City of Vancouver seeking public input on where to focus future growth

Oct 27 2021, 8:36 pm

How should the neighbourhoods in the City of Vancouver grow? What kind of densities and uses should be introduced to areas that are predominantly low density?

These questions are pondered in various ways in the municipal government’s new online survey towards establishing the fine details of its Vancouver Plan, with key considerations to improving housing affordability and supply, orienting growth around public transit, providing new and improved civic services and amenities, fostering economic growth, and climate action and social issues.

As can be expected, the survey suggests the city’s growth will be centred around existing and future rapid transit services, with transit-oriented areas deemed typically about a 10-minute walking distance from stations.

It also suggests the direction of building more housing near retail areas, allowing more people to live within close proximity to services, businesses, and jobs.

The acceptable level of density — low-rise, mid-rise, and high-rise buildings — and the allowable area where such building forms should be allowed (such as proximity to a transit station) is queried.

The survey also presents the idea of introducing higher-density multi-family forms in single-family neighbourhoods along local side streets — off arterial roads. Currently, new residential density, including much of the city’s recently built or approved rental housing, has been largely built along arterial roads. While such buildings are strategically located next to transportation arteries and frequent transit services to better accommodate population growth, there are some concerns that such sites have noise, traffic, and air quality issues, and that housing development may displace existing small businesses.

However, new housing on local streets near arterial corridors would help bring more customers to sustain businesses in the area. Healthy retail districts require a critical mass of population within the vicinity.

As well, additional density — often only achievable through added height — is needed to make market rental and below-market rental projects more financially feasible, especially with the cost of land.

There is also an expectation from the provincial and federal governments that the City of Vancouver will add a significant number of residential and employment spaces next to major new and improved transit services in exchange for their investments. Forthcoming SkyTrain extensions are not only intended to address transportation issues but also to open up new housing supply possibilities and catalyze economic growth.

But it should also be noted that the Vancouver Plan does not replace various local community plans that were finalized over the past decade, including areas where growth can already be expected — near transit stations and retail areas, and along arterials. Much of the city’s future growth going forward is already identified by the West End Community Plan, Grandview-Woodland Plan, Marpole Community Plan, Cambie Corridor Plan, and the upcoming Broadway Plan, which will see its draft detailed plan released for public consultation next month.

Input from the online survey, available through November 25, 2021, will be used to create a detailed draft Vancouver Plan for a final round of public consultation before the Vancouver City Council reviews and decides on the plan in Summer 2022.

Following a direction by city council in late 2018 to initiate a city-wide planning process, city staff officially launched its efforts to create the Vancouver Plan in late 2019. City council initially provided city staff with an $18 million budget, including $7.5 million for public consultation, but some of this was later shaved off due to the pandemic’s financial impact on the municipal government. Once finalized, the Vancouver Plan is intended to help guide the city’s growth over the next 30 years.

Based on Metro Vancouver Regional District’s projections, the entire region’s population is expected to see one million more people over the coming decades, growing from 2.8 million today to 3.8 million by 2050. The number of homes will grow by more than 50% to nearly 1.6 million units, while the number of jobs will rise by over 25% to about 1.9 million jobs.

The Burrard Peninsula sub-region — entailing the cities of Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster — is expected to absorb roughly 33% of the region’s population growth, rising from 1.06 million today to 1.39 million in 2050. This sub-region is expected to see its number of homes rise by about 33% to 623,000 units, and employment grow by about more than 20% to 820,000 jobs. Increasingly, it is becoming apparent that Burnaby will account for a larger share of the Burrard Peninsula’s long-term growth.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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