City Of Vancouver – re:THINK HOUSING Competition – Call for Proposals

“As part of the work being done by the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, re:THINK HOUSING, an open ideas competition, is being launched to generate a broader discussion of possibilities for Vancouver’s affordable housing crisis. Aimed at everyone who has an interest in affordable housing, from the general public, to designers, planners and architects, to philanthropists, non profits and financial institutions, the Ideas Competition seeks to create the space for provocative, bold new ideas that address Vancouver’s affordability challenge head-on. It’s a chance to get new perspective on how we build an affordable city in Vancouver, and to garner ideas and possibilities for neighbourhood belonging and better connections across the City.”

“Vancouver is a growing and diverse city with significant housing challenges. Whether it’s homelessness, a lack of new rental homes, or high prices for single-family homes, Vancouver residents face housing pressures across the financial spectrum.”

– from re:THINK HOUSING Competition, City Of Vancouver
[Thanks to terminalcitygirl for bringing this to our attention, and who adds “Have you checked out this COV initiative? It seems unnecessarily complicated to me but at least they are asking for input from beyond the usual suspects…”]

We’d encourage all readers to take a look at the re:THINK HOUSING website, and to enter proposals if they see fit. We’re considering possibly submitting one ourselves.
Submissions close 29 Jun 2012.
– vreaa

27 responses to “City Of Vancouver – re:THINK HOUSING Competition – Call for Proposals

  1. “bold new ideas that address Vancouver’s affordability challenge head-on”

    The ideas that would solve Vancouver’s affordability problem happen to be impractical and unpopular.

    It really is as simple as lower land prices, but the biggest “idea” is that affordability isn’t much worse than it was 15 years ago. Nobody wants to hear that, because there is a “problem”,

    • “but the biggest “idea” is that affordability isn’t much worse than it was 15 years ago”

      What do you mean by this?

      • In real terms rents are about the same as the late 1990s.

        Or does affordability mean ownership? Doesn’t look like it.

      • “In real terms rents are about the same as the late 1990s.”

        Ah, I see.

        I wonder what ICBC and BC Ferries rates are in real terms. It feels like they’ve gone through the roof.

  2. With the municipalities it is often not what it seems (or what they want it to seem). If you check their election campaign contributors, the money almost 100% come from the big developers abd assosiated companies, so they are primarily charged to provide a return on their investment and multiple studies and public opinion surveys are comissioned to back up their needs. Now the idea they are trying to promote are higher density pockets in the traditionally single dwelling areas (condos are much more lucrative for developers than the single housing), higher lumber based condo floors allowance (up to 5-6 floors – much cheaper for them to build than the concrete but they also burn as fast as matches and non-stable bu who cares if the goal is to win an affordability challenge?), and the most important one and desirable for them is to get public to agree to reduce the parks and open space norms (top roof gardens, vertical green space etc) and to kill the ALR idea (cheaper source of the land for the developer). All these initiatives are given to a public as an ideas from assosiated architecs etc. during the discussion like the proposed one under the affordability challenge disguise. The developer gets the cheaper way to build with the promise that the savings is going to be traslated to a customer. Never happens as the developers just keep earning the sky high margins and beside, the condo overbuilding is already happening and is going to be brightly seen sooner than they finish the study.

  3. Actually I had an epiphany! Why not… drastically increase the number of units under construction and flood the market with housing. More supply means… if I remember my ECON101 teachings… lower prices!

    Will it work? I refer readers to the sh!tshows in San Diego, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Phoenix, where there was massive overbuilding and builders still haven’t cleared the inventory they built up 5 years ago and prices drastically, in the case of Las Vegas close to 60%.

    So go for it, Vancouver. Do it. Just don’t ask the difficult questions, like how Royally F*cked those economies became in the inevitable fallout.

    • Vancouver already has a flooded home market. Most of the lights in Yaletown never go on at night. When the bubble pops we will find out just how overbuilt we are.

      • Take a look at the Olympic Village as well some evening…sometimes I think there are entire buildings uninhabited.

    • I have found that most problems in life are due to a lack of condos.
      I often catch myself saying “what this situation needs is more condos”.

    • Exactly what I was thinking. The missing element. Free money, fear, over-leveraged speculation, foreign speculation, overly high debt ratios, overvalued property, just one thing missing hmmmm….

      I guess if we allow all the philanthropist developers to hand off fairly priced units out of the goodness of their hearts, we could allow the regular mid income earner to get into the market.

      This seems like the Mayans praying for rain. Silly Mayans, the seasons control the weather.

      Silly bureaucrats, money controls affordability.

      Bring it on, I guess….

  4. Relaxed & Happy Islander

    vreaa host – would you be so kind as to pm, there’s some thing I wanted to point out to you that you may find of interest. I apologize if this is not the correct way to ask for a private discussion. thanks

  5. Renters Revenge

    Land Value Tax.

    • Renters Revenge

      “An alternate solution for communities is to impose low tax rates on structures and high tax rates on land. This approach will raise the cost of holding land vacant (or leaving structures on the land unrehabilitated), will not penalize land development, and can result in more efficient land use, including increased affordable housing opportunities.”

    • Seriously, though, such a tax would involve ripping the shirts of more than a few residents who will be more than a bit vocal with the perceived injustice of increased taxation.

      It’s a tough nut to crack. We can talk about the benefits of such a tax structure — and I’m not against fully accounting for low density land use externalities close to economic cores — but a fair question to ask is how much such a tax would need to be to markedly change behaviour and all but eliminate the chances of future asset price bubbles. I think it’s more than we might think.

      Nonetheless the extra cash would be good, if properly earmarked into some longer-term planning and development of adequate housing forms.

      And of course the big question, would a higher land tax improve affordability? I’m not so sure. It might more optimally use existing land to improve the types of dwellings available but that doesn’t mean rents will come down.

      • Renters Revenge

        Yeah, probably unworkable because west-enders would scream bloody murder.

  6. I don’t understand on the hand-wringing about ‘affordable housing’ at the municipal level in Vancouver- there’s a huge oversupply of it and always will be. The problem is most is extremely poor quality (damp basements and beater buildings with mold and bedbugs) and a huge number of people who have fallen thru the cracks since the advent of credit checks and property management companies.

    One of the reasons I am leaving Vancouver is there’s nowhere nice to live at *any* price. This place is just hideous!

    I am dismayed the City fathers seem to view (as always) the developers as the Solution. Obviously they are not the solution. The old saw about Vancouver being a magnet for all the poor and homeless etc because of the weather doesn’t wash either, Vancouver’s had that reputation since before the Great Depression. Given that we’ve has about a hundred years to think about it, why hasn’t there been acceptance that this will happen and some solution contrived to address it?


  7. Paul Streppel

    my idea for this competition is to look at today’s Partial/Annular Solar Eclipse, beginning at 4.49 pm Vancouver time, and using it as a map for the next 6 months. I’ve posted my ideas on my Facebook. Anyone interested please take a look. If Vreaa would like to use this intelligence for their submittal, send me an email.

  8. OT … time to check in on value creation-fest … at cost of a few $10Ms to congregate spokesleaders …
    … hmmm … they’ve decided to replace the word ‘stimulus’ with ‘growth’ … seems too many serfs are catching on … yes, this will certainly fool all those radicals and ensure much continued milkshake suckage …

  9. I say do whatever it takes to get even more oversupply built. 1) It’s not like they’re going to build them any more cheaply than they are now — it’s pretty crappy work they’re doing already. 2) This way, when the crash comes, we’ll have YEARS of very affordable living (due to over supply). I figure you can’t solve today’s problems (because they’re here already), just anticipate tomorrow’s.

    Also, I say they need to flip the developer tax credit on it’s head and give some to the corporate renters. Rental units are more “affordable”.

    And finally, there needs to be a clause (or maybe to structure multi-units as a lease) that allows the city to “buy-back” at any time, given sufficient justification, so that we can recycle the land that these junk condos sit on sooner. Or maybe it should just allow the city to sell it (sorry, there’ll pricing abuses I know, but it’s better to get rid of the crap than to leave it half empty and rotting just because a few people want to stay).

    If people don’t listen or anticipate the problems, then the sooner the problems manifest, the better it is for everyone. Blindly turning an eye on anything has never amounted to anything good in my experience.

  10. My idea is to fire the director of planning for the city, not name a replacement for months, remove the role completely, form a committee full of developers to study affordability, revise the Secured Market Rental Housing Policy for the city without public consultation, and then run a feel good contest to “engage” the public.

  11. Hey VREAA

    Not sure if this is helpful/relevant, but I’m working with some Chinese guys at the moment who have an interesting perspective on HAM:

    1. They say the one-child policy encourages families to “invest” in their children on marriage and buy the children a place either in a major Chinese conurbation or abroad

    2. Because much of rural China is still pretty undeveloped and the big cities aren’t that pleasant, the natural place to look is abroad

    These guys seemed pretty sure that China’s economy was going to decelerate over the next few years and that, yes, this would have a negative effect on the less-than-billionaire classes’ investment decisions: ie they would rein in their horns and look to invest in China itself.



    Here in Toronto there is a rule that any property tax decrease over 2.5% gets an automatic rent reduction. This city can choose to create as much affordable housing as they want any time they want by reducing the mill rate on multiresidential buildings. The mill rate on rental multiunit buildings is currently 2.5 times higher than “owned” identical buildings. (condos & SFH)

    You may have the same law in Vancouver.

    • Would require changes at the provincial level I believe. Assessments and mill rates are set by the province.

      The city did institute a 3 year moving average to knock out the peaks but I think there are problems segmenting the residential market. Besides, in Vancouver “multiunit” is all over the freaking place, even in the “SFHs”!

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