Main Street has become a frontier for high-end real-estate development.

Whether at Little Mountain, 33rd Avenue, King Edward, 16th Avenue, Broadway, South East False Creek or the Downtown Eastside, the entire Main Street corridor has been re-imagined as the new horizon for redevelopment and increased rent extraction. Right in the center of Vancouver’s working-class heart, a precedent-setting new luxury condo is in its rezoning application phase, and has incited a battle between a large majority of concerned residents and an individual but well-heeled real-estate developer.

This past Tuesday Jan 16 2012, the City of Vancouver and the Rize Alliance presented an updated plan for the controversial redevelopment of Broadway and Kingsway. There are few changes to the plan since March of last year when at a consultation 90% of the community spoke out against it. The fact that now, post-election, the planning department is asserting its position against the wishes of the community and in favour of the developer is a sign that the political battle, the Public Hearing at City Hall, is just around the corner.

Rize Alliance

Rize’s current proposal consists of a nineteen storey tower with 241 units of market condos, one 85,000 sq. ft. retail space, and an underground parking garage of 320 spaces. On Tuesday, two major changes were announced: scrapping a proposed 9,200 sq. ft. artist-studio space, for a cash contribution to fund an off-site cultural or civic facility, and the removal of 15 market rental STIR units — the same program that the Vision Vancouver has consistently defended as a successful policy to build affordable housing. During the election campaign, Vision differentiated itself from the NPA by pointing to the STIR policy, and even called on voters to vote for Vision in order to defend STIR.

If the other project developed by Rize in Mount Pleasant and the current marketing material is any indication, the new condos will not be affordable to long-time residents living in the neighbourhood. New units in Rize’s OnQue, on the corner of Broadway and Quebec start at $349,000 for a 640 sq. ft. one bedroom. According to the most recent census figures, the average income in Mt. Pleasant is approximately $10,000 below the city’s average, or $37,000 a year.

On top of that, the 85,000 sq. ft. retail space is set to be filled with a new big box store that will place even more pressure on already struggling small businesses in the neighborhood and residents who cannot afford to pay for over-priced fruits and vegetables. Already businesses along Main are feeling pressure. Some are organizing fundraisers, some are moving east, and others are having their keys taken by the bailiff.

This Rize project and pressures faced on Mount Pleasant is a textbook example of gentrification, the result of which is the continued displacement of the largely low-income community who call the neighborhood home. This is part of the reason why the redevelopment of this particular site is drawing attention from both the neighbourhood itself and from the development community. If this project does go through despite significant opposition, it will set a major precedent for other large-scale projects throughout East Vancouver.

False opposition / false problems

The developer, City and some members of the community have framed opposition to the Rize Alliance project as one that is based primarily on height and not on affordability. After the initial meeting on March 20th, the developer lowered the height from 26 storeys to 19 and advertised that the site has been lowered by 27%. Upon looking at the at the new plans critically, a member of the Resident’s Assocation of Mount Pleasant showed that this was not the case. It is true that the highest floors of condo towers fetch the highest prices. But height is also a false problem, meant to distract and displace criticism from the real issue at hand: the gentrification of Mt. Pleasant and the rest of the Main Street corridor. The height of the tower is not nearly as important as the more tactile changes that will happen throughout the neighbourhood: namely, the loss of the existing affordable housing stock. Without affordability, Mount Pleasant will lose its businesses, buildings, and most importantly, its residents. It is true that the proposed Rize tower will “stand out” from its surroundings, but its abnormal size is not only aesthetically unattractive,  but is also a symptom of the ugliness of developer-council collusion.

The Eastside: the developer’s first frontier

Gentrification is already occurring in Vancouver and has been for some time. In Mount Pleasant, one memorable incident involved the redevelopment of the South-East corner of Main Street and Twelfth Avenue in 2004. When a few renters discovered that their homes had been bought by Holborn properties and that the buildings were going to be demolished and turned into a seven-unit townhouse, they burned their homes in protest.[1] Since then, developers have been more cautious. Yet we are beginning to see the future: the 3333 Main on 16th starts at over $400,000, and includes a New-Urban strip-mall with a Starbucks, TD Bank, and Shoppers Drug Mart.

For Vancouver’s real estate oligopoly, Vancouver’s Eastside has been re-imagined as the frontier of gentrification. The low land prices (the cost of development), and the lax zoning (additional height means an increased potential revenue), are such that profits are maximized. In many neighbourhoods, pilot projects have already been completed, heralding the sons & daughters of the Westside’s wealthy gentry. One of the best examples is the Woodwards buildings, which low-income Downtown Eastside residents fought against in anticipation of the changes we are now seeing — the eviction of the most hard-to-house tenants, up-zoning for luxury condominiums, and the erasure of history.

If Woodwards is the foundation for gentrification in the DTES, then the Waldorf is the flag planted in a the distant seat of power. The two represent two points on the axis of gentrification. The Waldorf is continually praised by Vancouver’s developer community as a “game-changer” in the neighbourhood. This month, Kris Rennie, Bob Rennie’s son, bought up Ted Harris Paints at 757 E. Hastings to convert into artist studios, while long-time collaborator of Bob Rennie’s, Bruno Wall, nephew of millionaire developer Peter Wall, is proposing the first large-scale condo development project in the area, two blocks away at 955 E. Hastings. The Malek’s, of Olympic Village fame, have bought a massive site for development across the street. Clearly, redevelopment and gentrification is a war of attrition fought on multiple terrains, yet the real everyday effects of redevelopment remain severe on the Eastside: evictions, displacement, and precarity become normative.

As it stands, the most profitable real-estate development possible is one that strategically attacks several frontiers throughout the City. One frontier of gentrification is Main Street, another is popping up and seeping out along Kingsway, another is the swarming around the Downtown Eastside. Affordable and social housing stock is a real and symbolic threat to the developer monopoly. It is seen as both potential capital and as real competition. On the one hand, traditional working-class neighbourhoods contain the lowest property values for developers to upscale for higher profits. On the other hand, the ideology of social housing is a threat to the belief that all housing should be commodified outright.

Mandated displacement

The City of Vancouver has implemented a few policies that are supposed to stop gentrification. There are zoning laws (called “Rate of Change Regulations”) prohibiting the conversion of rental apartment into strata condominiums. However, these laws fail to prevent rent increases, which are being experienced across the map, and they also do not stop landlords from evicting low-income tenants and replacing them with wealthier tenants. In fact, this phenomenon has become so commonplace that it now has its own moniker: renovictions.

When pressed by West End residents to stop these occurrances, Gregor Robertson claimed that there was nothing he could do.[2] Like so many problems the municipal government faces, he argued that evictions and displacement are not the problems of the City, but the provincial government.

But as redevelopment projects in this city have consistently shown, gentrification is a top-down project mandated by the City itself — instigated by developers but made possible by Robertson’s own government. At the best of times, the current Vision-Vancouver dominated council have ignored the phenomenon of gentrification, but more often than not the current council have fully embraced the project of gentrification as its official planning policy and political re-election strategy.

This strategy includes a massive influx of infrastructure in targeted neighbourhoods when there had previously been disinvestment. Spending on libraries, roads, parks, cultural programs and events are usually welcomed by Vancouver’s neighbourhoods, but the City has also implemented planning policies that aim to insert and legitimize large-scale, for-profit real-estate development throughout Vancouver’s Eastside. Often, cultural amenities are only possible when coupled with luxury real-estate, as in the case of the new Mt. Pleasant library at 1 Kingsway, which includes 98 units of unaffordable market housing. Municipal law states that as repayment to the community for what amounts to free money (or a taller building) real-estate developers must give back in the form of “amenity contributions.” In the case of Mt. Pleasant Library, the space often suffers from overcrowding and is clearly insufficient, limiting, and poorly designed for a book-hungry neighbourhood like Mt. Pleasant.

Two of the most important policy decisions currently aiding and abetting gentrification, are the City’s EcoDensity and Transit Oriented Development policies, both of which are being used to justify the Rize project. These policies, which allow more-than-normal injections of density on the premise of achieving “sustainability” are essentially economic incentives that geographically direct real-estate activity. They allow the construction of large towers on transit hubs whose existing zoning is set for low-rise development. The regular implementation of the policies by Vision Vancouver has essentially relaxed zoning regulations. Although blanket zoning by-laws do exist, in the past three years, extremely few (if any) large scale rezoning applications have been denied, because it is argued these projects make Vancouver more sustainable. But when developers can get whatever they ask for through spot rezonings, current zoning bylaws are moot. Rezoning exceptions become the redevelopment rule, while gentrification of entire neighbourhoods is accepted as the norm.

EcoDensity is a policy that was created and implemented by NPA Mayor Sam Sullivan. In connection with this policy, city planner Brent Toderian has effectively stopped residential construction downtown. Whereas Condo King Bob Rennie, the real-estate monopoly’s marketer-coordinator, has informed the industry that development can only “move east.” Three years later, this strategy is confirmed by statistics: East Vancouver has received more than its fair share of EcoDensity.

To maintain ‘social sustainability’, City governments need to make sure that evictions are not happening for economic reasons alone. One of Bob Rennie’s marketing taglines, “Be Bold, or Move to Suburbia,” is exemplary. Those who cannot afford condominiums will be economically evicted from the inner city. This is exactly the type of phenomenon — urban sprawl, commodification of the existing social housing stock and suburbanization — that urbanists, civic governments, environmentalists, and the poor themselves have been unanimously against. Instead, all forms of sustainability — social, economic, and environmental —  should be predicated on the principles of equality and justice — principles that affirm that everyone who lives here belongs here, that everyone has a right to housing, a right to the city, and the right to rebel against reactionaries who want to transform Vancouver into a resort town solely for the propertied classes. At this juncture, we are at threat of returning to a problem that planners and urban activist have been trying to fight and reverse for decades.

Proponents of the project argue that the added density in the new project will eventually deflate housing prices in Mount Pleasant. It is true that Mount Pleasant needs density. The lengthy wait-lists at any of the community’s co-op buildings attest to this. However, not all density is created equal. Ecodensity has not increased the over-all supply of affordable housing or reduced prices. Over the past 10 years, the supply of housing throughout the city has remained constant at about 4,000 (although it has dipped below that in recent years). What EcoDensity does is focus the new density on a few sites owned by developers who fund the political parties, so as to increase the profits of these specific developers. These sites are selected to be in low-income neighbourhoods so as to further increase profits. Those profits are kicked-back to the parties to again to finance the next campaign. Rize is a regular contributor to Vision Vancouver.

A tale of two cities: owners and own-nots

There’s a reason that throughout Vancouver’s history there has been the trope of a wealthy West-side and a working-class East-side. Geographical class distribution is apparent. Lower-income people lived happily in the East side of the city because they couldn’t afford to live in the West side. The real-estate boom has bolstered these divisions. Renters now pay upwards of 50-80% of their income on shelter, whereas homeowners have had their net worth more than double in ten years. In a neighbourhood the City has called one of Vancouver’s most important stocks of rental housing, the sides are heavily weighted against the ‘own-nots.’ Those who put forward filtering theory — that with new condo stock the price of re-sale condos will fall, making them affordable for local residents — cannot provide a single example of this happening in Vancouver’s history. We cannot wait for the neighbourhood to transform into an uptown Yaletown, and then question ourselves in ten years why prices never went down.

At Tuesday’s open house meeting, attended by two hundred and fifty people despite less than one week’s notice, the City also presented a review the Mt. Pleasant Community Plan. Planning staff at the meeting informed attendees that over 1700 people have submitted their opinion on the project, and that comments have been “overwhelmingly in support.” However, of the 1700 comments submitted by individuals, 60% were against and 40% in favour. As stated, at a consultation held in March of 2011, over 90% of residents were against the project at its original 26 storeys. The City is still taking comments on the project here.

You can also call the planning department to tell the city your opposition against the project:
Yardley McNeill, Rezoning Planner, yardley.mcneill@vancouver.ca, 604.873.7727

Finally, a letter writing night is scheduled at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall (2881 Main Street) this upconing Wedndesay the 25th, at 6pm.

References

[1] Jeff Lee, “Fire finishes off heritage houses,” Vancouver Sun, Sep. 28, 2004.

[2] Tiffany Crawford, “Mayor supports ‘renoviction’ victims at rally,” Vancouver Sun, Dec. 5, 2010.

19 Responses to Gentrification of Mount Pleasant: Developers, Displacement and Real-Estate’s New Frontier

  1. Ripley says:

    Interesting article, but it makes the same gigantic error as most other articles on gentrification in Vancouver: it assumes that without new development to buy, the rich will simply disappear instead of bidding up the price of other housing.

    Take Yaletown for example. If Yaletown had never been rezoned and existed in its underused 1980s state, the thousands of upper middle class inhabitants would have instead looked for housing elsewhere in Vancouver. Given their ability to outbid anyone with a lower income, do you really think that would have resulted in a more affordable Vancouver?

    “Often, cultural amenities are only possible when coupled with luxury real-estate, as in the case of the new Mt. Pleasant library at 1 Kingsway, which includes 98 units of unaffordable market housing.”

    Really? Luxury?

    I know several people in that building and they’re all under 30 and paying rent without the support of their parents. If you think $1250/month for, new concrete construction 1BR units with dishwashers, storage rooms, in-suite laundry, and an on-site property manager is unaffordable I’d love for you to take a look at prices in other major cities. Not to mention the excellent transit and variety of amenities in the area. Most people split the 1BR units with a partner or roommate resulting in quite cheap rent for the quality of housing.

    Also, the finishings are low-end and it’s a rental building – I expect it to be one of the most affordable options in the neighbourhood in 20-30 years, much like the rental towers in the West End are now.

    “Those who put forward filtering theory — that with new condo stock the price of re-sale condos will fall, making them affordable for local residents — cannot provide a single example of this happening in Vancouver’s history.”

    Take a look at the West End. The many old towers in the area weren’t the most affordable options in the area when they were first built, but they certainly are now.

    It’s also worth noting that the limits on new development you desire inhibit filtering – if the rich can’t buy new housing, they’re just going to renovate older buildings – see nearly everywhere in Manhattan for examples, and the 21 Doors project in the DTES for a local example.

    “Over the past 10 years, the supply of housing throughout the city has remained constant at about 4,000 (although it has dipped below that in recent years).”

    Not even clear what this means…

    “However, of the 1700 comments submitted by individuals, 60% were against and 40% in favour.”

    This excludes comments written by individuals then submitted by Rize – when you include those, I believe the proportions reverse. I wrote comments in support of this project at one of Rize’s open houses for the project, and I saw many other people doing so as well. These aren’t any less valid than the opposing comments solicited by RAMP but submitted individually.

    In conclusion, I really can’t understand the tendency among certain groups in this city to oppose new housing supply being provided near transit in walkable neighbourhoods. Even if you believe that filtering is nonexistent – which I don’t – I can’t think of any redistributive policy with more negative side effects for the environment and urban life. Where is the push for the West Side to densify, taking pressure off the East Side? Where is the push for using Community Amenity Contributions for actually progressive measures instead of subsidized artist studios and even more park space? Limiting the supply of market housing is a terrible strategy in the long-run; in any market, the rich will get their way if there is a limited supply of a desirable good.

    • Sean Antrim says:

      Hi again Ripley,

      “Interesting article, but it makes the same gigantic error as most other articles on gentrification in Vancouver: it assumes that without new development to buy, the rich will simply disappear instead of bidding up the price of other housing.”

      There are laws that are supposed to stop this from happening.

      “Take a look at the West End. The many old towers in the area weren’t the most affordable options in the area when they were first built, but they certainly are now.”

      If you’re saying that rents in the West End were expensive in the past, and that they are affordable now, please send some stats. As far as I can see, even with rent controls, like everywhere else in the city, rents are higher now than when they were built.

      Also, rental and condominiums don’t work the same way. In rental buildings there’s disinvestment (deadbeat landlords), and there isn’t in condos. Nobody is really trying to build rental in Mt. Pleasant, only condos. While rental might decrease in rent, this is because of rent control, and there is not a low-income people moving into the West End, just people paying less rent relative to inflation than elsewhere in the city.

      “Over the past 10 years, the supply of housing throughout the city has remained constant at about 4,000 (although it has dipped below that in recent years).”

      4000 units per year. If the City is really trying to increase density, it isn’t doing a very good job. The density you want isn’t being put through with EcoDensity and TOD, it’s being constrained by them. These 4,000 units are all unaffordable.

      As far as filtering theory goes, it’s put forward by people who are gung-ho about gentrification, and as I said, never ends up happening. I still challenge you to find one real example of it.

      • Ripley says:

        “There are laws that are supposed to stop this from happening.”

        I can only assume you’re talking about rent control, correct me if I’m wrong. I’d note that it only applies to existing renters – potential buyers are still completely able to bid up the prices on rental housing when people move, and on housing for sale.

        “If you’re saying that rents in the West End were expensive in the past, and that they are affordable now…”

        We must be using different definitions of filtering. Here’s mine, from the paper I cited earlier: “a dynamic process in which homes built for higher income families gradually deteriorate and filter down to households of lower income status”

        I think it’s fairly obvious that many of the towers in the West End meet that definition – as do many of the crappy suites in old houses that I’ve rented on the West Side.

        “4000 units per year. If the City is really trying to increase density, it isn’t doing a very good job.”

        I’m trying not to be snarky here, but really – you don’t see any connection between that low supply of new units and efforts like yours to prevent new units from being built? Nobody on the West Side is willing to let significant amounts of new housing be built in their neighbourhood. Ditto on the East Side, as you and RAMP have proven.

        You can try to maintain affordability through price controls on rent and limiting new market construction, but as I’ve indicated I’m more than a little skeptical about that working and think it’s going to have a lot of negative side effects. We’re probably not going to agree on that point, but can we at least agree that allowing significantly more new dense housing across the city (including the West Side) and compensating for any short-term regressive impact with cash transfers would be better policy than what we currently have?

        • B. Wall says:

          Ripley, my head is in the clouds too! (as in the condo clouds), my fingers are also crossed: someday, over the rainbow, these penthouse apartments from yaletown to mt. pleasant will house welfare recipients, the unemployed and the rest of Vancouver’s lumpenproletariat!

          thank god for filtering theory, thank god for that no-name syracuse urbanist, i thought i’ll never get my condo in the sky! who knew!

          ripley, believe it or not, i am with you on this one. who needs social housing, co-ops, rent-controlled apartments when you have upscaled condos that will one day metamorphosize into low-income palaces hovering in the ether

          if only there wasn’t a housing crisis right now…

  2. slantendicular says:

    I take it from your comments towards the end of the piece that what you support is more density more spread out? You mention the fees that developers pay in exchange for getting their density; instead of putting these towards the likes of parks and artist space should we be putting that money towards affordable housing?

  3. Althea says:

    “I know several people in that building and they’re all under 30 and paying rent without the support of their parents. If you think $1250/month for, new concrete construction 1BR units with dishwashers, storage rooms, in-suite laundry, and an on-site property manager is unaffordable I’d love for you to take a look at prices in other major cities. Not to mention the excellent transit and variety of amenities in the area. Most people split the 1BR units with a partner or roommate resulting in quite cheap rent for the quality of housing.”

    Um, $1250 a month is really expensive, for one person that is! That’s downtown prices! And who wants to live in a 1 bedroom with a roomate just to be able to have cheaper rent?! So $625 a month to sleep on a couch and not even have your own bedroom?! I guess that seems atrocious to me as my 1 bedroom garden suite in a funky old house is only $600 a month. Been there 4 years and my rent’s never gone up.

    “Nobody is really trying to build rental in Mt. Pleasant, only condos.”

    Nobody is trying to build rental in Vancouver, period. All new development caters to those who can afford to buy (or want to). Very little rental stock means landlords can charge what they want and get it. Development for rental purposes is just not built anymore and if it is, it’s for those on low incomes and people that make over X amount of money a year don’t qualify.

    • slantendicular says:

      Maybe it would be better if the law prevented condos from restricting the ability of unit owners to rent their properties. Then they could all -potentially- be rental units.

      • @Ashley_Realtor says:

        @slantendicular

        Just reading through comments & figured it was worth noting that something like what you’re suggesting was implemented in Jan. 2010 (does not impact strata buildings built prior to this).

        Developers now have the option to proactively protect purchasers’ rental rights for any amount of time into the future (whereas before this right would only be passed to the 1st owner – should the strata adopt rental restrictions, subsequent owners would not have a grandfathered right to rent out their property).

        Problem is… most of the “affordable” homes in the area (particularly the 25-35 year old condos) already have very strict rental restrictions and do not allow rentals at all.

        http://www.bcrea.bc.ca/news-and-publications/publications/legally-speaking/legally-speaking—february-2010-%28436%29

  4. Althea says:

    Good point, slantendicular.

  5. When it comes to Mt. Pleasant, the facts of modern urbanism come home to roost in my neighbourhood. We have prepared a study of the Vancouver Historic Quartiers to argue that there is a way to do density without towers, and without gentrification.

    http://wp.me/p1mj4z-tp

    Not just the Rise Tower, but the Mount Pleasant Community Plan fails to present a balanced vision of using incremental intensification to revitalize neighbourhoods, public spaces and streets. The list is longer than that, but that is a beginning.

  6. Adam Fitch says:

    I agree with most of what Ripley wrote, and disagree with much of what was written in the original piece.

    If you think that there are provincial or municipal laws to control the rate of rent increases, housing costs or rates of housing development, you are mistaken. There are provincial rent control laws, but as Ripley wrote, they are weak and limited.

    When a tenant moves out, the landlord can increase the rents as much as they like.

    Municipal rules on demolitions and conversions are policies, not laws. they are subject to local plitics.

    4000 new dwellings built in Vancouver a year, if that is true, is a lot. I would guess that it is more than any other city in Canada or the US, including Toronto, Montreal and Calgary. Those new units are what is keeping rent increases as low as they are, as Ripley said. There are way more than that number of people moving here, and they have the wherewithall and the drive to bid prices up. You cannot keep them out, as long as Vancouver is an attractive place to live with a great quality of living, any more than you can stop the tides.

  7. Adam Fitch says:

    AS to what Althea wrote: “Um, $1250 a month is really expensive, for one person that is! That’s downtown prices!”, what are you thinking? From a regional perspective, Mount Pleasant IS downtown. it is a 15 minute bike ride from downtown, for god’s sake. Most people moving here from outside the Vancouver region would see little or no difference between Mount Pleasant and the Downtown, and would be willing to pay the same or nearly the same rent.

    I don’t think rents in Vancover are so high. I rented a nice one bedroom apartment in Marpole lst year for $780, and there were lots of vacant apartments around the area. I think that the super low vacancy rate myth in Vancouver is a fallacy, at least right now. it is because of all the new condo construction that rates are kept down. Vancouver is a very popular place to live, and rents will just keep going up without new construction. You cannot stop that. To do so would be statism or socialism, and it is just not on in Canada.

  8. Adam Fitch says:

    As to the issue of no new purpose built rental being built in Vancouver, without subsidies, such rental housing has not been built anywhere in Canada or the US for the last 20 or 30 years, as far as I know. I would like to know if anyone knows of such housing being built anywhere.

    The fact is, the subsidies for purpose built rental housing were eliminated in the 80′s, and the condo boom has stepped in to fill that void. I do not know if it has filled it adequately or not.

    Don’t know about the idea of making a law that would prevent strata councils from not allowing or disallowing rentals. I think if such a law came in, the uncertainty would really impact the condo development business, the new stock supply would slow down, and it would defeat the purpose of boosing the supply and moderating tje rate pf rental rate increases.

  9. Paul says:

    1. Happy Bats was a video rental store with a selection of titles for sale. It’s safe to presume that its failure had more to do with the global collapse of that model of media distribution than with the rising cost of doing business in Vancouver.

    2. To the authors: where and how are the challenges of urban growth being dealt with in a way that addresses the concerns raised in this article? Where is residential development being done well in Vancouver?

    3. Density can take many physical forms; the buyers or renters coming to live in your/their neighbourhood don’t care which. If the Rize proposal is out of the question, the low-rise OnQue is objectionable, as is the larger 3333 Main, what should density look like? Keep in mind the reality of land cost in your answer.

    4. If density and larger-scale commerce does not belong at a transit hub like Kingsway and Broadway, where does it belong? As the city grows even more, where should it expand to?

    5. Using the OCP and the existing Rize proposal as guides, if you were the developer, what changes would you make to the Rize plan?

    • Sean Antrim says:

      1. I spoke with someone who had been working at Happy Bats. They said that they owed their landlord $30,000, and that instead of making a negotiation, they had all of their assets seized so they didn’t even have a chance to move to a smaller location (like the one they had moved out of because their business was doing so well).

      2. Since the 1950s, the City has built public and social housing to compensate for luxury market developments and keep prices low. The City itself has identified a need for 800 units of subsidized housing per year. This isn’t happening, arguably, there has been a net loss of social housing over the past four years. This report argues that in recent history there has been a loss of over 2800 units in BC: http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/2010/09/CCPA-BC-SPARC-Unpacking-Housing-Numbers.pdf

      3. I personally don’t care what the density looks like. I could care less about what the buildings look like. Gentrification is en geographical-economic phenomenon. What’s much more important is the rent/price that’s being extracted from the properties. All the ones on Main Street are multiples of what’s affordable for the average resident there.

      4. I don’t disagree, although I think we should be building density on West Side hubs too (like Cambie Street, Broadway and Macdonald, etc.). The City’s current strategy is to build housing it calls “affordable” that is less affordable than the housing it is displacing. We’re saying “middle class people can’t afford to live here!”, and building houses for the middle class where it will displace low-income people. This isn’t sustainable. Unless “larger scale commerce” means “big box stores”, which I don’t think we need more of in the City, especially not in a neighbourhood where residents say they don’t wan tit.

      5. I would have the price of the units geared to income. This might make it unaffordable for Rize to develop, but that’s only because the land value on that site has increased based on speculation that the City would allow. It increased in value by $2 million according to BC Assessment alone. The market price is probably much higher. I don’t mind the site being developed the way it is if it is made affordable, but as it is, the social costs are very high and the social benefit is almost non-existent. The project needs to be reconceptualized before it can be economically/environmentally/socially sustainable.

      • Paul says:

        The biggest challenge with gentrification is it’s a force driven by so many factors outside of any one group’s influence or control.

        For developers, the biggest challenge, as you can clearly see, is applying theory to practice. Neighborhood groups and, arguably, City Planners can freely navigate the theoretical realm without the challenge of applying any of it to practice. Practical application is the work of the developer.

        Smart community groups master the fine art of compromise as a negotiation tool. They also understand the basic economics of land value, financing parameters, and market fluctuation.

        It’s naive to measure success as the halting of a project. The land will simply lay fallow until the pressure of progress is strong enough to overwhelm community opposition. Real success is when all parties work together with a clear understanding of both the theoretical and practical implications of growth, change, and the application of social policy in partnership with a commercial venture. (Absolutely key is an understanding that no project can exist in a vacuum devoid of fundamental regional real estate economics)

        If relying primarily on theoretical ideals, there is a huge practical side that is being completely ignored to the peril of ALL PARTIES involved. (To see this at play, Google: vancouver Olympic Village)

  10. Kelvin says:

    Hi, I usually do not comment on sites like these, but since there hasn’t been any name-calling as of yet, I liked to chip in my two cents.

    I have yet to read anywhere any policies, recently, in Vancouver or in other booming Canadian city where it has alleviated housing costs (ownership/rent). Being a transplant from Toronto, I find that the costs are almost the same, it just depends on what you desire and expect.

    I find the main argument is usually from a long-term resident who are finding themselves being slowly pushed over to the edge of their income level. Yes it is sad, but in a market economy how do you solve that problem? One side, people would say they have a right to live there, but to what end; even with subsidies to help them stay? On the other hand, people would say since they can’t afford it any longer they should move; but to where?

    There are many places in Vancouver that are still ‘affordable’. One post mentioned Marpole. Yet, you hear howls from people on the Eastside saying there is nothing affordable. Yes, but only if you choose to stay there. I do believe everyone should have the right to shelter, but to be set upon staying in one area is naive. The world is fluid, people move around, and thats how communities develop and remain vibrant.

    Instead of talking about housing costs, I feel personally, there needs to be better jobs in Vancouver and more of them. If we do not go up the value-chain in industries, many of our workers will forever be in jobs that leave them behind in this city.

    Anyways, so much for my ramblings :)

  11. I’ve been living in Mt. Pleasant since I bought in 1988, and Vancouver since 1985. I care about how buildings look, but I care even more about how the public realm looks, feels and works. While I agree that gentrification is a fact of life, we have completed a one year study of the historic East End trying to show how it is possible to do revitalization at the neighbourhood scale without building towers. Mount Pleasant is the opposite shore of False Creek from the East End. The same principles can play here as well:

    http://sunnvancouver.wordpress.com/

    Our concept is that there should be a SUNN: Mount Pleasant; SUNN: West End; SUNN: Kitsilano; etc.

    My view on theory is that it is a necessary component of praxis. Theory-plus-practice equals praxis. The next iteration, the return loop if you will, where practice or results come back to inform, and redraw, the theoretical construct is just one of the aspects of planning in Vancouver that is failing us.

    I am not blind to the concept that if a building product looks just like a product in Hong Kong, then off-shore capital can invest here without having to eyeball the site. That has been happening since the late 1970′s. The point to be made is that it doesn’t need to happen “everywhere”. We can have a “tower zone” downtown, and we can have a different approach to neighbourhood intensification everywhere else.

    But, this is not happening.

    I also don’t buy into the east-west split. Gateway at the Canada Line Station on the north side of the river; the Cambie corridor; the Safeway site at Granville and 70th; Little Mountain; the Arbutus Mall; the Woodwards; Kingsway & Clark (Norquay); the Rise…

    This is the same CD1 cancer spreading over our city.

    Another troubling sign is that the Rise tower symbolizes 50% of the “Tower and Skytrain” formula. If you don’t care what a building looks like, ask yourself this question: what do you want Broadway to look like? Terminal Avenue? Or, False Creek when they were running the Olympic Tram?

    I vote for the latter.

    It’s a no-brainer for me. Skytrain blights the neighbourhoods it crosses. The Rise is the thin-edge of the wedge of putting Skytrain on Broadway, and more towers around all the stations.

    If you don’t care what a building looks like, do you want Broadway & Main to look like Metrotown? Because that’s the option that is very much alive, and on the table right now.

    I am speaker #51 at the Public Hearing. Here I am rehearsing some ideas for discussion and feed back. I will be speaking against the Rise Tower, and what it stands for. But, I will also link the Rise Tower to the 2-year neighbourhood planning process that introduced “the tower” in the last two months.

    I encourage others to denounce this as a “tactic” as well.

    The Mt. Pleasant Plan is flawed for the reason that I mentioned earlier—It looks at the community one building at a time.

    It takes no notice of the resulting quality of the public realm. It is oblivious to the fact that Main & Broadway—where the plan intends to land density—are choking with pollution, high volumes of traffic, and conditions dangerous for pedestrians.

    Adding Skytrain to that mix will simply take the 99-B-Line off the street, creating more space for more cars, more pollution, and more threat to human safey. Don’t even worry about it, given more space the cars will come.

    Not only did the Mt. Pleasant Plan fail to identify the logical product for local intensification (for example, the 4-storey; fee-simple; row house), but it failed to call for the revitalization of Mt. Pleasant arterials… which are more numerous than simply “Main & Broadway”.

    In the Mt. Pleasant plan—and I will have to look at it again after 6 months to see if any of the major assumptions have shifted—the community is boiled down to sites along two arterials that can be put over-the-barrel for implementing Skytrain.

    The result will look like Surrey Centre, Downtown New West, or the coming Evergreen Line TODs (Port Moody & Coquitlam Town Centres). Places that I really don’t like…

    Here in one of the oldest neighbourhoods in our region, the modern planning paradigm will wreak havoc with the values of community and the values of place.

    I don’t see the opportunity to “cut a deal”. The tower must be laid on its side. The planners have failed us. Transit implementation should be used as a tool for the revitalization of the public realm.

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