Saturday, September 23, 2017

How Much House is Too Much?

This week a client living in the Caplano Highlands told me that they were looking for a new house.  In her words "2500 square feet is just more than we need."  That would be two adults, two kids, and a dog.

Lucky for them both the City and District are looking at ways to take single family lots and turn them into two family homes.

The City has designated one area for studying the possibility of of allowing duplexes to increase density.  Deadline for study participation is September 25th.
The Duplex Special Study will explore low density housing options (such as duplex development) for the 300 blocks of East 13th to 19th Street in consultation with area residents. This effort will contribute to the implementation of the City’s Housing Action Plan (2016) which established strategies to address the housing needs of City residents including the provision of smaller, more affordable ownership options and increasing the stock of accessory rental units in proximity to transit and services.
The District meanwhile is looking into the idea of subdividing large lots in Upper Capilano to allow two smaller houses.  As reported in the North Shore News:
District of North Vancouver council voted Monday night to begin drawing up an amended bylaw that would make it easier for people who own 66-foot lots in the Upper Capilano neighbourhood to subdivide them into two 33-foot lots. 
If approved by council following a public hearing, the district would create new “small lot infill areas” or SLIAs along the north side of Montroyal Boulevard between Cliffridge Avenue and Ranger Avenue, and on Canyon Boulevard and Clements Avenue between Ranger and Belvedere Drive. Council is also reviewing the possibility of adding the 1000 block of Prospect Avenue.
(I will leave it to others to imagine the impact of these subdivisions at a time when every road into or out of Capilano Highlands is still under construction.)

Missing from either of these proposals is a recognition that something like a third of people in the Lower Mainland live in rental accommodation. I've seen no tangible plans to increase that pool, though maybe our newly minted provincial government will find a way.

(Admin note: I have finally updated the list of links on the right hand sidebar. If there are any that you think should be added, drop me an email.)


Anonymous said...

Well, at least in the city, duplexes are allowed to have a suite in each side, so that will provide some rental housing. The DNV, meanwhile, is much more conservative in its approach. I think that their proposal for subdividing lots in a few square blocks will benefit nobody but the speculators. The houses built on the 33' lots won't necessarily be affordable but will be cheaper than what would be built on a 66' lot. But will they be cheaper than what's on those lots now? Hard to say.

Anonymous said...

Higher density. Wow what a great concept! Highrises going up like crazy. Love the new 24 story proposed tower just off Lonsdale. Speaking of Lonsdale, tried to get parked lately? Nothing like more carriage houses, duplexes, basement suites, split lots to improve our quality of life! Just can't wait to get in the all day bridge traffic. LGH 3 hours + wait is a pleasure - lets get some more people in the waiting room. When that bus goes by your stop because it is already full just think of how nice it is to have all the extra density. And when you want to relax, go up to Lynn Canyon and get in the line up for the suspension bridge. Too busy for you? No problem. Take a walk in the formerly pristine forests and watch the mountain bikes zoom past. The rest of the road structure - well here is a good idea. Mr. Politician approves more density and then tells us that the roads (we have already paid for and are maintained by taxes) are too congested so in order to reduce the problem of congestion we need to implement a new road tax - and approve more density. The road tax - a thinly veiled replacement for the referendum that told the politicians that we don't want to pay more taxes for transit. But they're going to do it anyway without a referendum.

Anybody remember the 1990's - 2000's when the local politicians told us they made their decisions in support of the "livable region" concept? "Livable region" like in maintaining or enhancing quality of life for residents. More density? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

So what is the right amount of rental for a healthy community?

Anonymous said...

I believe that 3% is considered a healthy vacancy rate for rental housing, while the District of North Vancouver is presently at 0.1%, CNV is at 0.3% and West Van at 0.2% (based on CMHC info from 2016).

Anonymous said...

3% is the perceived ideal vacancy rate, but it does not suggest a mix of rental to owned housing. If the vancouver economy tanks this year vacancy will skyrocket like it did in Calgary in 2015. My question was more on a macro level, what is the ideal mix of owned to rental accomodations in the long run? We are hovering around 80% owned and 20% rented out in the DNV, but eventually if the number of rented accomodations gets too high then it will be a destabilizing factor in the community. Where is the sweet spot that will produce 3% vacancy rates under normal conditions?

Barry Rueger said...

We are hovering around 80% owned and 20% rented out in the DNV, but eventually if the number of rented accomodations gets too high then it will be a destabilizing factor in the community.

Hmm. Can you offer some supporting evidence for that claim? Or does it just reflect the time honoured suburban belief that all "Tenants" are ne'er do wells and criminals who have loud parties and park broken down cars on the front lawn?

Anonymous said...

Take a drive down east 3rd street. All of the little war-time homes torn down while the vacant lots await more new high density developments. This will be great. Lets get more people in here all vying for the same resources, services and amenities.

Preservation of quality of life on the N. Shore is the issue and it is directly impacted by cramming in more housing.

Debating whether or not renters are nice while density soars unchecked is fiddling while Rome burns.

Anonymous said...

"...the time honoured suburban belief that all "Tenants" are ne'er do wells and criminals..." I know you would love a class war, but I am simply pointing out that local ownership is generally a good thing, and that 100% foreign ownership, while it may create a glut of rental pressing prices down, it is not good for community. Somewhere along the spectrum there is a sweet spot with the stability of ownership and the flexibility of rental.

Sometimes common sense is evidence enough to have the discussion. Oh, and sell your class war some place else.

Anonymous said...

What happens when locals can't afford ownership?

Anonymous said...

Already happening. It starts when your children cannot afford to live in the community in which they were raised. That began after Expo 86 and accelerated after the Winter Olympics. Very few local kids as adults can afford to buy on the N. Shore without extensive parental assistance and it is the rare parents that can afford it.

Next step. More and more housing purchased by affluent buyers. Already happening.

Next step. Some move away to a less expensive area but find they can't get back to the N. Shore as NS real estate prices are generally rising faster than the outlying areas. Already happening.

Next step. Local governments try to expand the housing market and control pricing by approving density. Already happening.

Next step. Prices continue to climb as the additional housing is a drop in the bucket when compared to global demand. Already happening.

Last step. You can't afford to buy so you rent. Except that rental prices continue to climb until you can't afford that either. Already happening.

If house pricing is driven crazy by well heeled non-locals then property tax increases will follow and long-time locals will eventually be priced out.

Your question. What happens anywhere when locals can't afford ownership?

Struggle in poverty in a area so dense you don't recognize it anymore or move somewhere where the locals can afford ownership. Look at our kids who have had to live elsewhere already. Maybe they have prepared the way for us.

Anonymous said...

Agreed 3:08pm

Here's a kicker...

Global Population 1957 - 2.8 Billion
Global Population 1987 - 5 Billion
Global Population 2017 - 7.5 Billion
Global Population 2047 - 9 - 10 Billion

Ever since the introduction of electricity our global population has been on a rampage. It doesn't matter how fast we build in North Vancouver we will never be able to outpace global demand from the wealthiest people attempting to get into the most desirable areas. So if you are going to build, focus on getting the mix of housing you want not the number of units the world wants.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anon 4:36 for those startling stats. Population virtually doubling 57 - 87 and increasing by 50% 87 - 17! Those figures are shocking and sobering.

90% of our population live within 100 miles of the US border. How much of the global increase are we realistically able to absorb?

Are our politicians putting bandaids on the outcomes instead of aggressively pursuing the source of the issue?

As politically incorrect as it may be do I dare suggest that perhaps it is time to rethink permitting open global access to our precious real estate? The strain on our region is apparent in every piece of infrastructure and our formerly enviable quality of life is diminishing accordingly.

Would any politician or political party have the courage to address this matter?

Anonymous said...

Today's NS News is indicative of the popular trend of politicians and the minimally invested.

NV City is (predictably) increasing density. NV District was absent today but has already stated that they too want more density. W Van has commissioned a report which states, "that it is urgent to increase density." So pretty much a clean sweep among the pols.

Then the "new left" NS News editor capped it off by proposing "that we bid farewell to the environmentally disastrous and logistically preposterous single-family neighbourhood."

Funny thing is when you visit one of these "disasters" the families and neighbours seem perfectly content. They help each other, their families grow up together, they support the local schools, businesses and charities, socialize and recreate together. They hardly think of their neighbourhoods and lives as preposterous at all.

The other funny thing is my family and friends that live in high density are mainly insular. They hardly know the people in the proximate boxes, many are usually left vacant by ex-pat owners and some used as AirBB's with rotating strangers with door codes and keys coming and going in their apartment block thereby defeating the permanent resident's sense of security. They don't report feeling a sense of neighbourhood with other high density dwellers. I'm sure that this is just fine with lots of people.

Not my cup of tea but each to their own.