Priorities

Let’s talk about priorities.  

(or, Why you ought to be mad about what’s going on at 3030-3038 Commercial Drive)

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From wartime homes to student homes – Vancouver’s rocky start with secondary suites

Or: that time that Vancouver decided single-family zoning was more important than defeating Hitler

Secondary suites (often just "basement suites”, or ADUs) are an everyday part of Vancouver neighbourhoods now. Even before they were fully legalized in 2004, they provided a large amount of Vancouver’s low-cost housing stock.

The story I usually hear about suites goes like this: people started building a lot of unauthorized suites in Vancouver Specials in the 1970s and 1980s, and this set the stage for a long drawn-out political battle that eventually ended with suites being legalized.

It’s a good story, and it’s true! But Vancouver’s history with secondary suites goes back much further. People were trying to live in secondary suites – and Vancouver was trying to stop them – for a long time before the Vancouver Special.

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Halloween Update

Happy Halloween! 

It's that time of year again when ghosts & ghouls roam the streets in pursuit of candy, but it's also time for a housing update! 

On October 31, Council unanimously approved the Dunbar-Ryerson rezoning! Thanks to all of you who wrote in, appeared before council, or attended the February open house to help get this rare combination heritage conservation and quiet-street rental housing project approved.

Below are upcoming rallies, open houses, and hearings that need your attendance, speeches and letters of support to help more rental homes be created.  

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Pro-Housing Prevails

Abundant Housing Vancouver congratulates Hector Bremner, Vancouver’s newest city councillor.  We’re pleased that many candidates called for reforms to zoning in Vancouver, and many pointed out how zoning is used to ban apartments, townhomes, row homes and most other forms of housing from most neighborhoods.  We would like to thank all the candidates, campaign workers and volunteers who put long hours into making democracy in Vancouver work.  We’re happy that Hector Bremner’s repeated calls to end exclusionary zoning carried the day.

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By-Election Update

Vancouver's municipal by-election to choose one city councilor and nine school trustees is very nearly here! 

There are two more opportunities to see all the would-be City Councillors debate: 

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By-election Candidate Questionnaire

Housing is a critical issue facing the City of Vancouver and is a major campaign issue in the race to fill the seat on City Council vacated by Geoff Meggs. Abundant Housing Vancouver sent a questionnaire to all candidates inquiring about their policies to address the housing shortage. We wish to thank all the candidates who responded. We have now received responses from all major candidates.

Responses we have received are posted in full below:

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Statement on Proposed Housing Options in Single Family Neighbourhoods

The City’s proposal for updated zoning in rich, low density neighbourhoods falls short of meeting the scale of our housing problems. While the proposal represents a small improvement in RS ("one-family") and RT ("two-family") zones, it fails to address a leading cause of Vancouver's exclusionary, unaffordable housing: an unjustifiable emphasis on preserving single family houses and the status quo which restricts the vast bulk of the city to systematically unaffordable homes. Single family house prices increased by 300%, so we need solutions that fit the scale of that problem. Instead, this plan continues the current practice of unfairly forcing the city's renters into basements or along polluted arterial roads.

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What Motivated Vancouver's First Zoning Codes?

(hint: you might live in one)

Ask a random person what the purpose of zoning is, and they’ll probably mention that it keeps unpleasant or dangerous things away from homes. You wouldn’t want to live next to a garbage dump or concrete factory, right?

Most people agree that that’s a good thing (myself included), but zoning codes often do a lot more than that. If you could ask the people who wrote our first zoning codes, you’d quickly learn that separating industry from homes was very far down their list of goals. Separating certain homes – specifically low-cost apartment homes – from other homes was much more important to the founding fathers of Vancouver planning.

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Douglas Park Homeowners Rise up to Stop Basement Suites

Who would cite too much affordable housing as a reason to oppose new basement suites? In their newsletter yesterday, the Douglas Park Neighbours Association cited "an enormous amount of density within blocks of the Douglas Park area and beyond, and...thousands of affordable units," as a reason to oppose a small infill development.

These friendly neighbourhood landowners have organized to oppose new housing. They mean to safeguard Douglas Park "against the erosion of its special character and RS-5 residential integrity through incongruous development and over-densification." In pursuit of this goal, they may have four basement suites eliminated from the application at 809 W 23rd Ave.

That is four units that we will not have. Four families or households that will not be able to live in Vancouver. Multiplied over the whole city, it's death by 1,000 cuts.
The current residents instead want development that is "consistent with what other buildings are like in the neighbourhood." And what are other buildings like? They're $3,000,000+.

Intense opposition from established homeowners, even to modest infill projects like this, leads to a rental vacancy rate below 1%, with no signs of a return to sane levels. And it prevents more affordable options from being built.
This one example, played out across all of the city's "single-family" zones, explains a lot of the exclusion, displacement, and crisis that our city is experiencing. The 10-unit project originally proposed is getting towards the kind of building that, on a large scale, could make better use of existing land and actually provide sufficient housing for our population.

What can you do? For Vancouverites who are not fortunate enough to have invested in Douglas Park real estate in the 1990's, or who would like to live next to Douglas Park yourselves one day, it is important to support this project in one of two ways:

First, you can write to the Mayor and Council at publichearing@vancouver.ca to explain why you would support thousands of affordable units near the Canada Line, and four additional units in this small infill development in particular. You can also beta test AHV's new letter generator. It doesn't send yet, but you can copy and paste the generated text into your own email client.

And if you really love housing, you can request to speak at Council tomorrow, Tuesday June 13th, at 6pm on the 3rd floor of City Hall (12th and Cambie). You can sign up to speak here.
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Mount Pleasant and Grandview-Woodland Zoning Review

You might have heard that Vancouver is considering allowing more homes in parts of Mount Pleasant and Grandview-Woodland. The bad news: the plans are much less ambitious than we’d like. The good news: the city is asking for feedback via online questionnaire, and this is a great opportunity to show them that there is broad support for more housing in established neighbourhoods.

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