Character Home Zoning Review : Open Letter to the City of Vancouver

We, the undersigned, write to the City of Vancouver to ask that affordability be included as a fundamental goal of the Character Home Zoning Review. Any large-scale rezoning that fails to prioritize affordability will not be consistent with the City’s current needs and priorities.

The Lower Mainland is in the midst of a housing crisis, exacerbated by City of Vancouver policy which forbids building more housing, and apartments in particular, on the majority of Vancouver’s land. The proposed change – to allow even less floor space in new housing in much of Vancouver – is a step in the wrong direction.

Our concern is that this review does not give due consideration to the need for more housing, market and non-market, throughout Vancouver and especially in transit-rich areas near the urban core. In fact, the proposed change would effectively allow less floor space in new homes (0.5 Floor Space Ratio, down from 0.7 in most cases), and a little bit more in homes built before 1940 (0.75 FSR, up from 0.7 in most cases). This is a significant downzoning for new homes, and will limit opportunities for gentle densification as well as subdivision and reuse of those homes going forward.

The stated intent of this downzoning is to “better manage scale and neighbourhood fit”, but many of Vancouver’s most cherished pre-1920 residential buildings are well above 0.5 FSR. Dense, low-rise development was common in Vancouver neighbourhoods in the early 20th century, but this proposal implies that even historical densities are inappropriate today. We disagree. 

A 1905 multi-suite character home, with much more floor space than would be allowed in new homes under the proposed rezoning

While we appreciate the need for heritage preservation, we question whether an indiscriminate rezoning of more than 26,000 lots, without due regard for affordability, is the best way to retain individual homes of significant merit. We encourage the City to use more targeted approaches like its existing heritage designation power.

The time is right for a significant overhaul of our expensive, low-density RS zones, but in exactly the other direction. The proposed character regulations don't accurately reflect the reality of the past or the necessity of our future. We urge you to go back to the drawing board and come back with a policy that provides abundant housing for people of all levels of income and wealth, as well as rules to prevent the unnecessary demolition of our most cherished character homes. These two goals need not be at odds, but the current direction would accomplish one at the expense of the other.

 

Public signatories as of January 15: 

Jens von Bergmann, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Adrian Crook, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Brendan Dawe, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Thomas Falcone, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Roman Lisagor, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Danny Oleksiuk, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Reilly Wood, Abundant Housing Vancouver

Penny Gurstein, Professor and Director, SCARP, UBC

Tom Davidoff, Sauder School of Business, UBC

Joshua Gottlieb, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC

David Hutniak, CEO, LandlordBC

Nathanael Lauster, Associate Professor of Sociology (UBC)

Bryn Davidson, Lanefab Design/Build

Mac Hartfiel, Bower Design Co.

Neal LaMontagne, City Planner, Vancouver City Planning Commissioner

Amelia Huang, Vancouver City Planning Commissioner

Tony Osborn, Architect, AIBC

Ian Robertson, MArch, ABBARCH Architecture Inc, Artitectus Design

Cameron Maltby, Intern Architect AIBC

Tom Durning

Christa MacArthur, MArch, Yes In New West

Mike Folka, Yes In New West

Jonathan Gibson, Yes In New West

Karen Sawatzky, MUrb

Joshua Prowse, Tenants' Rights Lawyer

Ken Paquette, The Kettle Society

Brad Cavanagh, Yes in New West

Siobhan Murphy, Planner, MCIP, RPP

James Bligh, Intern Architect AIBC

Charles Montgomery, The Happy City Lab

Generation Squeeze

Peter Ladner, Former City of Vancouver Councillor

Mike Soron, M.Urb

Patrick Condon, James Taylor Chair in Landscape and Liveable Environments, University of British Columbia

Khang Nguyen, Architrix Studio

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