Gentle Densification in Vancouver

Dec 19 2017, 11:20 pm

Written by Anne McMullin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Development Institute (UDI) for Vancity Buzz

They are doing it in London. They are doing it in Toronto. They want to do it in Vancouver. Taking notes from global cities where substantial population growth has occurred, real estate developers are looking through a new lens to find affordable, eco-conscious ways to ease Vancouver’s housing crisis.

Gentle densification. This is the term the Urban Institute of Development (UDI) uses to describe one set of solutions to the lack of housing in our city.

Traditionally, density issues are addressed by adding tower developments with apartment homes for purchase or rent. Gentle densification offers alternatives to towers by rezoning already-developed land to accommodate multi-family dwellings or subdividing existing lots to accommodate multiple smaller homes. For example, cottage or pocket neighbourhoods that features several small homes on smaller lots around a shared landscaped green, sellable laneway homes, as well as duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.

This approach could double, even triple, housing options in Vancouver.

In the City of Vancouver there are 47,000 single-family homes, but the number of buyers far outweighs the supply. Addressing this concern, developers (and residents) are constructing small, even “tiny”, homes throughout the metro area. Two examples include:

  1. Narrow Passive House – Vancouver
  2. 186 sq. ft. Tiny House – North Vancouver

While there are a handful of narrow lot homes available, to see successful gentle densification the City of Vancouver needs to be more open to rezoning existing properties with single, detached homes. Currently, the Cambie corridor is the only Vancouver neighbourhood where successful gentle densification has occurred through rezoning and new development. Rezoning all the major arteries in the city, including Granville, Oak and Cambie street neighbourhoods, would accommodate thousands more home options.

Coach houses, as seen in this West Vancouver development, duplexes and triplexes are all answers to addressing this need, without building up. Town homes fitted with basement suites, and laneway homes built on existing single home lots are other potential opportunities. Decreasing some properties to 25-foot lots would accommodate 1,200 to 1,500 square foot homes, offering an affordable purchase option to small families and professional couples.

There is no simple solution to tame the beast that is the Vancouver housing crisis. UDI wants to start the discussion with Vancouver residents and city officials to embrace these global ideas to ease the housing demand, to rethink densification and to put Vancouver on the map for creative, green, affordable housing options.

The Urban Development Institute is the premier voice of the BC real estate development industry, representing over 650 corporate members, and thousands of individuals involved in all facets of land development and planning. The real estate development industry in BC supports 220,000 jobs, and is responsible for a total output of $35 billion to the provincial economy.


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