We Are The 12%

August 12, 2013

We are used to Bob Ransford’s pro-development at any cost rhetoric in the Vancouver Sun’s columns, but his latest argument (“Activists, Council must think collaboratively“) has more holes in it than a seine net in his beloved Steveston.

He argues that the four neighbourhoods currently undergoing Community Plans (Grandview, the West End, DTES, and Marpole) should shoulder the burden of the density the City needs. He does this even though he also notes that these same neighbourhoods comprise only 12% of the City’s land area.

Ransford also omits to note that all of these neighbourhoods (except Marpole, perhaps) are already more densely occupied than most others in the City.

Apparently, the other 88% of Vancouver are to be excused any obligation to assist in this “housing crisis”.  The wide lots and lush lawns of the single-family neighbourhoods of Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale and Point Gray are to be left alone even though it is clear that more density could be accommodated there than the already crowded districts of the West End and DTES.

Ransford believes that the “residents’ wish lists” of places such as Grandview-Woodland should be ignored to serve the greater good but apparently accepts that the better-off neighbourhoods should be left in peace. This is class-based thinking of the most regressive kind.

While 12% of the City’s land is currently “protected” during the Community Plan process, where is the creative thinking that would use the other 88% to find solutions to his self-described “crisis? They are nowhere to be found because the rich folks don’t want to be bothered and, generally, the developers are rich folks themselves who don’t want their neighbourhoods to be, as Ransford puts it, “reshape[d] .., to intensify residential development.”

At a recent meeting to discuss why Commercial & Broadway should be densified to encourage more transit, COV Planning Director Brian Jackson was asked why Shaughnessy was not on the list of neighbourhoods for densification.  His answer was that Shaughnessy is not a high-use transit area (ignoring, I guess, the heavily-used bus services on Granville, Oak and Arbutus Streets). The irony of his response at a function where development was being pushed to encourage transit was not lost on most of the audience.

And, while we are talking about the “housing crisis”, Ransford claims that “more supply equals more affordable housing.”  However, we all know that building in Vancouver has continued non-stop for more than a decade and yet prices have continued to sky-rocket. How come this additional supply did NOT produce more affordable housing?  Logical thinking would suggest this is proof that the basic philosophy is wrong. Or at least that current policies are building the wrong kind of housing.

I challenge Ransford and the City to be creative and come up with plans to build dwellings that young families can actually afford, and to build them in the areas of the City that are now less dense than others. This will promote diversity, community, and an equality of opportunity that will make us far more proud than some faux “greenest” accolade.