Penny Gurstein on a City-Wide Plan

Friday’s Vancouver Sun featured an op-ed by Penny Gurstein, one of the co-principle investigators of the Housing Justice Project.  In it, she emphasizes Vancouver’s need for a city-wide plan to manage growth in the city.  Unlike other municipalities, Vancouver is not mandated to have an official community plan.  The absence of such a plan, argues Gurstein, has led to piecemeal rezonings, uncertainty in the planning process, and a lack of focus on creating a just city.  Vancouver’s success was built upon creative public engagement processes such as City Plan, now over twenty years old.  “A city-wide plan could be the start of a much needed dialogue on what such a just community would entail, and how planning could address the equitable and sustainable allocation of resources and growth within our city, and beyond its boundaries.”

Read the full article here: The Vancouver Sun

This Week in Housing News: Vancouver Loses Development Court Case

Emery Barnes Park land swap with developer, City of Vancouver thrown out by courts

In a high-profile decision, the BC Supreme Court ruled that the City of Vancouver did not adequately inform the public regarding a land swap deal which would have resulted in the creation of social housing units in Yaletown.  The full decision can be found here.  (CBC)


Micro-condos promoted as ‘affordable luxury’

How small are you willing to go for affordability?  A new style of micro-condo units in a concrete tower in Surrey are being marketed as an affordable way for buyers to enter the housing market.  The units feature unique space-saving strategies like fold-out beds and smaller appliances.  (CBC)


What’s so smart about unaffordable housing?

Is there a trade-off between dense, “smart” cities and affordability?  The recent Demographia survey ranking Vancouver as the second most unaffordable housing market in the world suggests that anti-sprawl measures such as the Agricultural Land Reserve are driving up prices, to the detriment of livability and young people.  (Globe & Mail)

Upcoming Events: Jim Green Memorial Lecture & Tom Burrows Exhibit

Jim Green Memorial Lecture

Margot Young will be speaking on a panel about building a legacy of social housing in Vancouver, as part of an event commemorating former Vancouver City Councillor Jim Green.  The event will take place at SFU Woodwards on February 26, at 7:00pm.  The panel will be hosted by City Councillor Geoff Meggs, and will feature three other housing experts.  (SFU)


Conversations: Tom Burrows Exhibit

On January 29 and February 27, 2015, 1-2 pm, UBC’s Belkin Art Gallery will be hosting a dialogue around the Tom Burrows exhibit.  Margot Young will be speaking on February 27, on “Contested landscapes / Forms of justice and activism,” along with a professor from the UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.  (Belkin Art Gallery)

This Week in Housing News: Margot Young’s CTV Interview and Cheap Mansion Living

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Margot Young: Affordable Housing in Vancouver on CTV

Housing Justice Project principle co-investigator Margot Young was interviewed on CTV Vancouver regarding Demographia’s recent survey ranking Vancouver the second most unaffordable housing market in the world again, after Hong Kong.  Vancouver’s affordability situation is especially dire due to a disconnect between low local wages, and high housing costs.  (CTV)


Low-Rent Mansion Living? In Vancouver? Really?

Vancouver’s housing crisis has forced those seeking housing to find creative ways of entering the market.  So, why not get your group of friends, pool your resources, and live together in a mansion?  The Tyee profiles one group of friends living in a $5 million mansion overlooking the Fraser River,  complete with six bedrooms.  (The Tyee)

Ransford: Single-family zones could solve shortage

One of the potential pieces of the puzzle to achieving more affordable housing in Vancouver, says Bob Ransford in the Vancouver Sun, may be to reconsider the role of single family-zoned residential neighbourhoods, RS-1.  Could streamlining the reclassification of traditional single family residential neighbourhoods allow the City to densify its largest lots? (Vancouver Sun)

Margot Young Interviewed on Co-op Radio

Housing Justice’s Margot Young spoke on Vancouver’s Co-op Radio, 100.3 fm, about the legal right to housing today.  On a special episode of the Common Law Radio show focused on the law around rental housing, Margot was featured along with Jill Atkey of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association.  Margot spoke about the constitutional basis of the right to housing, highlighting the Tanudjaja case in Ontario.

Listen to the broadcast here:  Common Law Radio.  Margot’s segment begins at 39 minutes.


Penny Gurstein Speaks at Grandview-Woodlands Citizens’ Assembly

Penny Gurstein, co-Principal Investigator of the Housing Justice Project, spoke to the Grandview-Woodlands Citizens’ Assembly on December 15, providing her expertise on the topic of affordable housing.  As the Citizens’ Assembly focuses more on specific policy recommendations, the provision of affordable housing and preventing displacement are major priorities.

Penny’s remarks are summarized below:

Penny Gurstein, a professor with the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, began by questioning some assumptions. She said density does not necessarily create affordability, especially in a property market like Vancouver’s. “This has become a mantra that we need to be looking at very, very carefully.”

Gurstein said Vancouver has advantages, such as a sympathetic lender in Vancity and a robust non-profit housing sector. But she noted that the key tool in Vancouver is the community amenity contribution. These are public benefits negotiated by the City of Vancouver and the developer of new projects, usually in return for increased density. Gurtstein said these are often used for other benefits [such as daycares and arts venues], and that a study by the Housing Justice project [] at UBC suggests that from 2010 to 2012 only a couple hundred units of affordable housing were created in this manner.

The municipality of Whistler, she said, has used its housing authority effectively to develop housing geared toward those who work in the resort, and there are other international models. Vancouver’s own move earlier this year create a housing authority, she added, may improve the municipality’s performance.

The real issue, she said, is high land costs, noting that the City of Vancouver holds a lot of land that it sometimes rents for a nominal value. Gurstein pointed also to the community land trust model, where escalating land values are essentially taken out of the equation in developing new housing.

When asked if enough attention is paid to small-scale affordable rental available in private residences, Gurstein said such landlords sometimes see themselves as social service providers, and that the federal government has at times provided tax incentives to create such rental housing, but they generally aren’t treated as others are in the provision of rental housing. Andrew Pask added that about three-quarters of Grandview-Woodland’s rental stock was purpose built, and 20 to 25 percent is available as secondary suites or condominiums that are being rented.

The full record of the proceedings from the December 15 Citizens’ Assembly meeting can be found here: Granview-Woodlands Citizens’ Assembly.