Experts say new thinking needed to ease Metro Vancouver housing crisis

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WATCH: Two housing experts say it's time the city of Vancouver started to think about using land differently, to ease its affordability crisis. Tanya Beja reports – Nov 22, 2016

When Doug Langford looks around Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood he sees zoning bylaws standing in the way of affordable housing.

“I see lost opportunity, I see a chance for us to do something better than what’s been the status quo for a long time,” he said.

A homebuilder, Langford wants the city to change its approach to single-family lots, allowing properties to be carved into multiple units rather than just basement suites that are rented or resold.

“I’m not saying that we should be building 40-storey high-rises in a residential neighbourhood like here in Kitsilano, but we could make it a duplex or a triplex and still maintain the character of the neighbourhood,” he said.

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Vancouver’s housing bylaws only allow single-family property owners to build laneway homes or secondary suites for rental.

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But the city is densifying some neighbourhoods. Nearly a quarter of single-family lots in the Cambie Street corridor are being considered for townhouses. Fifty-three acres in Marpole are also rezoned for the same.

Real estate developer Bob Rennie says “we’re not going to solve problems, unless we deal with new models. The old models aren’t working.”

Rennie wants the city to create rental-only zones around major transit hubs. Land in those zones would be worth half that of other condo properties, allowing builders to charge lower rent.

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“If we want people that work in the city to live in the city, we going to have to increase our rental stock,” he said.

Real estate experts say it’s time for zoning issues to be taken out of municipal hands.

“I think what the province needs to do is step up, and revise the municipal charters and say, ‘Sure, you have power over zoning, but if the zoning you implement bans excludes 95 per cent of Canadian from owning a property in a neighbourhood that’s not going to stand a legal challenge,” Tom Davidoff of UBC’s Sauder School of Business said.

– With files from Tanya Beja


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