Sunday, December 9, 2018

Very old West Van home comes with a new lease on life. North Shore News December 8th, 2018


1913 Vinson House restored and protected in perpetuity

/ North Shore News
December 8, 2018 09:42 AM
     She may not own the house anymore but she still wants it to be a home.
     When Carol Howie and her family thought about selling their 1913 craftsmen home in West Vancouver, also known as Vinson House, they feared that if they handed the keys over to the wrong people the house might end up as a mere historical footnote, rather than an enduring symbol from a bygone era.
     “We wanted to downsize, but we didn’t want the house to be bulldozed, which was exactly what was going to happen,” Howie tells the North Shore News during a recent tour of the house, adding that some Realtors viewed the place but seemed more interested in what they could do with the land rather than appreciate the house that had been standing tall at 1425 Gordon Ave. for more than 100 years.
     “Some of them didn’t even want to come inside because they just viewed it as a lot,” she says.
Howie connected with planner and architect Michael Geller, who describes himself as a “glutton for punishment” when it comes to the arduous task of restoring a character home.
     “We would like to encourage more people to save houses,” says Geller. “I’m a developer, but I’m also an architect. As an architect, I’ve always had an interest in old buildings, but I’m actually more interested in how old buildings and new buildings go together.”
     Howie ended up selling the property to Geller, who promised that if he was the one to sell it he’d do right by Vinson House. Planner and architect Michael Geller chats with Carol Howie, the former owner of the Vinson House, at left, at the property site at 1425 Gordon Ave. in West Vancouver - photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

     In 2016, the District of West Vancouver guaranteed heritage protection for Vinson House through a heritage revitalization agreement that would allow Geller to add additional development to the property site in exchange for restoring the main house and protecting it in perpetuity.
     Today, the redeveloped site includes two infill houses, a separate suite that has been added below Vinson House and, of course, the restored house itself.
     While the suite has already been sold, Geller and Howie eagerly show off Vinson House in a bid to demonstrate it’s near seamless blending of old meets new.
     “This was the smoking room way back when, and this was one little room where the maid slept,” says Howie during the tour, aptly demonstrating that if these walls could talk there would be much to say.
     “This is the butler’s pantry, where they would have just passed stuff through.”
     Valient Vivian Vinson built the house in 1913, one year after the municipality of West Vancouver was incorporated.
     Vinson, a former reeve of West Vancouver who was elected to council numerous times, was also a renowned photographer, explains Howie.
     “He took a lot of photos of dignitaries,” she says. “There’s this whole cool backstory which makes this house even more special.”
     The house maintains its original wooden structure, and while Geller strove to keep the home’s charming character while restoring it, a discerning eye might notice modern flourishes.
     The house has been rewired and the plumbing is new, says Geller. They’ve also made the old house a little brighter with the installation of a few ceiling lights here and there. There’s now sprinklers in the living room, but they don’t infringe on the space’s authentic look, in fact you’d never notice they’re there.
    “We’ve insulated this house, there’s sprinklers in this room. Can you see them?” says Geller. “I think it’s very livable now.”
     Howie, who is a collections assistant at the West Vancouver Art Museum and passionate archivist, recognizes that Vinson House is now out of her hands. But her love of history keeps her invested in its future.
     “I was just so passionate about saving it that I’m really interested in its next life and what happens to it and trying to encourage people to come live here because it’s a piece of West Van history. It’s one of the oldest intact arts and crafts houses,” says Howie.

Opinion: All those taxes and possible rental restrictions won’t help Vancouver renters Vancouver Courier December 3, 2018

      Last week, many Vancouver residents were delighted to hear on the radio and read in their newspapers that the Empty Home Tax had generated a windfall of $38 million — $8 million more than expected.
     I was not one of them.
     For one thing, only $21 million has actually been collected. While this is not an insignificant sum, it is less than $38 million.
     Secondly, buried in the city report were the one-time implementation costs of $7.5 million and first-year operating costs of $2.5 million. I expect these costs to increase.
     However, my main concerns are that this tax doesn’t just apply to empty homes; it also applies to second homes regularly occupied up to six months a year.
      As a result, it is forcing B.C. and out-of-province residents to sell the homes where they live while visiting relatives and friends, or volunteering at a local hospital, as is the case with one Sunshine Coast doctor.
      Furthermore, there is no evidence the program is achieving its initially stated goal of “bringing up to 25,000 empty and under-utilized properties to the market as long-term rental homes for people who live and work in Vancouver.”
     I am not blind to what many consider the injustice of homes being kept empty while others have nowhere to live. I understand that.
     However, this tax seems designed to appeal to those like Graham P. who recently wrote on Twitter that “second home owners (unless perhaps renting out a property) are among the most selfish people. Every purchase of a second home deprives someone of a first one.”
      To add insult to injury, the province copied the Empty Home Tax when it created its so-called Speculation Tax. It too is a form of wealth or inheritance tax (when it’s deferred) that impacts not only empty dwellings but also second homes.
      To date, we have received little information on how this program will be administered, nor how much it will cost.
      Mayor Kennedy Stewart and other city councillors are now musing about tripling the Empty Home Tax. While I question the effectiveness of the tax other than as a cash grab, I might accept this increase provided the program is altered to exclude legitimate second homeowners who regularly occupy their properties, say, up to 60 days a year.
      Two weeks ago, I was invited to speak at a CMHC National Housing Conference in Ottawa on how to increase the supply of affordable rental housing. I reviewed Vancouver’s practice of inclusionary zoning, which encourages private developers to build affordable housing in return for extra density. I also discussed the city’s somewhat positive experiences encouraging purpose-built rental housing construction under STIR and Rental 100.
      While I was in Ottawa, CMHC issued a report revealing the number of Metro Vancouver condos in long-term rental had declined by 1,081 units as investors sold or repurposed their properties. The biggest declines were within the city boundaries.
      At the same time, some city councillors were suggesting new restrictions on landlords undertaking renovations of older buildings. They propose tenants be allowed to remain in their suites during renovations. Alternatively, those forced to move should be allowed to return at the same rent.
      That’s not all. The province is about to release its long-awaited Rental Housing Task Force report. Many landlords fear it will tie rent increases not only to tenants but also to units. As a result, the incentive to renovate a suite after a tenant moves out will disappear.
      I understand and sympathize with the plight of renters who can’t afford rental increases or may be forced out of their homes due to renovations. But after five decades of working in affordable housing with CMHC, the private and institutional sectors, I worry that the cumulative effect and unintended consequences of the so-called Empty Home and Speculation Taxes and potential new rental restrictions will not help renters.
      Rather, they will inhibit the supply, renovation and maintenance of purpose-built and long-term condo rentals and do little to address the rental housing crisis.

Monday, December 3, 2018

So why are developers so keen to build unaffordable condos along the Broadway Corridor? I hope this helps explain why.

Today Patrick Condon (a friend and colleague whose passion I admire) wrote a column in the Tyee. A media outlet I admire. He writes about a book by John Gray, a local writer I also admire.

In his column, Patrick criticizes the expensive condos that are going to be built along the Broadway Corridor.

"The one thing we know with certainty is that these potential 15 million square feet of new condos will not sell for less than $1,200 a square foot.
You can just barely get a tiny two-bedroom unit into 700 square feet. That means it will cost you $840,000 to get into that baby"

Why does new housing so often cost $1200 psf. Or more?  Let's analyze what it costs to build a condominium.

What do you think is the current construction cost for a new concrete building meeting Vancouver's Building code? (Yes, Vancouver has its own Building Code which makes it more expensive to build here than say Burnaby or Richmond).
Is it $200 a foot? $250? $300? $350?

Based on my recent experience, it costs more than $400 a foot for a fairly standard product. Rental or condo. The estimated cost for a 6-storey concrete building on the West Side of Vancouver with which I am familiar is closer to $500 psf.

Now, what do you think the 'soft costs' are? These include consultant fees (on most projects there will be 15 different consultants), permits, DCLs, Metro DCLs, other municipal fees, taxes, Homeowner Protection Office fees, legal, insurance, development management. Guess! Did you say 10% of the construction costs? You're low.

Now let's talk marketing. The bank requires most developers to pre-sell at least 50% of the value of the project. In addition to sales commissions (3-4%), marketing costs are usually another 2-5% depending on size, location, etc.

Now there's financing. In addition to interest costs, how much do you think you must pay mortgage brokers and lenders to arrange a $50 million loan? $100,000? $250,000? $350,000? Guess again.
Now you must remember that although you buy land and pay construction and soft costs to build 100,000 sq ft, you can probably only sell 85,000 sq. ft. Why, you can't sell the corridors, stairwells, elevator, lobby, etc.

Meanwhile, we haven't even considered land cost or municipal Community Amenity Contributions. On June 20, 2018, Council approved new Broadway Corridor CACs of $330 to $425 psf. Really. I'm not making this up!

Now, let's turn to developer's profit. Most financial institutions want to see an estimated profit equal to at least 15% of the costs, recognizing that projects may well take 4 to 5 years from conception to completion. 17.5% is probably an industry norm these days.

So what's my point? Developers don't set out to build luxury projects. But when you add up the costs, you're at luxury prices. Those who recently purchased sites in Vancouver at $450 a foot or more need at least $1500 a foot to make a project viable. And right now, it looks to me like many won't get it.

Yes, you could replace the granite countertops and frameless shower stalls and stainless steel appliances with something a bit more modest, but the savings are bubkes. (

So to Patrick and others, before criticising developers who only seem to want to build luxury housing, I suggest you study in detail a 2018 real estate proforma. Then you might better understand why those Broadway condos will cost $1200 a foot or more.

To see how we might reduce some of these costs, check out my 2017 SFU Affordable Housing Lecture.

I hope this is helpful. Comments?

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Reflections on Vancouver's architectural design, planning and development by Ray Spaxman (Director of Planning 1973-1989)

As Vancouver embarks on a City Plan, it will be important in my opinion to not only look at the single family neighbourhoods, but also at the future of the downtown. I am concerned that a number of recent spot-rezonings are ultimately going to result in the loss of what made Vancouver special over the past few decades. If you don't believe me, just watch the corner of Seymour and Hastings where a previous designated open space (albeit not the most beautiful design) that was the result of a density transfer with which I was involved in 1982 is being destroyed and replaced by a 20+ FSR office building
As you will read below, Spaxman has changed is views on this new development proposal on Melville Street.
Spaxman quite rightly points out that this illustration is good evidence of the architect and developer's complete lack of concern for context when it comes to the design of this new proposal for the north end of the Granville Street bridge
     I believe the person who is most responsible for Vancouver's acclaim as a centre for good planning is former Director of Planning Ray Spaxman. Following his appointment in the early 1970s, he introduced the concept of citizen participation in the planning process and the importance of neighbourliness.
    Here is one of many interviews with him on this topic;
    Recently, Ray has been quite outspoken about many of the new, very high-density commercial and residential developments in the city's downtown and West End. He is concerned that they do not respect their context and neighbours, and I generally agree.
    Below is an email message many of his followers received concerning two new developments in the city. I am reprinting it with his permission. As the city is about to embark on a City Plan, I hope his concerns will be given careful consideration. While there is much need for new planning in the city's 'mature ring', including Dunbar, Kerrisdale, etc. I think it is time to rethink what we are doing to our downtown and West End.
     Here is Ray's message.

At the end of my previous missive on the 1133 Melville project I noted that several respondents had told me that while they usually had a gut response to a design, either liking or not liking it, they were at a loss about how to express to others why that was.  One respondent asked how they could assess the design issues. Coupled with my earlier promise to explain how I came to alter my first impression of the building, this note (the result of numerous drafts), is my attempt to communicate on those issues. 

Then, just as I thought I had arrived at a good draft, someone sent me the proposed “Granville Gateway" project which I shared with you on November 21st. In my comments I said I was “nonplussed” by what I saw. While my further comments hinted at some reasons for that, I decided to take some time to consider the scheme more carefully, including reading the rezoning application itself. 
I have now done that and have moved into the broader issue of what constitutes good urban design. 

Many Urbanarium readers are very experienced on such matters and will hopefully bear with me as I try to connect particularly with those readers who asked me to explain further.  I regret the shortage of local architectural criticism in our media and especially the lack of visionary discussion about the many multi-dimensional design opportunities we have in our region. 

Because I need to keep it as short as I can, I decided to set out a number of what I have titled THOUGHTS. They aim to provide references to what to look for when assessing development proposals   

THOUGHT ONE. Architecture and “Commodity, Firmness and Delight”.
We are all endowed with different abilities. Some people have exceptional design abilities. It is often suggested that good architecture has to satisfy the elements of what Vitruvius described as Commodity, (Does it work?), Firmness, (Is it soundly built?)  and Delight (Does it express pleasure to those who experience it?).  Good architectural teams will have those components appropriately represented. Architectural firms become known for their strengths and weaknesses. Some firms may be recognized for their skills in getting  buildings built on time and on budget, others for their special skills with particular building types, like hospitals, community centres, airports, high rise apartments, single family homes, big office towers and so on. They also earn reputations for their design abilities and, of course, in that instance the goals and design sensitivities of their clients become paramount. Designing a building for very rich people is a different exercise than designing for very poor people. Designing for the desires of the world community is different from designing for our local community.  Commodity, Firmness and Delight still apply to all building creativity. 

As an architect, I was always aware that there were some architects who had a magic touch with design. While many of us can seek to understand and improve our skills, there will always be people who have a magic touch. Even so, their successes will still score most highly if they design to achieve high levels of Commodity and Firmness as well as Delight.  

You can see when you read the design rationale for the 1133 Melville proposal where the architect has given serious consideration to these elements and explain them in understandable language. 

THOUGHT TWO. Is a City like a Garden? 
The city is like a garden. When we create and maintain a garden we have regard for the types of soil we will encounter, where and when the sun shines, how the plants thrive in relation to other plants, how it relates to neighbours' gardens, and so on. We know we can only achieve a successful, healthy and attractive garden if we consider how all the plants contribute to its overall health and beauty, When we plant a new tree we have to ensure that we don’t kill the plants that might be overcome by its shadowing or extending root system. It has to be neighbourly. When we visit a well created and maintained garden we can sense the way everything is working to provide a healthy and beautiful environment. 

A city is like that, or can be. Consider our developing downtown and wonder if the same compatibilities or neighbourly concerns are being creatively crafted as the city grows. Think of the other places you know and wonder which ones you feel most comfortable in and why.  Wonder about how new buildings get inserted into the whole fabric of the city. Some new building proposals, while attending to their own needs for sun and shade, privacy, views, microclimate, access and so on, do not always give care to those same assets already existing for their neighbours. Proposals that ignore their neighbours end up harming the livability of the whole city. They harm it physically, functionally and especially socially. I believe a city that ignores the need for good neighbourliness in its development processes will end up an unhappy city. 

Do you see how the "Granville Gateway" project is so enamoured with its own spectacular design that it has to fade out and simplify the whole of its context in Downtown Vancouver, right through to the existing Mountains? 

THOUGHT THREE.  Neighbourliness. 
Good neighbourliness can apply to all three components  of Commodity, Firmness and Delight.  For example, under Commodity: Does the building add to or subtract from the workability and/or amenities of the neighbourhood where it is located? Firmness: Does it add to or subtract from the value of its neighbourhood? Delight: Does it enhance the delight of the neighbourhood where it is to be located? In our city these issues were once given extremely important consideration and dozens of guidelines were created to assist designers in those elements that contributed to good neighbourliness. Those guidelines were the basis for the design process that created, and what became respected as "Vancouverism”. 

The Melville proposal goes to considerable lengths to explain how it has been designed to fit supportively into its neighbourhood  - acknowledging its extraordinary density.

My foremost example of how this can go wrong is the now-approved Jenga Tower on Georgia Street, where the first “magnificent idea” drove the proponents, the architects and, apparently, including the City bureaucracy, to ignore the main elements of good neighbourliness.

THOUGHT FOUR.  An Architect's Dilemma. 
Imagine you are a local architect. A big and important developer approaches you and wishes to commission you to design a high quality office building on a site the firm has acquired in Downtown. While it is in an area zoned at 7 FSR, discussions with contacts around town and at City Hall suggest that a much higher density is possible there. It would provide much needed modern office space and a much better return on investment which could be shared with the city.  The developer understands that the City would consider a spot rezoning on that site for perhaps three times the zoned density, perhaps as hIgh as 21 FSR and be taller than the current height limit therefore requiring special consideration.  

You return to your office to discuss this with your partners. They see it as a great architectural and business opportunity but some of them worry about the impact of such a huge density on that area of town, especially on the existing neighbours. You argue that, while a city that develops at over 20 FSR is going go feel very dense and certainly much different from what “Vancouverism” used to mean, this seems to be what the city leadership believes is good for the city. We are not in a position to second guess what might be the community’s will. And, as well, someone is going to design it, so, as we know we are some of the most competent architects in the city, let us give it our best shot.   

We define density in Vancouver with a Floor Space Ratio, known as FSR. Some communities call it FAR, Floor Area Ratio.  Various areas of the city are zoned for a specific FSR. The FSR shows how much floor space can be built on a site in that area.  For example 2 FSR means that any development on the site can accommodate as much floor space as the equivalent of twice the area of the site itself. If the building covered the whole site area, it could be two storeys high. Very few buildings cover the whole site. This is because  other requirements such as for day-lighting, street and lane setbacks, and access to parking and other services on site also have to be accommodated.

Experienced people can quickly identify the approximate built densities of various forms of development. Here are few typical examples. 

Single family houses   = 0.45 FSR and two storeys. 
Two family homes   = 0.75 FSR  ditto.
Townhouses = 1.5 FSR up to three storeys. 
Three storey apartments = 1.5 FSR.
Six storey “mid rise” apartments = 3.0 FSR.  
Older High rise apartments  = 3.0 FSR. 
High rise apartments = 4.5 FSR Downtown South, Yaletown.
Older High rise  office buildings   = 9 FSR  and 450 ft. Downtown.
Higher mixed use buildings today = 24 FSR and 700 ft. Downtown. 

Some are more mysterious. For example the proposed Granville Gateway at 550 ft. tall is said to be 7.0 FSR. 

THOUGHT SIX. Who Looks After the Neighbours’ Interests?
While I think it is in all of our interests to care about neighbourliness, it is especially important for proponents of development to care.  However, their primary goal may be for a building that would compromise neighbours' existing amenities. That is where the City comes in. Through its planning processes the City has discovered through discussions with the public, and through it’s policy decisions, what the community believes constitutes good neighbourly development  What is key here is that the City, in negotiations with the  developer’s team and the affected neighbours, has a special role in ensuring good neighbourly development. 

Urbanarmers will be aware of many of my communications over recent years where I believe the City has frequently failed to identify and ensure consideration of these neighbourly polices. When that happens the individual neighbour has a difficult, if not impossible task when faced with the huge, combined resources of the developer and the City. 

Again, the Jenga tower is an example of how the neighbours' concerns were secondary to the desire for an iconic building and substantial community amenity contributions from the developer.  

THOUGHT SEVEN. Then, What about 1133 Melville?
If you would like more explanation about its design merits, find the application on Google. They do a much better job than I can do here. They also use language that is clear and objective. 

THOUGHT EIGHT. Then, What about Granville Gateway?
Find their design rationale on Google too, and compare their language with the Melville application.

THOUGHT NINE. Regarding More Applications to Come. 
Use these THOUGHTS for future proposals.  
I do hope this helps! Please let me know. 

Best Regards, Ray

CMHC's National Housing Conference November 21 & 22

Earlier this year, I received an invitation from CMHC Ottawa to attend a national housing conference to be held in November. For 10 years between 1972 and 1981, I worked for CMHC in Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto and often attended CMHC events. However, many years have passed, so I happily accepted the invitation.
      Unfortunately, time does not allow me to summarize all that I heard and learned. However, key takeaways were that the drop in housing prices that we are experiencing in Vancouver is not unique to BC. Prices have also been dropping in Sweden, UK, Australia, and elsewhere around the world where prices increased dramatically over the past few years.
     Also, there are some intriguing financing models being developed to help finance social housing, and allow people to invest. One Australian company BrickX has developed an interesting way to allow millenials and others to invest in residential property without actually buying a property.

     I decided to speak about the pros and cons of Inclusionary Zoning, since while CMHC is promising significant new public funding for social housing, there will never be enough money to go around and IZ has a role to play, as long as it's responsive to market realities. In this regard, I spoke in favour of 'poor doors'!

        Below is the preliminary conference program. (there were some substititions) This will hopefully convey what CMHC considers to be the most important topics of the day when it comes to affordable housing.


Introductory Remarks
Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Keynote Address: Douglas Cardinal, OC, Canadian Architect
Creating socially inclusive communities through people-centred planning, design and architecture
How is the concept of social inclusion evolving in Canada? How can we adapt planning processes to meet the needs of a community? Hear from renowned and celebrated Canadian architect Douglas Cardinal as he discusses his architectural planning process and explores the impacts of community-centred planning and design on social inclusivity– especially for Indigenous peoples. Cardinal will also speak to the importance of traditional practices, culturally-appropriate designs and the significance of including women as integral decision-makers.

Plenary Panel 1: A place to call home or a place to accumulate wealth? Inequality and exclusion in housing markets
For investors, housing has become a commodity - a means to secure and accumulate wealth. However, for most households, income and wealth inequalities have created an environment where it’s become increasingly difficult to find a place to live in dignity and thrive in a community. Four experts bring the perspectives of academia, government, politics and policy to understanding market needs and explore solutions to rising inequality and social exclusion.
 Moderator: TBC
 Evan Siddall, CEO, CMHC
 Manuel Aalbers, Professor, U of Leuven
 Leilani Farha, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, OHCHR
 Michael Oxley, Professor, Cambridge University

Lunch and Presentation of Housing Research Awards
Beginning at 1:00 p.m. Evan Siddall will present the Housing Research Awards to the inaugural recipients

Breakout 1A: Designing global cities: Planning solutions to population growth, affordability and inequalities
From Vancouver to Barcelona via Toronto, rapid population growth is fuelling housing shortages and social exclusion in cities, widening the gap between the “haves” developers and the “have nots” citizens. This panel explores how innovative design and planning solutions can limit social polarization and guarantee access to more affordable housing for all global citizens. Hear from architects and planning experts about their own projects and how they are creating housing that puts citizens first.
 Moderator: Manuel Aalbers, Professor , University of Leuven
 Patricia McCarney, President & CEO of World Council on City Data
 Micheal Geller, President of The Geller Group, Vancouver
 César Ramírez Martinell, Architect & Planner, Chairman & Founder of Barcelona Housing System, Barcelona
 Ana Bailão, Deputy Mayor, Councillor, Ward 18 - Davenport Toronto's Housing Advocate

Breakout 1B: It takes two: How government and capital markets can boost affordability and choice
Government support alone isn’t enough to keep our cities vibrant and affordable – support from capital markets is key. In this session, Canadian and international panellists examine innovative ways that private and public partners can work together to create sustainable and affordable financing options. Gain insight on energy-efficient mortgages, social impact bonds, cost-effective funding partnerships and discover how Canada can take a leading role.
 Moderator: Tim Nash, Founder of Good Investing, Toronto
 Julie Lawson, Honorary Associate Professor, Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University, Australia
 Luca Bertalot, Secretary General of EMF-ECBC, Belgium
 José de Jesus Gómez Dorantes, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of FHipo, Mexico
 Louise Stevens, Treasurer, CMHC

Breakout 1C: All housing is social housing: Investing in inclusive communities
What is exclusion and how do we overcome it? Our panellists bring their diverse points of view to help you better understand the unique challenges of achieving social-inclusivity. Whether it’s accessible housing, mixed income housing or housing located close to services and amenities – get inspired and learn more about the innovative ways Canadians are contributing to fostering access, acceptance and integration in our communities.
 Moderator: Emily Paradis, Senior Research Associate – U of T, Lived Experience Advisory Council of CAEH
 Edith Cyr - Director Bâtir son Quartier, Montreal
 Avvy Go, Clinic Director of Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
 EM Pijl - Assistant Professor, University of Lethbridge, Alberta
 Debbie McGraw, Housing Locator, Housing First Program
 Cheyanne Ratnam, Project Coordinator, A Way Home

Breakout 1D: Human rights based approach to housing
A key element of the National Housing Strategy is the Government’s commitment to progressively realize a right to adequate housing through legislation and initiatives that focus on the needs of vulnerable populations. This panel will consider what systemic housing barriers exist and propose solutions for expanding the participation of marginalized groups in housing policy and decision making.
 Moderator: Jeff Morrison, Executive Director, CHRA
 Martin Gallié, Professor, UCAM
 Kristi Mader, Executive Director, Ready to Rent BC
 Charlene Gagnon, Manager of Advocacy Research and New Initiatives, YWCA Halifax

Day 2: Keynote Address: Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
Turning the tide on social inequality: The need for inclusive housing and sustainable communities
London is dealing with the impact of a changing economic landscape, including disruptive capital flows that are leading to higher home prices, rents and housing costs. This is having spill over effect on other aspects of society like health and education. Dorling brings his expertise to help us understand what’s happening in London, what solutions could have an impact and how they could inspire other global cities.

Plenary Panel 2: Balancing Stability, Growth, and Inclusiveness: How governments can manage systemic risks and maintain healthy housing markets
Price escalation, affordability issues in major cities and high household indebtedness – Canada isn’t alone in experiencing these housing market issues. Australia, Ireland and Sweden have all been responding to similar problems in different, innovative ways. Top central bank and supervisory officials from these countries join us to discuss their experiences and bring their perspectives on the challenge of formulating policy while balancing sometimes competing public policy objectives.
 Moderator: Romy Bowers, CMHC
 Carolyn Wilkins, Senior Deputy Governor, Bank of Canada
 Carl Schwartz, Chief Representative New York Office, Reserve Bank of Australia
 Erik Thedéen, Director General, Finansinspektionen (Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority)
 Robert Kelly, Deputy Head of Financial Stability, Central Bank of Ireland
Breakout 3A: Exploring solutions to supply in housing markets
Rising home prices in some Canadian urban areas have been linked to relatively weak supply responsiveness. This panel will highlight the importance of understanding the market, the impact of policy on land and home supply, as well as explore ways to improve supply responsiveness. It will also look at the potential for cooperation and partnerships to help overcome supply challenges in cities across the country.
 Moderator: Aled Ab Iorwerth, CMHC
 Tom Davidoff, Director, UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate, Suander School of Business
 Dan Garrison, City of Vancouver
 Enid Slack, Director, Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance
 Claire Noble, City of Calgary

Breakout 3B: The co-operative community housing model: Still strong after 50 years
Housing co-ops offer quality, affordable, community-oriented housing to over 250,000 people in Canada and yet, there remains significant unmet demand for affordable and co-operative housing. Leaders in co-op housing from across the country explain how co-operatives are evolving to adapt to current housing market trends. They will also discuss what it will take for co-ops to remain modern and relevant moving forward.
 Moderator: Blair Hamilton, Program Manager, Manitoba, Co-operative Housing Federation
 Louis Philipe Myre, Director of Consulting Services, FECHIMM
 Christyne Lavoie, Agente de Recherche, Université de Sherbrooke
 Thom Armstrong – Executive Director, Co-operative Housing Federation of BC
Breakout 3C: Forging new partnerships: Collaboration and creativity in Indigenous housing
In the spirit of reconciliation, governments, academia, the non-profit and private sector as well as community organisations are working to build new relationships with Indigenous peoples. In this panel, we discuss ways to advance partnerships and relationships in order to improve Indigenous housing outcomes on reserve, and in urban, rural, and northern areas.Hear first-hand about the successes and challenges of these partnerships and discover creative ways of tackling complex housing issues.
 Moderator: Trina Wall, CMHC
 Shirley Thompson, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
 Carolynn Constant, Mino Bimaadiziwin Partnership
 Alex Wilson, Academic Director of the Aboriginal Education Research Centre, University of Saskatchewan + co-presenter
 Nancy Martin Executive Director, Miziwe Biik
 Ricky Houghton, CEO, He Korowai Trust, Kaitaia, New Zealand
 Robert Buyers, President and Chief Executive Officer, Namerind Housing Corporation, Regina

Breakout 3D: Building an affordable future for rental housing
For the first time in over four decades, levels of homeownership in Canada have been declining. Demand for ownership is being outpaced by growing demand for rental housing, which is pushing rents higher and deepening housing affordability woes. Hear from experts as they provide a better understanding of the different factors influencing affordability issues and discuss the potential role of policy in contributing to solutions.
 Moderator: Simplice Nono, CMHC
 Brian Clifford, BC Non-Profit Housing Association, Vancouver
 Catherine Leviten-Reid, Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia
 Nathanael Lauster, University of British Columbia
 Jacob Cosman, John Hopkins University, Maryland

Breakout 4A: The life and death of smart growth: Will a lack of demand kill high density plans?
Municipalities across Canada are continuing to embrace smart growth policies that promote smaller, higher density housing surrounded by amenities. Yet, many consumers are still choosing to buy large single-family inner city and suburban homes. Our panellists dive in to this discrepancy and unpack the connection between what consumer want, are willing to buy/rent, and what cities are prioritizing. A deeper understanding of this issue will help guide relevant solutions for municipal growth policies.
Moderator: Michael C. Oram, CMHC
• Cheryll Case, CP Planning
• Ren Thomas, Professor, Dalhousie University
• Stu Niebergall, Regina Home Builders’ Association
• Oualid Moussouni, P

Breakout 4B: Environmentally-sustainable housing for vulnerable Canadians
In this session, affordable housing providers showcase the ways they have balanced meeting client needs with environmentally-sustainable objectives and requirements. Providers share how to reconcile increased capital costs of ‘green’ housing projects with providing as many units as possible. They’ll also demonstrate how their projects are delivering tangible results since implementation and explore how investments in sustainability can translate to reduced operating costs.
 Moderator:
 Raymond Sullivan, Executive Director, Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation
 Daniel Pearl, co-Founder of l’OEUF (L’Office de l’Électisme Urbain et Fonctionnel)
 Cameron MacDonald, Executive Director, Right at Home Housing Society

Breakout 4C: Reaching Home: A new federal response to homelessness in Canada
Over the next 10 years, the National Housing Strategy aims to cut chronic homelessness in half. Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC) will launch a new federal homelessness program in April 2019 to help meet this goal. Learn new details about key elements of the program and provide feedback. Additionally, gain insight from community partners and explore how the program will improve outcomes for individuals experiencing homelessness.
 Moderator: Abra Adamo, CMHC
 Natasha Pateman, Executive Director, Homelessness Partnering Strategy, ESDC
 Susan McGee, Executive Director, Homeward Trust, Edmonton
 Jim Fowler, Executive Director, homeEd, Edmonton
 Amanda DiFalco, Manager, Homelessness Policy and Programs, City of Hamilton
 Dean Waterfield, Senior Director, Housing and Homelessness, Wesley, Hamilton
Breakout 4D: The future of social housing
The National Housing Strategy identifies a number of core priorities, including improving the sustainability of community housing and building the capacity of housing providers. Join this opportunity to discuss the challenges, opportunities and the vision for a future of more sustainable, inclusive social housing.
 Moderator: Julia Markovick, CMHC
 Steve Pomeroy, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research and Education, Carleton University
 Karen Hemmingson, Chief Research Officer, BC Housing and Housing Partnerships Canada
 Kevin Albers, CEO, M’akola Development Services

Plenary Panel 3: Deriving social outcomes from private capital
Social finance investments mobilize capital from a variety of investors, such as charitable foundations and high net worth individuals into projects that deliver positive social, economic and environmental outcomes. Challenges and constraints - such as lack of investor readiness and limited data on results - have impacted growth in the Canadian market. This panel will look at the role of social finance in fostering more socially inclusive communities and how government can harness the full potential of private capital.
 Moderator: CMHC Chair, Derek Ballantyne
 Nancy Neamtan, Strategic Advisor, Territoires innovants en économie sociale et solidaire
 Shayne Ramsay, CEO, BC Housing and Chair, Housing Partnership Canada
 Tamara Vrooman, CEO, Vancity
 Michael Oxley, Professor, Cambridge University

Closing Remarks
Evan Siddall, CEO, CMHC

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bob Williams, Harold Steves, Mike Harcourt to tell BC planning stories Friday November 16th SFU Goldcorp Center 6pm. All welcome.

How did the Agricultural Land Reserve get created?
Who planned the redevelopment of False Creek?
How did Whistler get transformed to what it is today?
Who planned modern day

New Westminster, Coquitlam, Richmond and the rest of Metro Vancouver?

These are just a few of the questions that will be discussed at a special event being organized by the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) for planners and the general public tomorrow (Friday November 16th) at SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 West Hastings Street) starting at 6pm.

Some of the major figures who were responsible for these events will be in attendance (see below).

Below is a media release recently issued by the PIBC

Leading Planners and Community Builders To Share Stories That Shaped The Vancouver Region at PIBC 60th Anniversary Event This Friday.

The South Coast Chapter of the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC) will be hosting leading planners and community builders from the Lower Mainland who will share their stories on how our region was shaped over the past 60 years.

This event on Friday November 16th is part of PIBC’s 60th anniversary celebrations and provides a rare opportunity to hear stories and insights from a list of distinguished local planning professionals and community leaders on the historic urban, community, and regional development of greater Vancouver. While the event is being organized by the PIBC the general public is also invited to attend. Tickets are $65 dollars and include refreshments. You can register here:

Participating speakers include: 

Harold Steves Councillor City of Richmond and former BC Cabinet Minister
Bob Williams former BC Cabinet Minister
Mike Harcourt, Honorary member PIBC
Michael Geller FCIP, RPP (@michaelgeller) Mike Harcourt (PIBC Honourary Member)
Gordon Price (PIBC Honourary Member) (@pricetags)
Ken Cameron FCIP, RPP
Ray Spaxman FCIP, RPP
Dr. Ann McAfee FCIP, RPP
James MacIntyre MCIP, RPP
Eric Vance FCIP, RPP
Lisa Spitale MCIP, RPP and more...

For a complete list of speakers, visit:

The event takes place on:
Friday November 16, 2018
6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre - SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts (149 West Hastings Street). Refreshments & appetizers will be served. Cash bar available.

6:00 PM-6:30 PM - Cocktail reception
6:30 PM-8:00 PM - Introduction and stories from the 1950s to early 1980s
8:00 PM-8:15 PM - Intermission
8:15 PM-9:00 PM - Stories from the 1980s to 2010

Members of the media who would like to join us, please contact:
Dave Crossley, PIBC Executive Director at: or: 604 696 5031.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

November 14th. Prince Charles' and Estelle Paget's (nee Geller) 70th Birthday


     Today is a special day in our family's life. Seventy years ago my sister Estelle was born in Blackpool UK. According to family lore, had she born about 30 minutes later, my parents would have won a house. That's because a British newspaper had offered a new house to the parents of the child born closest to the future king's birth. My parents got a carpet.
    Over the years, both Estelle and I have had an opportunity to meet the Prince. Estelle arranged her meeting by writing to Ottawa in advance of one of the Prince's visits to Vancouver. She stood in line next to Glen Clark. (I'm looking for the photo.)  I met him when I was at SFU.
In conjunction with the Prince's birthday, a lot of commemorative goods are on sale in UK. Estelle's daugter-in-law managed to arrange for  this special plate which will no doubt be put to good use in Victoria where Estelle now lives.
     I suspect she'll show it to all her colleagues at KidCare Canada, a non-profit organization she founded to promote early childhood development. She was recently honoured for her work at a celebration at Government House.

You can read more about it here.
Estelle celebrates her birthday with family and friends in Victoria. Looking on are her son Gontran, daughter Julie and grandchildren.

      I'll be making a donation to KidCare in honour of Estelle's 70th birthday. I'm sure she won't mind if you do too!