*Not In My Neighbour’s Back Yard
This week’s public meeting at City Hall really opened my eyes to some of the problems the city has in getting anything done. Every time the City wants to move forward there’s always push-back. Not from everyone, no, but from some of the people who have property here.
Sitting and listening to the speakers at the meeting clued me in to how those people really want things to be. And this is how people want things to be:
They want their neighbourhood to stay the same — the houses the same size they are now. They want places to park their cars and roads to drive on them. They don’t want “developers” and “Translink” to ruin everything. They don’t want laneway houses in their neighbour’s back yards.
But at the same time, they want their property values to go up (but not their civic taxes), they want their kids to be able to buy in the same neighbourhood they live in now, to take safe and convenient public transit to schools that are well-maintained and full of happy kids.
It seems like they want a small-town life in a big city. And they don’t see how that just won’t work.
We live in a big city — with big city problems. We have homeless. We have poverty. We have drugs and crime and traffic. And we can’t solve those problems if everything remains the same.
Everyone who spoke agreed that we have a housing problem in Vancouver. We have limited rental space, which makes it very expensive. We have no more room to build more houses, which means the houses that are here go up in value — a limited supply for an increasing demand. And people want to live here because the jobs and the economy.
Of course some people had solutions. Don’t densify within Vancouver city limits, let the suburbs absorb the people who will be moving here. Or densify by building large apartment buildings. Or densify, but don’t build apartment towers, build low-rise rental buildings, only don’t re-zone any single-family homes to do it. Or (my personal favourite) slow down the economy in Vancouver so people won’t want to move here any more.
There seemed to be a quasi-elitist sentiment behind many of the speakers’ comments — I’ve got mine and now I will protect it by making sure that you don’t get yours. I got the feeling some of them wanted Vancouver to become a gated community, where the professionals and the wealthy get to live here, and the people who flip our burgers and clean our hospitals and type our letters and sell us clothes get to take transit in from the suburbs.
But, as Mark Sakai from the Greater Vancouver Home Builder’s Association pointed out, the city is changing, it has to change and we want it to change. The only important thing is that it changes in ways that mean a better life for its citizens.
So I am happy that the City has allowed laneways to add to the densification of Vancouver, and I am glad that it’s become more inclusive. There was some talk about limiting the number of laneway homes allowed to be built on any one block, but everyone could see how unfair — and elitist — that was.
By the way, if anyone is thinking that small town life is stress-and-wierdness-free, remember that Mt. Airy, North Carolina, hometown of Andy Griffith and model for Mayberry, was also where Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese Twins, had their home, and their descendants still live there.