed to give 15 months notice andcouldn’t build anything deemed “incompatible with the existing shopping centre. It also couldn’t close the Sears store for more than 150 days.”
“In general, when somebody is proposing a large development, the neighbouring properties sometimes have challenges with it if they feel the development would affect the development potential on their property or negatively impact them in some way,” Andrew Evans of Colliers International stated. While other Burnaby malls like Lougheed and Brentwood are looking at how to bring mixed use and higher densities to the sites, information exchanges between development corporations can be privileged. In the court proceedings it turned out that Ivanhoe Cambridge was also exploring “redevelopment options”.
Even after the court decision, neither developer was talking. But it is clear that shopping centres are exploring residential mixed use as a way to enhance their bottom lines, as retailing shifts and housing prices rise.
The Globe and Mail‘s Kerry Gold reports on a new wave of condo buyers that is happening at a faster pace than expected. Seniors instead of holding on to their equity rich housing until infirmity forces them into supportive care facilities appear to be cashing out and moving to condominium developments, many with similar square footage on the floor plate as their previous homes.
Called “the transitioning buyer” these older condo purchasers will spend approximately half their equity in their new abode.Developers including “Nic Paolella, director of development for Marcon Developments in Vancouver, says he’s seeing the beginning of a potential flood of downsizers that will become one of the biggest drivers of the condo market. Marcon is a mid-size condo developer with a projected 1,000 units coming on the market this year.”
“This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of amount of capital out there for downsizer buyers,” he says. “We are only at the start of that wave. We are in for a lot more, and it could be a five- or 10-year run of the aggressive downsizer buyer,” he says. “And they have specific interests of where they want to be – often, in a similar neighbourhood to where they were living. Often, they want walkability and access to amenities without a car.”
With the high prices commanded by Vancouver housing, sellers can also now negotiate to continue to live in their homes until their respective condos are ready for occupancy. This can also be for the buyer’s benefit as “if the new buyer plans to tear the house down, as they usually do, it’s more difficult to remove a full-time paying tenant. And if the house is left empty, the owner is looking at paying the new vacancy tax.”
Despite the cooling off of Vancouver housing prices this year, the Teranet-National Bank home price index still shows prices up 17 per cent from 2015. “Long-time realtor Stuart Bonner, who specializes in expensive west-side Vancouver properties for Re/Max, says he’s seeing retirees taking a more “proactive” approach. “Nobody would have predicted what prices have done in the last three or four years. People are saying, ‘My house is worth what?’ They are stunning numbers. A lot of people are saying, ‘I’ve got to take some money off the table.’ These are educated people who realize it won’t go straight up forever.”
The first “The Strait and Narrows” podcast on local agriculture features local hero Harvinder Dahliwal, a blueberry farmer who didn’t start that way. This is also the story of his family, and their place in Canada.
Pricetags was pleased to provide some of the funding to make this series possible. It’s part of our Crossroad City initiative to help focus attention on the region and its issues.
The first “The Strait and Narrows” podcast on local agriculture features local hero Harold Steves, Richmond farmer and long-time city councillor. He was also an MLA in the 1970s and, at that time, certainly one of the fathers of the Agricultural Land Reserve – a critical land-use decision in B.C.’s history, perhaps the most important in shaping Metro Vancouver. This is his personal story.
Pricetags was pleased to provide some of the funding to make this series possible. It’s part of our Crossroad City initiative to help focus attention on the region and its issues.