Marine Gardens, the Habitat 76 Forum and housing as a basic human right (Vancouver Declaration)

Habitat 76 flag(Epilogue: After a Public Hearing over two nights, ending February 26, 2015, Vancouver City Council sealed the fate of Marine Gardens by approving a rezoning application to replace the 70-unit complex with 21- and 27-towers. This was amid concerns about excessive industry influence in the process, and the great disappointment of the original architect and existing residents – “As its designers watch, Marine Gardens gently fades away, Globe and Mail.“)

Marine Gardens was built as a demonstration housing project for the Habitat 76 Forum. This housing complex is one of the few remnants from the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements that was held in Vancouver from 31 May to 11 June in 1976.

What was an important outcome of Habitat 76? The Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements is perhaps the most significant document that was adopted during the forum. It is still referenced by the United Nations. Adequate shelter was declared a basic human right. As well, rights for people to be involved in planning their communities were confirmed, as was the right to public participation in neighbourhood planning.

Sculpture

Habitat 76 sculpture at Jericho Beach Park

The fate of 70 units of affordable rental housing at Marine Gardens will be determined by Vancouver City Council at the conclusion of the Public Hearing on February 24, 2015. In the spirit of the Vancouver Declaration, is Marine Gardens precisely the kind of housing that should be protected? Is housing still a basic human right in Vancouver?

Further information on the Habitat Forum 76 can be found on the habitat76.ca website and blog (there’s also information on an upcoming book about the forum).

More information on Marine Gardens can be found in the article: Who would notice a gem in a five and dime store? (by urbanist Ned Jacobs, April 13, 2013)

We’ve included a few quotes from the Vancouver Declaration that are of particular interest:

8. Adequate shelter and services are a basic human right which places an obligation on Governments to ensure their attainment by all people, beginning with direct assistance to the least advantaged through guided programmes of self-help and community action. Governments should endeavour to remove all impediments hindering attainments of these goals. Of special importance is the elimination of social and racial segregation, inter alia, through the creation of better balanced communities, which blend different social groups, occupation, housing and amenities.

13. All persons have the right and the duty to participate, individually and collectively in the elaboration and implementation of policies and programmes of their human settlements.

Neighbourhood planning
(a) The special interests of children and their parents, the elderly and the handicapped, come into focus at the neighbourhood level.
(b) NEIGHBOURHOOD PLANNING SHOULD GIVE SPECIAL ATTENTION TO THE SOCIAL QUALITIES, AND PROVISION OF FACILITIES, SERVICES AND AMENITIES, REQUIRED FOR THE DAILY LIFE OF THE INHABITANTS.
(c) Particular emphasis should be given to:

(i) Needs of children and their parents, the elderly and the handicapped;
(ii) Community involvement in the planning, implementation and management of neighbourhood schemes;
(iii) Better integration of neighbourhood development, housing and facilities;
(iv) Readily accessible facilities and services;
(v) Preservation of traditional patterns of relationships consistent with current aspirations;
(vi) The links between neighbourhood planning and other planning levels.

(a) Public participation is a right that must be accorded to all segments of the population, including the most disadvantaged groups.

 (ii) Laws and regulations to achieve specific settlement objectives, service community interest and safeguard individual rights against arbitrary decisions;

Establishing optimum densities according to indigenous needs and means, and in accord with the social and cultural characteristics of the inhabitants.

(vii) The land rights of indigenous peoples so that their cultural and historical heritage is preserved.

The full text of the Vancouver Declaration is available here.

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