The key to creating affordable Vancouver homes: more diversity

Vancouver’s Yaletown district | BCBusiness
Vancouver’s Yaletown district.

Rigid city real estate regulations are hampering the ability of housing developers to meet demand, panelists claim

A panel of housing experts, including some of Vancouver’s largest developers, is convinced that increased diversity in housing options would alleviate the lack of affordability for buyers.
From micro-lofts to laneway homes, there is overwhelming interest from buyers to consider non-traditional options, but the City of Vancouver isn’t willing to relax current regulations, “which would make it easier for us to create that housing diversity for the demand that is going to be there, ” said Bob Ransford, communications consultant and urban designer at Counterpoint Communications and a panellist in Friday’s Board of Trade presentation on Vancouver’s affordability gap.
Without above average income, the chances of owning a home in the Lower Mainland look increasingly slim, an argument that was further backed by a Vancouver Sun interactive affordability map published Friday, which showed that a family with a gross income of $80,000—Vancouver’s average—could not afford to buy a home in three-quarters of Metro Vancouver neighbourhoods.
Speaking at Friday’s Board of Trade presentation, panellist and developer Robert Fung, president of the Salient Group, stated that the City needs to allow more flexibility with housing regulations and to stop using them to try to solve social problems. “I’m a firm believer in permissive policy with discretion on a municipal level,” he said. “What drives us as developers is demand and finding opportunities to provide what people really want versus mandating forms that are not in response to the market, but in response to a political voice.”
The City’s community vision plans came under intense criticism by the panel for both the manner in which they were conducted and the unrealistic response by residents. Citing the West Point Grey vision plan, Ransford remarked that after four long years of consultations, what the plan ended up with was nothing more than duplexes; no townhouses and no single family subdivisions. Noting that residents said they wanted increased transit, affordable housing and arterial development but then overwhelmingly rejected towers, he said that “they wanted their cake and to eat it too.”  
Rather than the City asking communities how they want their neighbourhood to change, which implies that change is not inevitable in an increasingly crowded city, a more effective way would be for the City to be honest and to start discussions by saying  “your neighbourhood is going to change” and “how do you want to do that?” said Jon Stovell, president and CEO of Reliance Properties. “Once you present people with hard truths and hard facts, they will then get down to work to try to mitigate and optimize whatever they get out of it.”