I think this is a great piece of research by BTAworks, Bing Thom Architect’s urban planning and research arm. I read about this in the paper the other day, but newspapers never reference their work :S . Not to worry. Gordon Price posted a link on his Price Tags blog. Thanks, Gordon.
I’m a big fan of having more housing variety in Vancouver. Unfortunately, the housing stock seems to be heavy on the two ends of the scale. On one end is the tradition single family residences. On the other end of the scale are the examples of Vancouverism with it’s tall shiny towers mostly full of studio and 1 bedroom apartments.
The traditional residences in Vancouver are the single detached homes that blanket most of the city. The West Side is obviously full of these homes, but the East Side has a huge swath of single detached homes too – just smaller lots. Just drive down any road in Vancouver and you will pass these homes. In the results of past CityPlan neighbourhood consultations. I have seen a dreadful resistance to any new form of housing.
Take the Victoria-Fraserview-Killarney area (aka. VFK). VFK covers the almost the entire southeast corner of Vancouver. It stretches from Knight Street in the west to Boundary Road in the east. The northern boundary is 41st Avenue and Kingsway while the Fraser River makes up the southern boundary. The residents of VFK were presented with a variety of different housing options. The city planners mentioned the need to accommodate the growing population of Vancouver. There were options included infill housing, low-rise apartment buildings, townhomes, rowhouses, duplexes, and a unique option known as the “se hap yuen” (based on traditional housing complexes in Beijing that accommodate four families. Also known as “si he yuan” in Beijing pinyin). I would have loved to see townhomes and rowhouses be more prevalent in the city. I like to have some actual door to ground to space, but not at the high prices for a house in East Van. Unfortunately, the participants in the VFK vision process only approved duplexes and low-rise apartments for seniors. Everything else did not garner solid support. It’s good to see that it was not a resounding no, but sad to see less housing variety in that part of Vancouver.
It should be noted that the Champlain Heights area of VFK is made up of mostly townhomes, but it is a very suburban setting with little services near the homes except for Champlain Square at East 54th and Kerr. It would have been nicer to see more housing variety closer to the major arterials of 41st Avenue and Victoria Drive. People and services are already existing in that area and there will some limits to what can be developed in those areas because of the current vision. Moreover, the lack of housing variety means this section of the city will become increasingly unaffordable for young families. 50 year old homes in the Killarney area already cost close to $600,000. A new home will run close to $900,000. Even duplexes in Killarney will be $500,000. Can a new family afford these prices? Even with a dual income, it will be hard for most families to cobble together a decent down payment.
The vision does come up for update every few years and there is an ongoing vision committee that does meet regularly. So perhaps the vision will change at the next update. For more detailed information, you can visit the VFK Community Visions Page.
So why is enrollment down overall in the City of Vancouver? In addition to people having less children these days, it also likely because young families are being driven out of the city to more affordable homes elsewhere. Here’s to hoping that it could all change in the future.