Vancouver’s plan to build desperately needed high-density housing, and why not everyone agrees

A project to build high-rise towers in an already densely populated area of ​​British Columbia’s largest city raises questions about how urban centers can be livable and affordable as populations grow rapidly over the next few months. decades.

With the construction of a new subway line under Broadway, a busy Vancouver street that runs through several neighborhoods, city planners have seized the opportunity to increase housing in one of Canada’s most expensive cities.

The Broadway plan calls for the replacement of existing homes along the line with multi-story towers, capable of accommodating up to 50,000 additional residents. Mixed-use developments of up to 40 storeys may be permitted near SkyTrain stations, while older rental stock, often small 10-unit buildings, could be replaced by 15-20 storey housing estates.

The plan comes at a time when affordability is a major issue, not just in British Columbia, but Across the country: Municipal, provincial and federal governments are looking for ways to increase the housing stock and, they hope, reduce the cost of living for average Canadians.

The area is currently home to more than 78,000 people and, according to Mayor Kennedy Stewart, approximately 25% of the city’s tenants live along this corridor. The proposed changes would add up to 30,000 homes over the next 30 years.

A fight for the future

But some current residents worry about affordability and growing density, as this particular neighborhood is home to many smaller, older apartments that don’t cost tenants their entire paycheck, unlike other neighborhoods in the city. west side of town.

Residents against the Broadway plan gathered for a May 7 rally in front of City Hall. (Jane Frost)

Last weekend, a rally was held outside City Hall by people saying the proposed city plan would fundamentally change the nature of the city.

“We want to stop the concrete canyons,” said organizer Bill Tieleman, who said the skyscrapers would be out of reach for many residents. “We already know that new buildings in Vancouver are very unaffordable.”

But proponents of the project point out that Metro Vancouver is expected to grow by a million people over the next 30 years and housing is already hard to come by. Services such as a hospital and a town hall are both located in the area. City planners say it makes sense to create housing opportunities there.

The streets around Broadway are lined with small, relatively affordable apartment buildings. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

“If we don’t, then what? mentioned Charles Montgomery, an urban planner who lives in Vancouver.

“It is essential that we build more housing, multi-family housing, especially near workplaces.”

The first edition9:22Charles Montgomery on the Broadway Tower Project

Urban planner and author Charles Montgomery reacts to opposition to a proposed high-rise Broadway tower on Vancouver’s Granville Street – the kind of project he says is needed to solve Vancouver’s housing crisis.

According to Vancouver city planner Theresa O’Donnell, the Broadway area accounts for about 20% of the city’s growth.

The district is also home to more than 84,400 jobs, with as many as 42,000 jobs added over the next three decades.

An illustration of the Broadway plan shows the intention to put new high-rise buildings around Broadway to make way for more housing and job opportunities. (Map of Broadway/City of Vancouver)

Protections for tenants

The city also promises not to move existing residents. Stewart says the plan has been modified to “include the strongest protections for tenants in the country.”

If a tenant has to move, they will either be “generously compensated” or guaranteed the right to return with rent at or below their current rate.

The new Broadway subway line is under construction and is expected to be operational in 2025. (Courtney Dickson/CBC)

Project director Matt Shillito said anyone temporarily displaced due to the development will go through a needs assessment to determine what kind of space they need on their return to ensure they go back to a unit that suits his lifestyle.

He said 35% of units will need to be two or more bedrooms to accommodate families.

But the Vancouver Tenants’ Union is not convinced the city will actually protect tenants.

“Tenants have built their homes and these communities in Fairview and Mt. Pleasant. It’s up to tenants to resist impending gentrification and displacement,” organizer Mazdak Gharibnavaz said in a statement.

O’Donnell acknowledged residents’ concerns about the move and change, but told residents it would be a slow process.

“When you look at it now that might seem like a lot, but over 30 years it won’t be. We’re not asking this corridor to do more than it reasonably can.”