"Thin streets" pilot projects among recommendations stemming from Vancouver housing task force

"Thin streets" pilot projects, a city housing authority and zoning changes near transit corridors are among the priority actions recommended in a report going before city council next week.

Based on the final report from the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability, which was released today (September 26), staff are recommending the implementation of an interim rezoning policy as the first action. The policy would establish a "transition zone" in some areas to enable housing types such as duplexes, row houses and stacked townhouses between higher-density arterial streets and single family areas.

“I would expect it would be on anywhere you would have a major bus route—streets like Main, Fraser, Dunbar, Hastings,” explained deputy city manager David McLellan in an interview.

Olga Ilich, who co-chaired the housing affordability task force with Mayor Gregor Robertson, said the city needs a process specifically for townhouses and similar-sized developments.

"If you take a look at the housing stock of Vancouver right now, there’s not a lot of townhouses—so there will have to be some zones where you can start to bring that in," Ilich told the Straight by phone.

"They have a zone for high-rises, they have a zone for apartments, they have a zone for single family, but they don’t really have a bylaw that says this is what a townhouse would look like."

Staff are recommending that the “thin streets” concept, which was the winner in the city’s re: think housing competition, be launched as part of three community plans currently underway in Grandview-Woodlands, Marpole, and the West End, according to McLellan.

“We think that through those exercises we’ll be able to identify some locations for landing these in at least the pilot sense,” he said.

The model, which was proposed by Christina Demarco, Ted Sebastian, and Charles Dobson, would divide some under-utilized streets into equal parts to create narrower right-of-ways and two new residential lots per block.

Another recommendation made by the task force is the revision of council’s inclusionary housing policy, which requires 20 percent of units in large developments to be comprised of social housing.

The staff report states that when sufficient funding to achieve 20 percent of units as social housing is not available “in a timely way,” other options will be considered to achieve a minimum of 20 percent of units as affordable housing, such as market rental that is privately run, or owned and operated by a non-profit provider.

“To get true social housing usually takes a substantial equity investment, and normally we used to get that from people like the province, and their programs are pretty tightly focused and not as generous as they used to be,” said McLellan.

The recommendations in the report are targeted at Vancouver residents with moderate incomes, ranging from $21,500 to a single or dual income of $86,500 a year. In the introduction to their final report, Ilich and Robertson noted that households at the lowest end of the income range were not the main focus of the recommendations.

“…the City, along with other non-profit and government partners, is already strongly committed to action in this area through recommendations adopted by Council in its Housing and Homelessness Strategy,” the co-chairs wrote.

The Coalition of Progressive Electors and the Vancouver Renters’ Union both raised concerns about that targeted income range, and about the proposed inclusionary zoning changes.

Nathan Crompton, an organizer with the renters’ union, called the policy a “disaster” for affordability in the city.

“They’re making it appear to be that the inclusionary zoning is watered down, but once you’ve done that, it’s gone…essentially the inclusionary zoning is out the window,” he argued in a phone interview with the Straight.

Former COPE city councillor Ellen Woodsworth criticized the task force’s focus on creating housing options for moderate-income households and said that over 20 percent of Vancouver’s population falls below the targeted income range.

“These are the people who are either homeless or couch surfing or at risk of homelessness,” she told the Straight.

“We’re talking about youth, we’re talking about seniors, we’re talking about immigrants.”

Other steps recommended in the final report from the mayor’s task force include expanding the laneway housing initiative and encouraging more three-bedroom units in new development.

The final report and action plan recommended by staff will go to city council for debate on Tuesday (October 2).

Comments (18) Add New Comment
violet9ish
i am all for eco-density and the tiny house movement. most of the houses in Vancouver were built during a time when people had larger families and multiple cars. those days are behind us now, along with the greedy attitude North Americans have toward consumerism.

when you visit most other counties in the world, you'll see that people live just fine in smaller spaces. and they are far more engaged as neighbours than we isolated and individually-packaged Vancouverites are.
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Birdman
I'm not a big fan of Vision et al but it's possible that we are seeing signs of intelligent life here. What an unusual concept in politics
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Green Thumb
I wish I was a real-estate developer :-(
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Chachee
If you think this proposal would make housing more affordable- your nuts. Builders are making duplexes as fast as they can and selling each nut for the price of a house circa 2006. It's bs.
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SPY vs SPY
Olga my Dear,

I'm so glad that you, who live in a 16,000 sq. foot house built on Prime Farm Land in Richmond, are telling Vancouver - ites how to live with less.

It warms the cockles of my heart, or the heart of my c_ck, Yah know what I mean.
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MarkBowen


There will be some griping about this, and there will need to be significant negotiations with corner lot owners, but honestly it’s a good start and a rather clever idea.

No, it’s not going to be a silver bullet that solves the affordability problem. It’s just one piece of a much larger puzzle that is going to take a lot of time and will to solve. In reality, Vancouver may never truly be super affordable to everyone, but anything that can be done to bring the prices down is helpful.

I’m tired of the constant negativity and immediate shutdowns many people seem to bring to bear against any idea to make things better. We need to start somewhere. This is a good, smart idea to start with.
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james green
Attempting to solve affordability with this kind of nonsense is just that nonsense. It is not types of housing and size of streets that is the problem. It s the cost of housing in Vancouver and that can only come down when greed is replaced with common sense. My new ebook explains.
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lololol
not enough land..... to many people.... HELLO! of course some developers are gonna bank of this, but its a step in the right direction.

And what exactly can the city do with no Provincial or Federal housing plan or help for the working class
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Save Vancouver
Pay no attention to those foreign buyers behind the curtain! The Great and Powerful Wizard has spoken, and the real problem is our streets are too wide!
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Will surina
If the city plans to build new lots next to existing corner lots they better be prepared to compensate the corner lot owner. Depending on where it is in the city eg) Shaunessey, the compensation will be considerable!
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GZLFB
This is horrible, then they will turn that thin street into a single bike lane.
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Silenced Citizen
"Will surina" : Why are you thinking there would be any compensation paid to a corner lot owner? Past Vision Vancouver approvals for developments that reduce livability and property values have included no compensation to affected neighbours - why would these ones?
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Steve_W
The "Thin streets" plan should start on the West Side, where the streets are really wide to begin with.
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anonymouse1962
Yep, that's the ticket! Take away more parking spots. I guess all the cars parked on side streets will just magically disappear.

I also imagine that the folks who built their new houses on corner lots facing the N/S streets will just love having a new house built right next to the front of their house :-)))

Thin streets really are just such a stupid unimaginative idea.
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Vancouver person
Bad, bad, very bad idea. You can't rip up well established blocks of otherwise happy single family home neighbourhoods and impose this on corner lot owners. After 6pm parking is full on our north-south street and now they float the idea of removing 1/2 of the parking spaces and adding two more homes blocking windows, light, and entrances of houses that have stood there for decades? Seriously?
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Lee L
Bad bad, very bad news Vancouver Person.

You think " You can't rip up well established blocks of otherwise happy single family home neighbourhoods and impose this on corner lot owners"

Why not? Vision Vancouver has already rezoned at least 90 percent of all Single Family Residence lots to multifamily. It is law, not speculation.
Of course, they havent wanted to awaken the sleeping giant, so they have not changed the NAME of the SFR lot to mulitfamily zone. But in practice, they have turned all single family lots into multifamily zoned lots, by the simple stroke of a pen that says you can build a laneway home.

The bylaw doesnt say you can only have family living in your fancy garage replacement, so it really is a change of zoning, without a referendum, and without as much as a peep from the local media.

So here it is, 90 percent of all formerly Single Family Residence zoned property in Metro Vancouver has the legal right to add another house to that property. Those of you clear on the concept realize that it wont be long, under Vision Vancouver, before your SFR property will be allowed to split as a strata, and the small family in your former garage, will be able to buy a piece of your property. All sounds great until you realize that your neighbours will ALL have the same right.

Single Family Residence zoning is dead.. killed by Gregor and the Green left.

Just sayin'
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Reya
Does anyone realize that this is UN Agenda 21 in action? Will people wake up when the city shoves them into tiny coffins under 'sustainable' garbage rhetoric, while they are driving in luxury cars and living in multi millions dollar houses?
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GZLFB
Agenda 21 is a good point. All the easements, this is no better than the pipe line.
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