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Published on October 2021

CREA Backs Vancouver Mayor’s Lot Densification Proposal

Vancouver x BakerWest

PUBLISHED: 2:06 PM OCT 29, 2021

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s proposal to permit six homes on a single lot has support from the Canadian Real Estate Association’s CEO, who touted it as a clever way to tackle Canada’s housing supply crunch.

“I think that is the best idea for new supply that I’ve heard. I really think it’s the best idea,” Michael Bourque said. “The idea of allowing the owner to build more units on their property is just brilliant because it will incent them, developers and small businesses who do construction to get at it and I think we’ll see more housing supply from an idea like that spread across the country, probably more than from anything else.”

While the Conservatives lost the federal election in September, the party’s housing proposals were nonetheless resonant. Bourque likes the Tories’ proposal to allocate 1% of GST to housing and municipal infrastructure so that funding remains consistent, and he says the federal government could also reward funding based on how meritorious ideas to create additional housing are.

“You’re incentivizing them to do what we want, which is to build more homes, infrastructure and transit,” he said.

But it will take more than the mere idea of superimposing Mayor Stewart’s idea on the rest of the country. CREA has, for a couple of years, been lobbying the federal government to establish a round table that brings together stakeholders from the housing industry to the transportation sector so that concrete proposals on how to create more housing in the country can be discussed.

“In the case of Vancouver, where you have a world-class port and all kinds of railroads and trucks going through the city, they meet regularly to discuss all the problems they might have,” Bourque said. “All that has to happen with a dialogue that is done through these table-type formats. We have a housing crisis and it’s right across the country involving all levels of government and there’s no effort to have this structured dialogue.”

There is precedent for densifying lots in Vancouver. Through the Vancouver Heritage Program, developers can redevelop properties while maintaining components of their history, and in exchange the city gives developers extra density. One such project is Hudson Eight by KiND Development Group in South Granville, which will be composed of two three-storey townhomes, a garden-level home, three infill townhomes and a duplex.

Jacky Chan, President of BakerWest, noted the mayor had previously proposed densifying lots and was rejected but that he has more traction this time around because the city’s housing crisis has grown too acute to ignore. The mayor is slated to reintroduce the motion to city council in January.

“The goal is try to preserve the heritage homes in Vancouver while also providing more dwellings for new homeowners. Instead of having one plot of land that can only fit one family, we’ve essentially transformed that plot of land for up to eight families and still giving them the single-family living experience,” said Chan.

Not all lots qualify for densification, though, as certain criteria first have to be met. Under Mayor Stewart’s proposal, up to 2,000 lots can be redeveloped with modest height allowances. Vancouver has Canada’s most expensive housing prices and Chan says lot densification is long overdue.

“Vancouver needs these extra lots really badly,” he said. “With the pricing issue in Vancouver real estate, it goes back to the fundamentals of supply and demand for dwellings in the city, the latter of which is continually rising due to the natural population increase from the influx of people who come from other cities and provinces, and immigration from other countries, whether they’re coming from Asia or Europe. They’re coming from all over the world.”

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