In Vancouver, close to three-quarters of our land is set aside for market detached homes. It’s a form of exclusionary zoning that has kept a majority of people from living in huge swaths of the city. The way we’ve decided to allocate this land—which remains unceded by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations—is deeply unjust.
For too long, politicians have been fearful of changing the status quo, instead opting to add nearly all new housing in near the downtown core and along busy main streets. These same elected leaders have also largely allowed the market to dictate what types of housing gets built, leaving Vancouver with an abundance of expensive condo towers and a massive shortage of options for low- and modest-income residents.
Moreover, the pressures of future growth have resulted in skyrocketing land values along our main streets, pricing out existing businesses.This remaking of our important commercial spaces has also hollowed them out. New developments have produced large commercial spaces best suited for big-box corporate chains on their ground floor, instead of the smaller-scale spaces that work best for small and local businesses.
Meanwhile, rampant real estate speculation has changed the character of our single-family detached neighbourhoods anyway, and an increasing number of homes sit empty, functioning as an investment rather than a place to live. In certain areas of the city where development pressure has been disproportionately felt—such as Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside—gentrification is making life tougher for existing residents and displacing others.
The result: our main commercial streets are losing the local vibrancy that makes them special. Our higher-income neighbourhoods are hollowing out. Our lower-income neighbourhoods are seeing residents squeezed out. We’re seeing friend and family leave and more people pushed into precarious housing or onto our streets
Political fear of changing the status quo, and the weighty influence of large developers, has made this the story of Vancouver for decades, and it’s reached a crisis point.
We believe a different story is possible. Here’s how:
1. Inclusive Neighbourhoods: Every neighbourhood for everyone
First, residential land should be for the many, not the few. OneCity Vancouver is advocating for more homes, in all shapes and sizes. We imagine a Vancouver with more balance and variety in housing options, including more apartments, social and supportive housing, multiplexes, and co-ops. Every neighbourhood should be for everyone.
However, unrestrained free-market development will not fix the housing crisis. That is why we will prioritize development that creates more affordable housing options, because all kinds of families and people should have access to the opportunities and benefits of living near good schools, transit, jobs, and green spaces.
2. Land Value Capture: Creating public wealth to create true affordability
Given who has profited most from land and development in this city over the years, concerns about upzoning being a windfall for existing landowners and large developers are valid. Zoning and infrastructure development are powerful local government tools, and we need to ensure they are used to generate real public benefits.
To this end, we are committed to bringing in a "Land Value Capture" policy, designed to redirect part of the wealth gained through rezoning, infrastructure improvements, and land-value windfalls into public and affordable housing. In cities where a land value tax is in place, it also decreases land speculation.
3. Arts, Culture, and Local business: Supporting what makes Vancouver special
Unique neighbourhood culture, vibrant commercial streets, and a thriving arts and culture scene create an important sense of place in Vancouver. We’re committed to strengthening them for all Vancouverites.
There are strong market pressures to remake commercial streets in ways that favour global chains. So, we are advocating for differentiated business licences and tax rates that encourage local and legacy businesses. A similar policy in San Francisco over the past 14 years has resulted in the lowest percentage of corporate chain stores of any large city in the U.S.
In addition, we are advocating for significant property tax reductions for cultural hubs across the city, to support spaces that nurture creative and nonprofit sector endeavours in Vancouver. Modelled after a recent policy passed in Toronto, it would provide relief to cultural organizations from the massive increases in rental and lease rates of recent years.
This is a future for Vancouver that we are excited about. It revitalizes neighbourhoods, and creates housing options that allow families, renters, and those of low and modest incomes to imagine a future in this beloved city.
Vancouver is in crisis. OneCity is ready to start writing a new story—a more hopeful, just, and inclusive one. The story of a Vancouver that is genuinely for everyone. It’s not too late.