Many residents are finding it harder to stay in Vancouver. They can’t afford to buy homes, or rent homes, or have no housing at all.
Previous generations faced similar pressures but came together to find innovative solutions. Fifty years ago, Vancouver city council transformed an underused industrial brownfield into a community of co-ops, strata, and long-term leasehold homes. Today, we have the opportunity to take lessons from the past and apply them to the challenges we now face. It starts by approving a new, co-created vision for False Creek South allowing current residents to comfortably age in place while welcoming a whole new generation to live in one of the most beautiful neighbourhoods in the world.
False Creek South is indisputably a jewel, with approximately 2,000 homes on 80 acres [32 hectares] of publicly owned city land between the Cambie and Burrard Street bridges. Built in the 1970s, it was lauded as a triumph of planning and a model for building mixed communities.
But while Vancouver has changed dramatically over the last half century, False Creek South has not. With no new housing built in the area since the 1980s, it has slowly become less ethnically and economically diverse than the rest of Vancouver. There are few opportunities for younger residents to live here, and aging residents have limited access to support services.
That’s why city staff have worked with local residents for the past three years on a new path forward to preserve False Creek South’s unique character while helping it return to its roots as a dynamic, mixed community. It will add urgently needed housing for people of all income levels while ensuring everyone living there today can remain without displacement.
Highlights of the proposal include a new "campus of care" to help local seniors age in place and remain connected to their community. Sections of the railroad barrier will be removed to better connect South False Creek to the rest of the city. And it adds a full two acres [0.8 hectares] to Charleson Park.
But the most exciting part of the new plan is the addition of more than 4,600 new below-market and market rental, strata, and co-op homes so thousands of more Vancouver residents can enjoy the benefit of these publicly owned lands. All of this will be done gently over the next 20 years to ensure every person who lives there today can stay.
Imagine what this could mean for the housing crisis if we had more options for working families just a short bike ride away from downtown. Or if nurses and care aides lived within a quick walk or bus ride from Vancouver General or St. Paul’s hospitals.
That’s what this new future for False Creek South is all about: respecting the past while planning for a future that is more sustainable, affordable, vibrant, and community-minded.
Great cities like ours can never stand still. We must always examine whether our city is meeting our needs, both for today and tomorrow. That’s what leaders like Walter Hardwick did in the early 1970s when they took a former industrial waterfront and transformed it into one of the world’s best neighbourhoods. And it’s what we can do again so that even more people can be a part of False Creek South’s future.