I have been singing the praises of living small for years — and on this blog for months. But the problems that Vancouver has with housing its citizens cannot be solved by building a few (or a few hundred) laneway houses.
For us, it’s the perfect solution — there are two adults in our immediate family (and two indoor cats) and we are certainly not planning to add to that number of people or cats in the future. We are building our new laneway house in the garden of a comfortable home for a small family. There is potential in that home for building more bedrooms and baths in the walk-out basement — or even pushing up the roof to create space above the existing top floor — and thus accommodating more children. But the owners of that home have two good incomes. What chance do people with less than they earn have of finding a nice, roomy home to buy?
Very little chance indeed. Even in the areas that used to be a viable alternative for working class families — the suburbs.
And as Frances Bula says in this article, the “solution” to the housing problem everywhere seems to be to build more and more smaller and smaller homes. Not suitable for families with several children. And that trend can have long-reaching consequences for communities.
“We’re hearing this all the time now, that developers want to build more single-bedroom units, more small two-bedrooms,” Coquitlam Councillor Terry O’Neill said.
Last month, the Beedie Group, which is developing the Fraser Mills megaproject on Coquitlam’s Fraser River shore, asked to increase the number of units in its proposed development to 4,700 from 3,700 without changing the overall four million square feet of allowed building space.
That would mean shrinking the average size of the project’s units to 865 square feet from 1,100. It worried many Coquitlam councillors.
“The concern we heard was not about parking, not about extra population. It was about ‘What’s this going to do to the nature of the city?’” Mr. O’Neill said. “If it’s all small units, you’re just going to end up getting couples. We want to make sure there are a substantial number of units that will attract families.
Let’s see if any cities come up with good ideas for attracting and keeping families inside their borders.