Vancouver City Council will discuss crucial topics relating to housing at its Tuesday, March 7 meeting.
- Character Home Consultation Update: Presentation by Gil Kelley (General Manager of Planning, Urban Design and Sustainability) makes presentation.
- Permit and Development Process Update: Presentation by Kaye Krishna (General Manager of Development, Buildings and Licensing).
- Motion on “Making Legalizing Secondary Suites Easier in RT/RM Zones”
In that context, this op ed in the Vancouver Sun (March 2, 2017) by Elizabeth Murphy provides useful perspective. Her closing point: “There are many things that need to be done to provide incentives for retaining character housing stock through adaptive reuse. This is the most sustainable way to add more housing options and we only have a small window of time to do this before we lose this opportunity forever.”
Saving Vancouver character houses through incentives
by Elizabeth Murphy (Vancouver Sun, March 2, 2017)
Photo caption: The City of Vancouver is reviewing incentives to retaining character houses, such as allowing additional suites. Elizabeth Murphy / PNG
The City of Vancouver is doing a character house zoning review to consider saving character houses through incentives such as increased size, number of units, and infill. This retains character while accommodating growth in a more sustainable way.
Although this is good in principle, additional options need to be considered.
There is an urgent need for the review. Since city zoning rules were changed in 2009, demolitions increased to over 1,000 a year with replacement construction of much larger and more expensive “monster” houses. On average, home demolitions have increased 80 per cent between 2009 and 2015, and by 73 per cent on average for pre-1940 homes.
Most of these demolished homes were livable and structurally sound, many substantially upgraded, many with secondary suites. Prime old growth wood was sent to the chipper, materials sent to the dump and little, if any, materials reused. Many of the new houses, often twice as expensive as the older ones they replaced, are left vacant purely as investments. Hardly a green or sustainable city.
City of Vancouver survey results show that 90 per cent of citizens think the retention of character buildings should be encouraged.
Some in the development lobby say retention of character houses through incentives is freezing single family zoning. In fact, it is doing just the opposite. Character zoning is proposed to conditionally allow a variety of additional options to meet current needs through adaptive reuse. This is by far the most sustainable way to accommodate growth, increase rental and ownership options, provide more affordability and mortgage helpers, and retain neighbourhood character. Continue reading