City of Vancouver’s re:THINK HOUSING Competition Submissions

“As part of the work being done by the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, re:THINK HOUSING, an open ideas competition, has been 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.”

Submissions closed on 29 June, 2012, and can now be viewed HERE. [Hat-tip ‘terminalcitygirl’.] Images above are from two of the submissions.

We note there are no “Educate-the-public-about-asset-manias-and-thus-crash-housing-prices” submissions.
– vreaa

67 responses to “City of Vancouver’s re:THINK HOUSING Competition Submissions

  1. Artificial islands are far from affordable. They require extreme investment upfront and massive amounts of capital to keep them from dissolving back into the bay. See current examples found all over Japan (KIX airport), Dubai, Bahrain, etc.

    Towers are the most affordable options and are most likely to be continued.

    But here’s the kicker: Without any real jobs to bring people into Vancouver (you can’t all be barristas, realtors, and UBC profs) you won’t even be able to attract the population required to create the demand for such extreme housing developments. Vancouver is likely to slip into a retired pensioner’s paradise if they don’t act quickly to create new long-term highly-valued employment opportunities.

    • The two images above seem to imply plenty of work, at least in construction.

    • UBCghettodweller

      >(you can’t all be barristas, realtors, and UBC profs)

      Actually, most of the new UBC profs I know live in tiny sky boxes, an hour commute out in the suburbs, or are up to their ears in debt. Remember that years of grad school followed by a half-decade of post-docing leaves them with very little savings. Either mortgage up or buy small and/or far out, because you don’t have a damn thing for down payment.

      Honestly, when my PhD is done, I’ll be more than happy to shake the dirt of Vancouver off of my shoes. Pretty much any other city I go to in North America has either a lower cost of living or better job opportunities or both. The only way I lose as a trained scientist is by staying in the lower mainland. This is the sentiment amongst pretty much every other grad student I know who doesn’t buy in to the “best place on earth” dogma.

      Vancouver has become a place where young people piss away their 20s in pseudoretirement and student debt and a resort town for the pacific rim economic elite and babyboomers who bought property pre-2001.

      • Anonymous UBC Professor

        >Actually, most of the new UBC profs I know live in tiny sky boxes,
        >an hour commute out in the suburbs, or are up to their ears in debt.

        Here are two other factors worth considering.

        #1) Even though the UBC salaries are not that high, the family take-home pay is often high. Amongst my colleagues (some male, some female), the most common occupation of their spouse is lawyer. There are also several spouses that work as medical professionals, and several spouses that are both profs. There are of course some spouses who don’t work or have negligible incomes too.

        #2) Profs tend to get hired at a very slow rate. Not that many were hired within the past, say, 8 years. The ones that were hired more than 8 years ago have typically not had much difficulty with housing.

        >Honestly, when my PhD is done, I’ll be more than happy to shake the
        >dirt of Vancouver off of my shoes. Pretty much any other city I go to in
        >North America has either a lower cost of living or better job
        >opportunities or both. The only way I lose as a trained scientist is by
        >staying in the lower mainland. This is the sentiment amongst pretty
        >much every other grad student I know who doesn’t buy in to the “best
        >place on earth” dogma.

        I agree. As a highly trained specialist, it usually makes sense to go where your skills are valued and appreciated, and you can be financially rewarded for having those skills. It is difficult to argue that Vancouver abounds in such opportunities for highly trained scientists (there are exceptions, e.g., geologists and forestry-related scientists).

      • Hello UBC types. I have a sister-in-law who graduated form UBC with a PhD in BioChem. just a few years ago. She would have happily stayed in Vancouver, actually she would have happily moved anywhere she had to, for a post-doc or tenure-track position. RE was not an issue, simply landing a good job was #1. My understanding is faculty positions are difficult to come by. A good friend of mine with a new doctorate was just offered a position at UPEI and he is extremely happy, again RE not a factor, just getting an offer was the trick. I sometimes wonder if we place too much weight on the significance of Vancouver RE in regards to career, especially in the early years. After all, renting is always a great option, even for professionals. Regardless, my sister-in-law landed at Stanford, and rents. 🙂

      • “Vancouver has become a place where young people piss away their 20s in pseudoretirement and student debt and a resort town for the pacific rim economic elite and babyboomers who bought property pre-2001”. – BordelloGhettoDweller

        Sadly, UBCGhettoDweller, the phenomenon isn’t restricted to YVR (albeit, YVR’s RE market distortions arguably exacerbate it)… Here’s a timely piece from NewsWeek’s Joel Kotkin on ‘GenerationScrewed’ that addresses those themes…

        …”The prospect of downward mobility is most evident in recent discussions about the future of the housing market. Since World War II the expectation of each generation was to own property, preferably a single-family house. The large majority of boomers became homeowners during the Reagan-Clinton era. Yet it is increasingly fashionable to insist this “dream” must be expunged. If millennials ever move out of their parents’ house, they will live in apartments they don’t own. There’s a lot of talk about a “generation rent” replacing a primarily suburban ownership society with a new caste of city-dwelling renters. “I’m hoping that the millennial generation doesn’t set its sights on homeownership as a benchmark of economic stability,” sociologist Katherine Newman suggests, “because it’s going to be out of reach for so many of them.”….

      • UBCghettodweller

        @Anonymous UBC Professor

        I agree with your assessment on the whole. Many of the professors do have a spouse who is a professional.

        Maybe my calculations are a bit off but a recent hire, even with a spouse who is in a professional career track, is essentially priced out of anything but a small condo in Vancouver city itself assuming that they don’t want to put themselves dangerously in debt. This being especially true if they have children or are planning on having some soon (but that’s a whole other rant about academia.) CIHR and NSERC grants are a crap shoot and many other funding sources have dried up post-2008. Although I understand that UBC has hard money for most principle investigators, missing more than one or two operating grants essentially means you’re out of a job these days as best I can tell.

        I’ve seen a few professors trade up in the real estate market after being in Vancouver for several years. This usually was because they were able to buy a place in East Van, Kits, or Dunbar pre-2004 and trade up as the market got over heated in combination with their income plus the spouse’s… I also know of one person who related the market to a E. coli growth curve and pointed out that we’re hitting plateau phase right now as all economic nutrients have been used up and got the hell out at the peak. Maybe luck, maybe real foresight.

      • “‘GenerationScrewed’ that addresses those theme”

        Perish the thought there are vast expanses of undeveloped land in North America, ripe for the picking. Areas of California, once deserts and groves, turned into some of the most progressive areas on the planet over the past 40 years.

        The “generation screwed” needs to figure out other methods of getting what it wants. Muscling in on the previous generation’s territory is likely going to meet with resistance. From that perspective it should be no surprise apartments are becoming smaller.

      • “Honestly, when my PhD is done, I’ll be more than happy to shake the dirt of Vancouver off of my shoes.”

        I stuck it out as a postdoc for a few years and then, adios! And I’ll tell you, I’ve never looked back (although I visit from time-to-time… mainly just to remind me why I’m gone).

  2. that blanket of condo towers would suck out the soul of everyone and make them leave, leading to lower demand/prices

    • I could be wrong, M&M… but I suspect that particular submission/proposal was a TongueInCheek ShotAcrossTheBows launched by an especially PO, UnderHoused HipsterPhotoShopMonkey (doubtless toiling away for bananas in some D.A.V.E. subsidised subterranean DigitalSweatShop in HollyWood North’s GulagArchipelago)… Clearly, the inspiration for that proposal are these:

      [NoteToDearReaders: Extreme HD imagery, a few seconds to load; Mr. Rogers to audience: “It’s a lovely day in the neighbourhood! Boys and girls, can you say Favela?”]

      • Aldus Huxtable

        Oh, we could only be so lucky Nem, the Vancouver Whitecaps would soon become the worlds best “soccer” club.

      • Re-zone the entire city to permit townhouses and low-rise apartments anywhere and the market will solve the problem in a year. There will be a few stupid projects, but most developers will pick sensible locations.

        Also, people blame Vancouver’s zoning policies, but Burnaby and New Westminster are equally to blame. How about this: no detached homes are sacred inside the bridges. Most of them aren’t “single family” anyways. The city needs multi-family structures. It has built them in the most haphazard way imaginable. By allowing more appropriate structures to be built, this policy would be an improvement.

  3. Renters Revenge

    Any affordable housing plan that doesn’t address jobs and incomes is just a whole bunch of hot air. Such hubris to think that municipal land-use planning is the problem/solution.

  4. I’ll just come out and say it: E for effort.

  5. Is rental housing (priced purely due to supply/demand and not subject to speculative bubbles) considered to be unaffordable too?

    • Yes. Unaffordable city is unaffordable.

      • Renters Revenge

        Not true. Renting in this city is actually quite reasonable, especially when compared to owning, and is for me a key indicator of how wacky purchase prices have become. Rental housing, by necessity, tracks much closer to incomes and consequently has less chance of getting caught up in speculative excess.

      • “Renting in this city is actually quite reasonable, especially when compared to owning”

        Yes, that doesn’t make it “affordable”. (BTW what is the definition of “affordable”?)

      • Renters Revenge

        25% of income is affordable rent. Plenty of decent rentals for $1500-$2000/month.

      • So there’s no “affordability” problem then except for those not earning enough income. Those who can’t afford the rent have options the same as everyone else who has already made “the move”.

        The City wants to maintain lower rents for those on lower incomes, but it is certainly true that there are options even without subsidized housing. As long as we all know where the money is going.

  6. Condo the world with the all new photoshop ‘condo’ paintbrush !

  7. Check out #110. Closer to the vreaa observation that innovative architecture, while welcome, probably won’t get us out of this.

    • Wow.
      Wallpaper the sky with buildings.

    • People love density… for other people.

      • Urbanists live density. Not everyone, alas, is an “urbanist”.

      • Many people do live that way, and I think that’s great that they have that choice.

        But my experience is that the people that I know in the planning and architecture fields talk very earnestly about the need for stacking people up with no parking spaces, but they themselves live in detached homes and own cars. But they would no doubt call themselves urbanists.

      • I don’t know about that, but I like to think we all have a little bit of architect deep down inside.

        Picking up a volume of Architectural Digest, he mutters, “I don’t know what good design is, but I know it when I see it.”

      • Most of the stuff in Architectural Digest couldn’t be built in Vancouver. Doesn’t meet code. Also, inadequate quantities of teal and brown cream.

  8. Re: Artificial islands – a project like that would only make sense if there was a land shortage, which there is NOT.
    The idea is really worthy of “Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability” – what a joke….

  9. Gotta love those sunny skies, turquoise waters, and white sand beaches. Oh wait… wrong city.

  10. #103 is the ultimate hipster art-school ironic cut at the buying RE as an “investment”. It hurts because it’s true.

    • Agree.
      This subversive entry is so far our favourite (we haven’t read all of the others yet).
      It doesn’t play the game, it slaps you in the face and makes you think about the market.
      It’s poetry.

      Entry #103: Cube

      • Did CondoHype just come out of retirement!?

      • Terminalcitygirl

        Cube is a goodie, I wondered the same thing about CondoHype Nem. What a gem he was.

      • Wow that is awesome. Why not take it one step further: ban vitamins and milk for young children to stunt people’s growth. That way everyone will fit more easily into their CUBE.

      • I love it. Trying to visualize a tradable market in space makes me think of Enron’s energy market.

    • Renters Revenge

      Infinite density potential!

      • If they would only start making people short again like back in the old days (the dark ages?) we could support a lot more of them in the same space. Might even seem like our horizons expanded as we shrunk. New rules. Nobody over 3 feet tall allowed. That should solve the housing problem and peak-people at the same time……..nobody ever thinks about that. Not only are there already billions more of us than can comfortably inhabit the planet in a sustainable way but we keep getting bigger, eating more and consuming in proportion to to meet our bigger, meatier size. Long before there are islands in English Bay or bouquets of high-rises popping up willy-nilly all over the Lower Mainland, we will see a population crash. I don’t mean just “us”. I mean, all of us. It is global. Hate to say it but the writing is on the wall. Real Estate is really the least of our concerns in the bigger picture. That is just a sideshow to the big act on the horizon which is all about resource depletion, energy shortages and war.

        Now I need another beer. There are no good solutions.

      • Utopian housing, fireworks and no one over 3 feet in the RainForest!? Didn’t George do that one already?…

      • Randy Newman. Short people got nobody….

  11. Vancouver’s affordability problem will take care of itself in the next few years as prices crash. It doesn’t any tree huggers to come with whacko ideas that cost gazillions and benefit the very few, if any!

  12. Send me the cheque, I win.

  13. Ralph Cramdown

    Somebody call Squamish and tell them to tow their log booms back.

    Hey, maybe we could buy Dubai World and tow it over? I hear it’s going cheap.

  14. Joe_Blown_Away_By_High_Housing_Costs

    The conventional definition of affordable housing is housing costs should not exceed more than 30% of net income.

    Someone with a minimum wage full time job probably makes about $1300 per month after deductions (very few min. wage workers actually get full time hours, most are lucky to get 30 hours a week). So an affordable bachelor suite rental for a min. wage worker with a full time job would cost about $390 a month. Assuming min. wage workers double up and form room mate pairs, a two bedroom should be about $780 a month.

    (Incidentally, my very first apartment when I moved out from my parents was in East Van with room mates in 1998. My share of the rent was $350 and I made $1000 a month working a min. wage full time job, so in 1998 my rent was pretty much affordable, only taking up 35% of income. I now pay about 60% of my income on rent)/

    Let me tell you that there are very few rentals in Metro Vancouver at these rates — even if you go to Surrey. You can probably find a crack motel room in the Downtown Eastside for about $400 a month.

    CMHC publishes a Rental Market Report. The most recent one available is for Fall 2011. If we look at that, we can see vacancy rates and average rents for various parts of the city and for different types of units. Just to give a sense of how UNaffordable rents are in Metro Vancouver, let’s look at the numbers for Vancouver Census Metropolitan Area (includes suburbs such as Surrey):

    Average Rents for Vancouver CMA:

    Bachelor suites: $839
    One bedrooms: $964
    Two bedrooms: $1237
    Three bedrooms: $1463

    The average bachelor suite is $839. For that to be affordable and not consume more than 30% of net income, someone would have to make about $2600 a month take home. Most low wage workers do not make this much, even people who make more than min. wage don’t make this much.

    I can tell you that even these CMHC figures understate the affordability problem. CMHC does a telephone survey to get this data. They call up renters and ask you how much your rent. I’ve actually done their survey before. So CMHC data is skewed by pre-existing rental households. There are renters in Vancouver who have lived here for years who enjoy low rents–they may have a good relationship with the landlord or the landlord has just never bother to increase the rent over the years. But if you are just looking to rent a place now, good luck finding a rental at these rates. Rents in the going market for what vacancy right now advertised in the newspaper or on craigslist are significantly higher than this CMHC data. From experience, I know that one bedrooms in East Van rent for about $1200. I know one min. wage worker who room mates with someone in a basement suite in Kitsilano. Their rent is $1650 so her half is $825. She only makes about $1100 a month, so almost all of her income is going to rent. This doesn’t include utilities. I don’t know how she feeds herself. I guess we know why the foodbanks are under stress. Among the people I know, this situation is typical.

    The other part of the picture is vacancy rates. The Fall 2011 CMHC Rental Market Survey shows the City of Vancouver had a vacancy rate of just 0.7%. That is a stunning number! I actually shocked it is that low, because I know it had been higher for a while. A healthy vacancy rate is considered 4%–it’s never been that high in Vancouver in my living memory. This means there are very few rentals out there. You are going to have to accept living in crap conditions. Landlords will dictate to you the terms of the rental situation. If you have a cat, forget about it.

    The City of Vancouver’s Think Housing exercise is a joke. Why are they trying to reinvent the wheel?! We have a vast expertise on affordable housing in Canada to draw upon: the work of Albert Rose, David Hulchanski, etc. The problem is not that complex. Essentially, the private sector has demonstrated that it is unable or unwilling to meet the demand for affordable rental housing. If the private sector can’t/won’t do it, then the public sector should step in. We need a national public housing program since yesterday. Virtually all developed western countries have such a program. People think Canada has a better social safety net than the US. FALSE. The US has the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which invests in public housing construction in cities across the US every year (often in the form of public-private partnerships for mixed income communities). Canada used to have a national public housing program, although it is actively being dismantled. Many readers may be shocked to learn that in 1971, 10% of all housing starts in Canada were for public housing units (cf. Fallis, 1995). We haven’t had any new public housing in Vancouver since the 1970s. What little we do have is being destroyed. The Little Mountain Housing Project (224 units for families and seniors) was demolished in 2010, after the residents were forced out starting in 2007. It is supposed to be rebuilt by a private developer into a mixed income community, residents were told they could return in 2010. Here we are in 2012 and construction is nowhere near starting. This is yet another demonstration of the failure of the private sector when it comes to providing affordable rental housing. The only form of social housing that authorities (and housing activists for that matter) in Vancouver seem to care about is supportive housing for drug addicts. This is not the same thing as public housing for families.

    So much has been made on these blogs about HAM and people from Hong Kong buying up real estate. Of course, Hong Kong itself has obsession with speculative condo towers. But in terms of public housing, Hong Kong is light years ahead of Vancouver/Canada. In Hong Kong, 50% of housing stock consists of public housing. People who are displaced in the private sector due to speculative real estate development get first dibs on public housing units in Hong Kong.

    • Joe_Blown_Away_By_High_Housing_Costs

      I should correct one mistake: Affordable housing should be 30% of GROSS income, not net income. I can’t believe I made that mistake. This would change some of my figures, but not by much.

  15. I like the photoshopping of the ocean too, so it looks like we are in the caribbean!

  16. We have the units, you just need to look at Coal Harbour. Either you live here as a canadian citizen or you rent the unit out. If you can’t prove either, you get hit with a fat luxury tax. Problem solved.
    Or make video games about housing…i don’t know.

  17. Housing affordability. Hmmm. Well… Detroit seems to have a grip on that. There are one or two glitches though…

    “People see Detroit as the cool place to be.” – Nathaniel Wallace, 32-year-old computer contractor, paid less than $200,000 for the restored three-level building with stainless-steel appliances and a rooftop view of the Comerica Park baseball stadium in Detroit’s midtown.

    “We’re falling apart as a community.” – State Representative Jimmy Womack, 58 [robbed at gunpoint July 8 near his Detroit home].

    [BloomBerg] – Detroit’s Core Thrives as Criminals Prey on Neighborhoods

  18. Pingback: City of Vancouver’s re:THINK HOUSING Competition Submissions |

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  20. I love how none of these people even thought about the easiest and best solution which is to develop the dtes. How about we gentrify, push out the poverty pimps, and clean that cesspool up. All that the city needs to do is release the height restrictions and in 2-5 years it will be the new yaletown!

  21. The images are rather grotesque and shocking for this reader. It’s like some Orwellian beehive. But if it urban concentration helps keep our marshes and forests vacant—go for it. We did a couple nights at a rec site recently. We were right on a lake and minutes from the highway. For two days we saw no other people—and no cell phone service!

  22. Pingback: Real estate Vancouver tilts to buyers' market, Toronto to balance | | Vancouver Realty News BlogVancouver Realty News Blog

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