Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The City in 2050: Mayor Gregor speaks to ULI

As many of you know, over the years I have had a close association with the Urban Development Institute, having served as both local and national presidents. For this reason, some questioned why I would join the Urban Land Institute (ULI) which is very active in the US and for the past few years has had a chapter in Vancouver.  It's because it also brings together a broad cross-section of people in the planning and development communities.

Next week, the Mayor will be speaking at ULI and while I will have to miss him since I must attend a University of Calgary WCDT Board meeting in Calgary that day, I expect it will be an interesting talk, especially for those in public and private sector planning, and the development industry.  I'm sure he'll be talking about affordable housing, amongst other things.....Here are the details.


Gregor RobertsonThe City in 2050
Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Time: 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm (11:30 am registration)
Location: Vancouver Convention Centre West

Don't delay if you want reserved table seating at our upcoming event with Mayor Gregor Robertson, moderated by Emmy award-winning Chris Gailus, News Hour Anchor, Global BC Television. Full tables (10 people) are available for  $720 (if purchased by ULI member) or $850 (if purchased by non-member), as well as half tables. Call our ULI BC office at  (604) 761-8060  for information and registration.

Please join us for lunch and an exclusive look at what's on Vancouver City Hall's horizon, as Mayor Robertson outlines his vision for Vancouver, followed by a question and answer session, as part of ULI's The City in 2050 series.

Interested in volunteer or sponsorship opportunities?
Contact our ULI BC office for more information:  604-761-8060  |

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The trouble with Condos..especially older Condos!

Daphne Bramham's excellent column in today's Vancouver Sun has prompted me to publish a story outline I drafted earlier this year. Unfortunately, I don't have the time at the moment to follow up on this, but hopefully Daphne and other writers will.

Recently there have been various legislative changes, court decisions and  stories in the Vancouver Sun and other media that could have a significant impact on condominium living. These include:
  • Deficiency reports: A new requirement that a strata corporation prepare a 'Deficiency Report' that describes the condition of the building or complex, along with a maintenance and repair strategy and financial plan. While the strata corporation is not legally obligated to undertake the repairs, I expect many will do so, sometimes at considerable cost. Furthermore, these reports are likely  to be requested by prospective purchasers, and this could impact property values...upwards and downwards depending on the building condition and financial reserves;
  • Approval for sale of entire project: a court recently ruled that in the case of a building or complex in very poor condition (that might more reasonably be demolished, rather than fixed) 100% of the owners must agree to  the sale. A pending sale to a developer who wanted to redevelop the site was therefore cancelled. The future of the complex is now very uncertain.  Furthermore, there are many other older buildings and complexes that may cost more to fix than they are worth. In some instances, low density propjects might be sold for considerably more as a development site than as individual units.  Australia recently indicated a willingness to consider a change in the percentage of owners who must agree to a sale, and other jurisdictions are reviewing their requirements, since it is usually impossible to get 100% of the owners to agree on anything!
  • Insurance claims: stories regarding building repairs that reveal that residents can be liable for significant costs when they cause damage to other units. While there may be insurance, often the deductible is in the tens of thousands of dollars. One Vancouver condo owner had to pay a $60,000 deductible after his tenant caused damage to suites below.
  •  Changes to strata bylaws related to smoking and other matters: another story noting that 91% of the owners of a condominium project voted to make their building smoke free...even within the suites! While I am not a smoker, I can sympathesize with condo owners who do smoke and may be facing a smoking their own suite!
I expect these legislative changes, court decisions and related publicity may cause a number of people to reconsider whether to buy into a condominium project, especially an older building that has not been well maintained. So what are the options?

Fee-simple developments: A new option could be individually owned 'fee simple' row houses. In May, the province amended legislation to make it easier for developers to build 'fee simple' row houses, whereby each purchaser owns his own unit outright, without having to be part of a condominium. At a recent legal workshop at which I spoke on the topic, some people questioned whether it might be possible to convert existing condominiums into a fee-simple form of ownership. While this will be difficult in most cases based solely on the recent legislative changes, if other legislative changes were made, and municipalities were supportive, this could be a viable option for many condominium rowhouse owners.

As announced earlier this month, the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force City is recommending that the City accommodate higher density single family housing and additional low-rise multi family in 'transition zones' behind arterials and near transit and community services. This could result in new alternatives to condominium living.

Other BC municipalities are also taking a new look at creating opportunities for additonal multi-family housing and alternative housing choices.  Recently I spoke to the Tri-Cities mayors, councillors and staff on the future look of suburban density.

While the condominium is by no means dead, I do believe that it is important that existing owners and potential buyers be aware of both the advantages and disadvantages of this form of housing and the alternatives that may be forthcoming.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Some pumpkin carving ideas. (Warning, some carvings may be offensive to some viewers!)

It's almost Halloween so here are a few pumpkin carving ideas, along with  ways to dress up your pumpkins. I hope you are inspired! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Free Public Lecture: SFU/CMHC Retrofitting for zero energy! October 24, 2012

The Now House — Retrofitting for Zero Energy
October 24, 7 pm
SFU Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Admission is free, but reservations are required. Reserve

A lot of focus has been placed on how to build homes that are increasingly more energy efficient and sustainable. But what about the existing stock of older homes across the country? In 50 years, two-thirds of our housing stock will still be here and housing is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Join Lorraine Gauthier as she explores the approach behind the Now House® — the retrofit of a 60-year-old post-war house in an established neighbourhood in Toronto and its transformation into a net zero energy home. Just like a typical city house, the Now House® is connected to, and uses energy from, the local utility. However, unlike typical homes, the Now House® produces energy to send to the utility company. On an annual basis, the home produces as much energy as it consumes, resulting in a net zero energy bill. Based on this success, the The Now House™ project team teamed up with Windsor Essex Community Housing Corporation to bring sustainable thinking and design to five similar wartime houses in Windsor. Come and discover how the Now House® offers a vision and a practical, affordable approach that can be applied to homes across the country. Panelists include Michael Geller, architect, planner, and developer; and Dr. Guido Wimmers, director, Canadian Passive House Institute.

Sponsored by CMHC and SFU Continuing Studies (City Program).

Monday, October 15, 2012

Density in the name of sustainability and AffordabilityREDUX!

Since the 900 Block East Hastings proposal is going to Public Hearing tomorrow, and I've been asked to comment on a forthcoming article by Frances Bula on the development, I've decided to reprint a very lengthy, but hopefully relevant blog post from earlier this year.


"What the hell is going on in this city?"

This is the question asked of me earlier this week by someone looking at the developer's illustration in the Vancouver Courier of the proposed Rize Development at Broadway and Kingsway "It just looks too big!" she said.

Two weeks earlier I had a call from someone concerned about a proposed new development in the 900 Block East Hastings Street across from the Ray-Cam Community Centre. He had just seen a rezoning sign proposing a 6 FSR development along a portion of a street presently populated by one and two level industrial buildings. "I like the idea of housing in this area", he said," but why would a developer or the City even consider 6 FSR in an area like this?" (As an aside, I'm told the density is necessary to support the city demands for additional light industrial space and social housing to be donated by the developer to the City.)I must say I understood my friends' concerns. Especially since I too have recently been disturbed about the significant increases in height and density for a number of approved and proposed developments scattered around the city. It was not that long ago that 6 FSR was the highest residential density permitted in the city, generally restricted to the Georgia Street Corridor. Recently the City has approved projects at almost three times this density. And now there is a proposal for 6 FSR on East Hastings! If it's acceptable in the 900 Block, is it acceptable for the adjacent ten blocks?The recently sold-out Marine Gateway development will be more than twice as tall as the Langara Gardens towers at 57th and Cambie, which have always been considered out of scale with that part of the city. (In the interest of full disclosure, I managed the successful rezoning for the fourth rental tower at Langara Gardens in the 80's, arguing at the time that yes, the buildings were out of scale, but does it really matter whether there are three or four towers, noting the need for more rental housing in the area and a resulting FSR of only 1.15.)

The STIR project at 1401 Comox proposed a 7.5 FSR on a site zoned for 1.5. While I support the idea of density bonuses to achieve new rental housing, even new market rental housing, I could not endorse a project at 5 times the permitted FSR, regardless of the merits of the design, talent of the architect, or community spirit and capability of the developer.On Main Street, the proposed redevelopment of the Little Mountain property is at an overall 'gross' density that in my opinion is too high for the area. It's higher than what the City approved for the Bayshore development in 1993. The late Jim Green, who worked as a community advocate for the project felt the same way, but argued the higher density was necessary to support the new social housing and other community benefits being expected by the City and community. He also pointed out that the Province was expecting a substantial payment for the land although he always stressed that neither I nor the public knew just how much the developer had offered to pay for the property. This was correct.

In each of these cases, the justification for heights and densities significantly higher than what would have been considered acceptable by architects, planners, and the general public a decade ago include:
  • the City is demanding community amenities (rental housing, social housing, commercial space, artists' live work space, daycare, etc.) or financial contributions in cash, which is pushing the higher densities;
  • higher densities are more 'sustainable'...and sustainability is an important goal for the city;
  • the higher densities are necessary to achieve more affordable housing;
  • all but Little Mountain had the unanimous, or almost unanimous approval of the Urban Design Panel.
Now, I happen to agree that increased amenities are essential if we are to accommodate increased growth. I also agree that 'sustainable development' especially close to transit is a good thing. And as a longstanding advocate for achieving more affordable housing choices through higher densities, I cannot disagree with the third bullet. So what's my problem?

Ironically, what prompted me to write this post was not just those people questioning the Rize, Hasting Street, Comox Street or Little Mountain developments. It was a conversation I had this past week at City Hall with City planners who asked what I thought of allowing higher densities and larger highrise floorplates than have historically been approved in Vancouver.

The floorplate of a building is the area of each floor. For decades the maximum for a highrise building has been around 570 square meters, which has resulted in Vancouver's 'skinny point-block towers' so often admired by visiting architects and planners. This was the size established for Downtown South, most of Coal Harbour and the North Shore of False Creek.

In a typical Vancouver building, approximately 70 square meters of the floorplate is taken up by elevators, stairs, corridors and mechanical shafts. The remaining area can then be divided up into suites. The ratio of the saleable or leasable area to the total building area is referred to as the building efficiency. In Vancouver, the efficiency of most buildings when factoring in the area of enclosed balconies and in-suite storage space is around 85%. This is less than larger buildings found in most other locales. Also, the point-block building form with extensive exterior wall relative to the building area is more expensive to build.

In recent years we have seen some notable exceptions to the smaller floorplate guideline. For example, the Woodwards Tower is much larger. (Fortunately the decorative metal designs that were to be a framework for greenery climbing up the building offset some of the bulk of this building.) The Shangri-la Tower is bigger, but its triangulated shape and overall height help minimize its bulk. Other recently approved buildings such as Telus Garden are also larger.

If you travel outside of Vancouver you can find many much larger, or may I say fatter buildings. eg: the towers in New Westminster above the SkyTrain station just north of Westminster Quay. While providing more affordable housing next to transit and an array of commercial facilities, these buildings are big...very big.
What prompted the question from the City planners is that they are now being asked to approve increasingly larger floor plates in order to improve building efficiency and affordability. The Planning Department is not just looking at fattening the towers; it is also being asked to consider alternative building forms such as larger double loaded slab buildings that are so common around Toronto and other cities. Unlike Vancouver's slender pointblocks, these buildings can easily be twice or three times the floorplate size and much more efficient and cost effective.
In principle, I support double loader corridor slab buildings up to say ten storeys. However, I don't really want to see the huge slab buildings that one sees driving into downtown Toronto from the airport.
One of the planners responded how ironic it was that I, once considered the developer terrible around City Hall for decades for proposing highrises and various rezonings for higher density four storey apartments along Vancouver arterials, now shared their concerns!

I think the time has come for a full public discussion on just how far Vancouver should deviate from its past practices when it comes to building form and density. Should we forego the slender point blocks? Should we permit Toronto sized slab buildings around the city in the name of affordability ? At what point do we trade off the form, massing and appearance of buildings in order to achieve greater 'sustainability? When is too much density too much?

This is a discussion that needs to take place not just on the pages of the Vancouver Sun and other community newspapers, or at politically charged Public Hearings. These discussions need to occur in the corridors of UDI, the Architectural and Planning Institutes, and our universities.

I hope that people like Gordon Price, Brent Toderian, Larry Beasley, Bob Ransford, Sam Sullivan and others will join into conversations about how much our city should change in the decades to come and what building forms and densities are appropriate in the name of affordability and sustainability. I would also like to see more on-line discussions at Fabula, City Caucus, the Vancouver Observer, The Tyee, and other similar venues.

Looking at plans for some of the new developments in the pipeline, I personally think my friends are right in asking what is going on in our city. I hope this post may help keep the conversation going.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Townhouses: maybe not a solution to housing woes, but a much needed option

A couple of years ago, I woke up on my birthday to find a mean spirited op-ed in the Vancouver Sun criticizing my attitude towards socially mixed communities. I was not happy.

I was therefore much happier, on this my 65th birthday, to come across another newspaper article, this time by Gary Mason in the Globe and Mail, mentioning me and addressing a topic near and dear to my heart; building more affordable housing choices in Vancouver.

Elsewhere in the newspapers, Shelley Fralic has written a Vancouver Sun op-ed and there's a Letter to the Editor suggesting that rather than potentially ruin Vancouver by trying to build affordable housing, why not simply let people move elsewhere.  I am not unsympathetic to the argument that those seeking affordable housing move elsewhere, noting that New Westminster and the Tri-Cities and Surrey, etc are beginning to create very attractive communities.  Similarly, smaller towns like Trail and Nelson offer attractive choices for those who can't afford Vancouver.

However, I still maintain that Vancouver needs to create additional housing choices, both for those seeking more affordable housing, and the many longstanding residents like me who may soon wish to downsize while remaining in their neighbourhoods, and want to see their children living in the City as well.

For these reasons I participated in the Mayor's Task Force on Affordable Housing, chairing a Roundtable that looked at Building Form and Design, and am a defender of many of the ideas now being put forward by the Task Force and City Council. I look forward to the coming years as more townhouses and stacked townhouses are built in the City, for those of us who are not yet ready for an apartment, but either unable to afford, or not wanting to live in a single family house.

Here's Gary Mason's article on the topic:

Opinion: Townhouses not the solution to Vancouver’s housing woes

Of all the recommendations in the report from the city of Vancouver’s housing affordability task force, the one that received the most attention is the least likely to drive down costs – thin streets.
Thin streets is the concept whereby the city splits a standard, 66-foot-wide road in two
to allow the construction of new homes along one half. An example of what this would look like received wide distribution around the release of the task force’s review.
And what it looked like was this: the extra 33 feet being used to build homes that appeared,
in size and structure, very much like the older ones that would exist beside them. Homes that are worth (sometimes well) in excess of $1-million.  So what is the likelihood that the new homes – thanks to the city splitting a street in half –are going to be any cheaper than homes already in the neighbourhood?
If anything, Given the fact that they new homes would be, well, newer with all the modern amenities, they are likely to be even more expensive.

An affordability game changer thin streets is not. Which is why it’s unfortunate that the idea became such a talking point and, for a while, commandeered the discussion of the task force’s work. Still, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver government deserve credit for attempting to address the affordability crisis in this city, as futile as that effort may ultimately be.

There is also a lot of talk in the report, for instance, of the need for more options like townhouses, which take up less space and are generally considered to be a cheaper alternative for home buyers. But, of course, when you are talking about real estate in Vancouver, the term “cheaper” is always relative.

In the past couple of years, a few townhouse projects have sprouted up along Oak Street. Many of the units were being sold for prices that reached into the high $900,000s and, often, north of $1-million. So I’m not sure how anyone thinks more townhouses are going to be the answer to affordability.

Even if you build stacked townhouses, effectively townhouses on top of townhouses, it’s still going to cost well over $700,000 per unit just about anywhere in the city. Yes, that’s less expensive than those townhouses along Oak Street, but I’m not sure you could ascribe the term “affordable” to them. Are these the places that are supposed to open the doors to first-time home buyers? The government considers housing as affordable if it consumes less than 30 per cent of household income. Given that in 2010, the median household income in Vancouver was just over $67,000, I don’t see how more townhouses are going to reduce the financial stress on families trying to get into the market.

Architect and developer Michael Geller, the mind behind some of the more imaginative and successful multiunit real estate projects in Metro Vancouver and who was a consultant on the task force report, agrees that townhouses in the city of Vancouver aren’t affordable by most measures at the moment. But he believes prices will come down as more of that type of housing is built.

“When they’re the only buildings of that type around, a developer can pretty much set his own price,” Mr. Geller told me. “But once you build more of it and there is a competition in the market place, then you generally see prices start to come down. I think that’s what we’ll see here.”

I’m not sure I’m buying it, but it’s worth a try. The alternative is for the city to throw up its hands and say it can do nothing about the affordability dilemma. So in an attempt to mitigate the problem, it has decided to rezone designated areas to make way for six-storey apartment buildings. And perhaps a swack of townhomes, and row and stacked housing and carriage houses in every laneway will help, too. Any relief would be welcome.

Now, the city just has to fight off the small army of residents that is forming to oppose any change in their neighbourhoods. This, too, was expected, and some people will likely be extremely unhappy at the end of this process – but that comes with making change in the name of the greater good.
The mayor’s task force may have created a blueprint for more housing in Vancouver. Whether it will ever be considered affordable is another matter entirely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Further observations on the Affordable Housing Task Force recommendations

The following Letter to the Editor appeared in today's Vancouver Sun:

Increasing supply of housing won’t help affordability
Re: ‘ Thin streets’ could boost affordability, Sept. 27
Why would the addition a few houses in an expensive city make housing more affordable? It hasn’t happened in other cities.
How can the city take away someone’s corner lot and plunk another house beside it, or a row of townhouses, completely out of step with the existing neighbourhood?
The resulting “thin” street would be dangerously narrow, making it difficult for emergency vehicles and local traffic to get through. And, of course, one lane of parking will disappear, another assault on the automobile.
Open street spaces are very welcome and much needed, what with the continued encroachment of larger homes and laneway houses.
We’ve just been subjected to a task force led by developers and we know what their goals are. B. K. GOODSON Vancouver

I completely disagree with the headline, and the writer's final statement, but do share his concerns regarding the likely benefits of the 'Thin Streets' idea.

I mentioned to some Task Force members and City staff, that the Thin Street proposition, (that came from the ReThink Housing Competition organized by the City rather than from either the Task Force  or the Roundtable on Form and Design) has unfortunately hijacked many of the very good recommendations of the Task Force. 

While the Thin Streets idea is intriguing, I do not forsee widespread application of it for various reasons. It has negative impacts on corner lot owners, takes away greenery and in some case important north-south views, and could be more expensive than the proponents anticipate to relocate roads, street lights, sidewalks, other services, etc.

In some instances I could see how it might result in additional lots that might be developed with more than one unit, or combined with the corner lot to allow a small townhouse or stacked development as illustrated above.

That being said, I strongly disagree with the suggestion that more housing supply will not impact affordability. It will.

Currently, there are very few undeveloped sites zoned for townhouse or stacked townhouse developments. However, these forms of housing would provide more affordable housing choices in the city.  Now some might ask, why will they be more affordable when the recent townhouse developments along Oak Street and Cambie street are quite expensive. That's because the developers had little competition, and in some cases had to pay significant Community Amenity Contributions to the City, tied to the increase in land value resulting from the rezoning.

If there were hundreds of sites available for alternate forms of housing, as contemplated by our suggestion of creating 'transition zones' behind arterials, and multi family housing along arterials away from the commercial cores, and if Community Amenity Contributions were fixed at pre-determined and reasonable levels, I am confident that more supply will result in more affordable housing.

Now as for the suggestion that the Task Force was "led by developers" and that's why we're seeing ideas like the Thin Streets, this is simply wrong. Yes, Co-chair Olga Illich is a developer, and there were  developers on the Task Force, and I am involved in development as well as architecture and planning, the developers were at a minority in this process. Moreover I can say that none of the developers I know advocated for the Thin Streets idea. This idea came from two former City and Metro Planners, and was promoted by City staff and Council...not builders or developers.

In summary, I do believe that the decisions made by Council this week will ultimately lead to increased housing supply and increased affordability.  It will take time, but five years from now, young couples and empty nesters will be able to buy and rent forms of housing that are not often being built today.

However, I won't be surprised if only a very small number of these homes will be on newly created corner lots.  If any!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Some observations re the Thin Streets Proposal

Thin streets have Vancouver corner lot owners worried

Metro/Kate Webb Kitsilano homeowner David Grigg is worried about losing light on his corner property if the city moves ahead with thin streets.
Vancouver councillors and homeowners grilled deputy city manager David McLellan Tuesday about the affordable housing task force’s proposed thin streets concept.
The 17-member task force recommended six priority actions and nine additional actions in its final report released last week, which was the result of 10 months of study and public consultations.
But not everyone is happy with its recommendation that the city immediately begin pilot projects to create parcels of land for more ground-oriented housing by thinning certain residential streets. Kitsilano homeowner David Grigg said he and his wife bought a unit in a raised bungalow 20 years ago precisely because of its location.
“All of us are petrified at losing our light,” he said, addressing McLellan directly outside council chambers. “If a thin street were put in place, some of the treescape would disappear. It has to.”
McLellan did his best to assure Grigg that no one would be forced into anything if the task force’s recommendations were to go ahead, and all standard rezoning procedures, including hearings, would still apply.
“There would be a public process around any of these sorts of things, and the neighbourhood impact is a very important consideration for council,” he said.
NPA Coun. Elizabeth Ball questioned McLellan about how corner lot property values would be affected by thin streets — a concern she said she has heard repeatedly from constituents.
McLellan referred her to two solutions put forward by Vancouver housing and development expert and one-time NPA candidate Michael Geller.
Geller has suggested corner lot owners who agree to let new homes be built beside them could be rewarded with the opportunity to rezone their own lots for up to three units, allowing them to unlock some of the equity in their land while creating even more housing stock.
Otherwise, Geller said corner lot owners should be given an easy out:
“If the people on the corner lot said, ‘hell no, we don’t want to be here,’ perhaps the city could acquire or facilitate a developer acquiring their lot and then the city could combine the two lots into one, and that would be big enough to put townhouses on.”
While Geller said he thinks the thin streets concept is a good idea, he added he is skeptical it will take off on a wide scale because of problems with rerouting underground sewage and water lines.
There are 16 speakers registered to address city council and staff Wednesday before council votes on whether to adopt the task force’s 15 recommendations. Anyone who wishes to speak can register up until 10 minutes before the agenda resumes at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

The Mayor's Task Force on Affordable Housing.

This mornng, Vancouver City Council will consider a staff report making a number of recommendations based on the Task Force report.  As Chair of a Roundtable that reported to the Task Force on the impacts of regulations related to Building Form and Design, I am most interested in the next steps in this process.  Unfortunately, based on conversations I have had with many people, and Letters to the Editor of today's Vancouver Sun, it is apparent that there is considerable misunderstanding regarding what is being contemplated. This is particularly true for the recommendation related to 'Thin Streets' which was not a recommendation of either my Roundtable or the Task Force. I will write further on this and other matters after the Council deliberations. However, in the meanwhile, below is the covering letter from my report which sets out a number of ideas that I am happy to see incorporated in the final Task Force Report.
March 22, 2012

Mayor Gregor Robertson and Ms. Olga Ilich,

Co-chairs, Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, City of Vancouver,
453 West 12th Avenue,
Vancouver, BC V5Y 1V4, Canada

Dear Mayor Robertson and Ms. Ilich,
re: Preliminary findings of Roundtable on Building Form and Design
As Chair of the Roundtable on Building Form and Design, I am pleased to submit this preliminary report to assist the Task Force in its deliberations. As requested, we have attempted to identify zoning and building code requirements and other design regulations that may be unnecessarily adding to the cost of affordable housing.
When I first agreed to participate in this Task Force initiative, a number of people questioned whether any positive benefits would be forthcoming. They noted that many of the factors contributing to the cost of housing in Vancouver, such as the high cost of land and the impacts of foreign investment, are beyond the mandate of the City. However, as  I believe you will note from this report, there is much that the City can do to improve its zoning and building regulations to encourage the creation of a variety of more affordable housing forms. For instance, by modifying the RS zoning, it will be possible to facilitate the development of smaller, more affordable single family, duplex, semi-detached and coach house homes.

By creating new ‘transition’ zones, it will be possible for the City to encourage a broader range of more affordable rowhouse, townhouse and stacked-townhouse units. As you know, I am particularly keen to see more ‘fee-simple’ rowhouses developed in the City.
By undertaking revisions to the RT (two-family) and C-2 zones, it will be possible to facilitate an increased supply of more livable housing located close to transit and other amenities.
By reconsidering parking standards and regulations, minimum suite sizes, and changes to fire regulations and accessibility standards, additional savings can be realized.
While the City has achieved a high level of recognition for its zoning, planning and discretionary design requirements, many people believe the competing demands from various city departments are contributing to a very complex approval process and higher housing costs. They would like to see the same level of commitment to affordability that is currently being devoted to sustainability. In this regard, it is suggested that the City consider appointing an Ombudsman to adjudicate the design conflicts that often arise due to the different values and requirements of City departments.
Finally, while many may question whether reduced costs will translate into reduced prices, I am confident that by facilitating an increased housing supply and greater competition
in the marketplace, cost reductions resulting from many of the suggested measures will ultimately translate into lower prices and more affordable housing choices for the residents of Vancouver.
Respectfully submitted,
Michael Geller, B.Arch, MAIBC, FCIP
Chair, Roundtable on Building Form and Design

The full report can be found here