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Shaughnessy property owners compare high-density housing to slave ships

A rant in a property owners' newsletter laments that working class people expect to be able live in Vancouver

A house in Shaughnessy.

Jen St. Denis/Metro

A house in Shaughnessy.

The residents of one of Vancouver’s wealthiest and most historic neighbourhoods appear to be hot under the collar about the City of Vancouver’s latest housing plan, which emphasizes adding secondary suites and laneway houses to single-family lots.

In the latest Shaughnessy Property Owners’ Association newsletter, Mik Ball writes that Mayor Gregor Robertson’s recent rhetoric that Vancouverites of all incomes should be able to find a place to live has given lower-income people some unrealistic ideas.


“The notion underlying this right is that anyone who wants to live in Vancouver should be able to, regardless of their ability to compete in the housing market,” Ball writes.

“This is a major departure from past decades where people who could not afford a home in Vancouver left for the more affordable suburbs. Young working class people were content with the idea that you moved in order to find 'affordable' housing.”

Ball takes aim at the City of Vancouver’s plan to offer incentives to homeowners to add additional suites or laneway houses on their single family lots. The city recently backed away from a proposal to limit the size of a new home when a property owner tears down an older home. The policy was intended to protect heritage houses, but was criticized for being too restrictive.

But the city does want to move ahead with a plan that would include further “gentle density” in single-family neighbourhoods, as well as ensuring new housing includes units priced to different income ranges.

“The Mayor has announced further intentions to densify single family neighbourhoods to allow greater numbers people to be shoe-horned into them, so that they can enjoy their 'right' to an 'affordable' home within the city's environs. The fact is, however, that the more people who exercise this 'right', the more unaffordable homes will become,” Ball writes.

“The result puts one in mind of the 'dense pack' strategy of early 18th century slavers, wherein they struck upon the idea of stacking their human cargo like cordwood in the hopes of increasing profits. The result was an increase in mortality that did exactly the opposite of what was intended.”

Shaughnessy, a neighbourhood of heritage mansions built on very large lots, is protected under a special heritage designation that prevents owners from tearing down houses or subdividing lots.

Some Twitter users pointed out this isn't the first time Vancouver city regulations have been compared to slavery: 

Others were reminded of the infamous "creme de la creme" comment made by a member of the Arbutus Corridor Residents Association way back in July 2000 to explain why the group opposed a proposed Skytrain line through the corridor (which would have passed through the pricey neighbourhood of Kerrisdale, near Shaughnessy).

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