News / Vancouver

Housing advocates call for density in wealthy neighbourhoods

Current zoning bylaws exclude average Vancouverites, says Abundant Housing Vancouver

Daniel Oleksuik of Abundant Housing Vancouver stands in front of a mansion in West Point Grey.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

Daniel Oleksuik of Abundant Housing Vancouver stands in front of a mansion in West Point Grey.

Looking up at some of the city’s largest mansions in Point Grey, Vancouver resident Daniel Oleksiuk, can’t help but think of the potential for affordable housing in the neighbourhood – if only the city would re-zone the area for higher density.

He will lead a walking tour on the slopes up from Spanish Banks with Abundant Housing Vancouver on Sunday in an effort to highlight how zoning can create neighbourhoods only accessible to the very wealthy.

“It’s an insane neighbourhood. It’s the clarifying extreme of what happens in a lot of the city,” said Oleksiuk.

“It represents the dynamics of exclusion through zoning, real estate as a wealth machine and the difficulty for people to get into the land market without a inheritance.”

Properties currently on sale on that slope are listed at the dizzying prices of $28 million, $19 million, and $16 million.

The area is zoned for single family houses – like 80 per cent of Vancouver – but what makes this particular swath of land so expensive is the lot size, he said.

Some of the lots are more than 35,000 square feet in size, which can fit nine Eastside single-family-house lots.

These are things the city can change, said Oleksiuk.

“Our estimate is this neighbourhood houses about 402 people. If it had the same density as Kitsilano, you could house 4,600. And if it had West End density, it could house 14,000 people.”

It’s time for Vancouver residents to decide what kind of city they want to live in, he said.

“Do we want to be a suburb of detached homes or do we want to be a dense modern city with apartments?”

It’s clear many people agree with Abundant Housing Vancouver.

This year, over 450 people say they are interested in attending, according to the
Facebook event page, compared to only 12 at last year’s walking tour, said Oleksiuk.

But re-zoning an entire neighbourhood to allow for denser types of housing doesn’t always have community support, said Dan Garrison, assistant director of housing policy at the City of Vancouver.

“Sometimes there is community opposition,” he said.

“There is certainly community support for maintaining [neighbourhood] character.”

The planning process can take anywhere from a year to three years, depending on the amount of community opposition and the technical requirements of assessing the neighbourhood, he said.

But the city has managed to re-zone some areas, including Marpole, Norquay, Kingsway, and Grandview-Woodland. The Oakridge neighbourhood plan is currently in the community consultation phase.

Densification, especially along transit corridors, is one of the “key strategies” the city is looking at to create more affordable housing, said Garrison.

The Broadway subway could open up the possibility of densifying neighbourhoods along the line, including Point Grey, he said. Any new neighbourhood plan would include guarantees for affordable housing, he added.  

That kind of policy does two things, he said. It creates more affordable housing, but it also dampens land speculation because it makes it clear that a significant portion of the land cannot be used to build market-rate housing.

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