The City of Vancouver has approved a new zoning policy that will permit the construction of duplexes in 99 per cent of single-family neighbourhoods.
The seven to four vote saw Mayor Gregor Robertson, all five Vision Vancouver councillors and Hector Bremner support the policy, while three Non-Partisan Association (NPA) councillors and Green Coun. Adriane Carr voted against.
“The decision by Council to make it legal to build duplexes in single family neighbourhoods across Vancouver is one more step we’re taking to boost the right supply of housing for people who live and work in Vancouver,” said Robertson in a statement.
“This is not a silver bullet for Vancouver’s housing challenges, but we have to deal with the fact that more than half of the City’s land base is zoned exclusively for single family homes – homes that are out of reach for the overwhelming majority of residents.”
The vote came after two days of contentious public hearings. More than 70 people signed up to speak to council, while close to 500 people submitted written comments. More than 300 of those were opposed, while 186 were in support.
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The zoning change grew out of the city’s Making Room program, announced back in June, which seeks to address the affordable “missing middle” in the city’s housing options.
The city is hoping to add 10,000 new housing units for middle-income residents in the next decade.
However, many speakers attending Wednesday’s meeting said they felt that council was trying to fast-track a contentious policy just weeks before an election that many of them would not be standing in.
“This vote pretty much sums up Vision Vancouver’s 10 years in power,” tweeted NPA Coun. George Affleck after the the policy was approved.
“Why listen when they can just ram things through.”
“I’m concerned that the city is trying to rezone all of the single family lots in Vancouver with minimal consultation with the existing communities,” said one speaker on Wednesday.
“The manner in which this was undertaken has been, as I said, haphazard, last minute, and there are just, again, a whole spectrum of opportunities for public participation in the planning process that have been entirely overlooked,” said another.
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Others argued that the change is a supply-side attempt by the city to keep up with insatiable global demand, and warned it would spark a speculation frenzy.
That’s something housing experts like Tom Davidoff, with UBC’s Sauder School of Business dispute.
Davidoff argued increasing supply a crucial part of the formula to begin reining in prices. He said the rezoning will finally take away some the control which has allowed single family homeowners to block changes neighbourhood that might otherwise evolve into denser housing.
“You’re not helping people in need with half duplexes, let’s not kid ourselves,” said Davidoff.
“What you are doing is setting a precedent and saying single family homes are never going to be affordable to middle class households in Vancouver again, so don’t try. Lets recognize that we need greater density.
“If the neighbours aren’t crazy about it they can make a profit and sell, but they don’t get to dictate what happens next door.”
The city says that about 67,000 single family lots comprising 52 per cent of Vancouver’s landmass are now eligible for duplexes.
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Neighbourhoods like Strathcona, Kitsilano and Grandview Woodland had already permitted duplexes. They are now joined by west side neighbourhoods such as Dunbar, Kerrisdale and West Point Grey.
Aside from permitting duplexes, the new zoning does not allow for any increase in height or density on a property.
A report on the potential of allowing row houses, townhouses and low-rise apartments in low-density neighbourhoods is due to come before council next summer.
-With files from Ted Cherneki