Feb 29 2012

Conflict of Interest In My Own Neighborhood

Published by at 11:12 pm under CityView,Vancouver politics

My neighborhood of Mount Pleasant has been one of Vancouver’s fastest growing areas in the city from 2006 to 2011. In general, I’ve liked what I’ve seen since I moved in here six years ago; a Canada line along Cambie; more businesses along Cambie, Broadway and Main; cool restaurants, cafes and bars; amenities like a new public library and community center. Along with business, condos have gone up, which can be good and bad.

Businesses in the neighborhood tend to be at ground-level. The condos that have gone into the neighborhood recently have been around four storeys or higher.

And now we have the Rize development; 19 storeys of 241 market-rate condos being considered by Vancouver City Hall. Here’s a quick roundup of my thinking:

  • The city is unaffordable. According to normal economic theory, more condos should make the neighborhood more affordable, but…
  • Realistically, given that Vancouver is now a “world-class” city with a significant number of international buyers, this development will not move market prices noticeably downward. In fact, the price per square foot will be significantly higher than what I paid when I bought in six years ago; and I still paid a premium then that I try not to think about. I’m no expert, but I’m guessing developers would need to simultaneously plunk down tens of thousands of units around Vancouver just to slow down the cost of housing in this city. Long story short: anyone who advocates for the Rize on affordability grounds (as in, affordable enough for even lower-income people to buy in) is fooling themselves. Without some kind of government subsidy, no new development in Vancouver will ever be affordable.
  • The Rize seems too high to me. I’m a fan of development. The changes that have already occurred these last years have been very positive. But nineteen storeys is a game-changer. It’s a gut feeling — but I also don’t see how a developer can’t make a very healthy profit with a shorter building. Instead of really high towers, how about going with a Parisian model of lower-profile buildings of four storeys or so?
  • We’re not just talking about the Rize. If that development goes ahead in its current planned form, others will follow. It’s the thin edge of the wedge. Even if I were fine with one 19-storey development, I wouldn’t be so accepting of three or four.

So, that’s where I’m at. As a guy who wants a sustainable city and thriving neighborhoods, development is good. But I’m not convinced this particular development is right for Mount Pleasant.

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3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Conflict of Interest In My Own Neighborhood”

  1. Jeff Keeon 01 Mar 2012 at 12:40 am

    The houses, low-rise and suburb model is failing. Higher buildings mean more density and it has a lot of implications in terms of energy consumption in general. When a building is higher, each strip of road, each strip of sewage pipes, each strip of power lines can supply 400 people rather than 40 people per block, for example (exact numbers would differ but to give you an idea).

    Instead of making each and every development so incredibly difficult, we should open up for more. I don’t know if you’ve ever lived outside of Canada, but in most other areas around the world, houses are already considered obsolete and unsustainable considering the population we have. Same will hold for the suburb of the greater Vancouver Region – it’s NOT sustainable. We are blessed, currently, with gas prices that are 1/3 of what they pay in Europe, Asia etc. only because our transportation system and economy would collapse at a higher rate due to our ridiculous house & suburbs module which is unaffordable for the general public by any means.

    It’s a global world, time to get with the global trends (unless of course we come up with a way to wipe out 2/3 of the population). I say build up, build high, and build dense – that will reduce carbon pollution by a significant margin, and also increase inventory. Each development like this getting hung up due to regulations, objections etc. is what causes the scarcity. Economics of supply & demand hold true always, unless there is government control; and we all suffer from high prices due to subsidized homes, tough regulations against new developments and more, while we fail to recognize that international buyers are dominating the market in a limited supply and expedited property value growth.

  2. Jeff Keeon 01 Mar 2012 at 12:44 am

    And condos should not just be for young people etc. Time to get real and give up that idiotic dream of a 4 bedroom house with a backyard for everybody. Canada’s carbon footprint per capita is around 16X of that of China – while we consume all the cheap goods coming out of China, and creating the extremely wealthy class of barrons out of Hong Kong and Shen-Zhen, we also complain about how China doesn’t want to sign the Kyoto Protocol and how foreign investment drives prices up.. The average Vancouver public is very hypocritical.

  3. soron 01 Mar 2012 at 7:39 am

    Greetings. Many years ago I lived near 1st and Commercial and belonged to the Neighbourhood Improvement Committee. We were able to achieve many benefits using this venue. The one I remember most is when the Il Mercato site at 1st was seeking permits for development. They required a variance because they planned to put a drive through McDonald’s right off of 1st. You can imagine what that would have done to rush hour traffic.

    Long story short we were able to stop it from getting the variance.

    I know Mt. Pleasant has a similar committee so I suggest you get involved that way. Besides it is a great way to meet your neighbours.

    You might want to talk to Tom Phipps in the Planning department at City Hall. Just tell him he was recommended by Sandra O’Reilly. He was our liason when I was on the Grandview Woodlands NIC.
    I also know some other local people that might give you advice. Cheers.

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