Friday, June 8, 2012

Housing Form and Design: my contribution to the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force

Yesterday I joined Bruce Hayden and Patrick Condon at SFU's Noon Time Conversation Series to discuss whether there is a need for alternatives to the glass high-rise tower for Vancouver.  All three of us suggested that while there is a place for towers (well, two out of three were more supportive of building towers, right Patrick?) we all agreed that there is both a place and need for alternatives, especially those that can produce more affordable housing. These include fourplexes, sixplexes, townhouses, stacked townhouses, wood-frame apartments up to six storeys, and mid-rise buildings, both 'set on their own grounds', and with zero side yards.

This prompted me to suggest that some of the audience might be interested in the report that I prepared for the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force that examined these options and where they could go, and what changes might be required to facilitate them. In essence, I suggest ways to encourage more redevelopment along arterials (yes I know they are busy, noisy and dusty) but also propose a NEW TRANSITIONAL ZONE that might be established between the arterials and single family streets, and around transit nodes and community facilities.

This morning I was reading Frances Bula's Blog www.francesbula.com and came across a number of discussions regarding building form and density. This has prompted me to share a link to my report, noting that in the coming weeks, the Task Force will be issuing its final report. Then a full discussion will hopefully begin.

So far I have received one formal letter from a neighbourhood organization that criticized me and my report....It didn't even start off by saying how much it appreciated the effort that had no doubt been put into drafting the report....it just jumped straight into the concerns :-)  but I will look forward to hearing what others have to say.

Here's the report   http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/civicagencies/housing/PrelimRptFormDesign.pdf


5 comments:

Craig McNeil said...

Was consideration given to making streets adjacent to the Cambie Corridor “transition zones”? The "quick start actions" list included discussion about the Cambie Corridor as a vehicle to promote affordable housing. Yet the Cambie Corridor is not specifically mentioned in your report. Streets adjacent to Cambie would be logical starting points as "transition zones" as most of the planning for the first two phases of the corridor has been completed.

Peter Simpson said...

Michael, your contribution to the work of the mayor's task force was significant. And thank you taking the time to produce your thoughtful report. Never mind the predictable opposition from armchair critics. The public-engagement process will undoubtedly attract many meaningful ideas that will enrich the task force's final report in the fall. Regards, Peter

Michael Geller said...

Thanks Craig. with respect to Cambie, I understand the city has already determined that the blocks immediately behind Cambie should be upzoned to create a better transition and that this will be forthcoming...but if I'm wrong, then I agree they should be!

Peter, I appreciate your comments..I'm looking forward to the public engagement that I suspect will begin later this month.

Michael Geller said...

Thanks Craig. with respect to Cambie, I understand the city has already determined that the blocks immediately behind Cambie should be upzoned to create a better transition and that this will be forthcoming...but if I'm wrong, then I agree they should be!

Peter, I appreciate your comments..I'm looking forward to the public engagement that I suspect will begin later this month.

Michael Geller said...

Here's a comment from Voony that I found on Fabula's blog:

Some comments on the Michael Geller’s report

Report goes in the right direction, but seems to infuse the believe that housing is expensive in Vancouver, because development/construction cost are high.

I don’t believe that is true:

If Bjarke Ingels, build a tower in Vancouver where its condos will sell for $1M, It will be not because construction cost will be high …but because there is a market for $1M condos, you will see the Bjarke Ingels building (which no doubt will be expensive to build).

Same goes with the Laneway housing, because people are willing to rent $1600-$2300 such housing form, it well justify the $250,000 construction cost – in fact at today rate, a $2000 rent covers a $400K mortgage…so the economic model of the LWH is still very good, and because of that, land cost has significantly increased in Vancouver (as a result of the LWH policy). That bring us on the positive of the report:

Land subdivision
50ft lot need to be divided in 2×25 ft: that is a starter.
In some case, Vancouver has pretty l0ng lot -eg 33×160+ lots fronting both Taunton and McHardy in Collingwood neighborood.
In This area which could be called a “transition zone”, such lot should be divided in two 33×80 lots. (and why not 16.5×80 row house lot)

PS: I have posted this comment on the Michael Geller’s blog, but for some reason it didn’t appear there

PS2: Unit size of 800sqf is considered too small to raise a family- the typical market for rowhouse- nowadays you need to go at least with 1200sqf, ideally 1500sqf+, including a mortgage helper of 650 sqf+