Mid-Binges Report

November 19, 2017

I have finally joined the 21st century — or at least a part of it: I have been binge-watching on Netflix.

I am completely hooked on “Scott & Bailey“, a British cop show that is brutal in its telling of procedurals, but which allows me to understand life as it is today in Manchester as the characters’ personal lives weave in and out of the murders and other serious crimes they have to deal with.  Series five is currently airing on TV. Over the last ten days I have completed the first two seasons, 14 shows, each as good as the previous. I am looking forward to starting series 3 later today.

When I’m not watching “Scott & Bailey“, the chances are I am binge-reading the entire collection of Jo Nesbo Norwegian detective mysteries. I am currently working my way through “The Redbreast,” the third of the Harry Hole series. Harry Hole is an alcoholic and often deranged senior detective based in Oslo. An outsider. A rough diamond. A brilliant detective. A lot of cliches and stereotypes that Nesbo creatively manages to use to create a very interesting background against which the crimes are committed and solved.  I have four more volumes stacked up on the table beside me.

Not a bad way to  spend rainy days.


Vancouver Tenants’ Union Pre-AGM

November 17, 2017

The Vancouver Tenants’ Union is looking for folks to help with their Constitution & By-Laws, and to run for the Steering Committee. Their meeting is tomorrow:

If you are interested in improving the lives of renters in Grandview and Vancouver, go along and help out.

The Myth of Supply

November 17, 2017

One of the most quoted of my posts from the last few years concerned the number of housing units approved versus the accepted demographic growth figures. It asked, “Why Are We Building So Much So Fast?”  It is good to see the piece on Dr. John Rose, which mirrors my concerns and asks the right questions in his academic analysis.

“As a resident of Metro Vancouver and observing all this construction around me, I thought: ‘How do we have a housing shortage?’ Maybe I’m missing something, but this doesn’t seem to stick. And this data supports that idea.”

In order to ensure his findings weren’t just a blip, Dr. Rose went back to the 2001 census, covering a 15-year span. He found that for each household added during this period, the region added 1.19 net units of housing. Put another way, for every 100 households that came along, Metro Vancouver added 119 net units of housing. According to census data, there are also 66,719 unoccupied dwellings in Metro Vancouver.

My original take from early 2016:

We assume — or at least I hope we should assume — that the development of our City is being conducted along some kind of reasonable prediction regarding growth rates, of population, say, and thereof of housing units required. After all, it would be madness just to build stuff with public funds — roads, infrastructure, amenities, etc — that wasn’t needed, right?

Growth projections for the City and the Metro Region from 2006 through 2041 are officially contained in the Vancouver Regional Context Statement (RCS) which was adopted in April 2013.  For purposes of this review, the relevant estimates are found at page 9.[1].

Table 1

These estimates project a need for 97,500 new housing units for an additional 163,800 population during the period 2006-2041. We now have ten years of data to work with (2006-2015), so how are we doing?  The following table shows the housing units approved in that period [2]

Building Stats


That shows that Vancouver City Council has approved a net increase from 2006-February 2016 totaling 32,849 housing units.

Now, a little math (can’t be avoided, I’m afraid).  For the period 2006-2041, the official projection was for an increase of 97,500 units.  With 32,849 already approved, that leaves 64,651 to approve in the period 2016-2041 – a requirement of 2,586 per year for the next 25 years.

However, we are approving far more than 2,586 a year.  The average over the last five years is 5,068 per year, and that rate is increasing so fast that the average for the last two full years (2014, 2015) is 5,984 building units per year – just about double what we actually need according to the City’s own estimates.

Approved Units

What does this mean?  It means that we will build the number of housing units we need in 2041 considerably in advance of that date.

Building Timeline

This graph shows the actual housing approvals through to 2016 (red), and the light blue shows the rate of building approvals we need to meet the RCS target.  The green line shows the projection of housing units if we continue to build at the average of the last five years, while the purple uses the average for the last two years.

The green line meets the RCS requirements by 2028 (13 years early).  The purple line meets RCS requirements by 2026 (15 years early).

Continuing to build at the rate set in 2014 and 2015 will create an additional 195,059 housing units by 2041 – almost 100,000 more units than the projections say are required.

What’s the rush?  Why are we building way beyond – in fact, almost double — what we officially claim are the requirements to meet our growth projections?  Right now, we are on track to meet the housing needs of 2041 by the mid-2020s; what are the developers and builders going to do then?

Clearly we need to slow down the approval process.  However, the graph of housing approvals from 2006 to 2016 indicates that the rate of approvals is actually accelerating rapidly, with 2016 already rushing towards another 6,000+ total.

If City Planning and City Council choose not to slow down the amount of building in the future, it is surely incumbent on them to explain who these extra housing units are for.  Moreover, I hope the development and building industries are chatting amongst themselves, deciding who will survive the big mid-2020s shake out and who will fail.

I guess, as a final thought, that the City could simply announce that their projections were wrong and the building approval rate is necessary.  However, then they would have to explain why – just three years ago – they got their sums wrong by 100%.

So, Mr Mayor, what is the reason we are building so much and so fast?



[1]  The Regional Growth Strategy is at http://vancouver.ca/docs/council/regional-context-statement-council-report.pdf

[2] All housing figures are from http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/statistics-on-construction-activity.aspx (2011-2016) and http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/CBOFFICIAL/stats/index.htm(2006-2010).


Double Decker Busses, At Last!

November 16, 2017

Way back in April 2012, I wrote a post about using double-decker busses in Vancouver. So, it was a great pleasure to read today that Translink are finally trialling the beasts in Metro.

And when they are done — the busses that is — we already know how to recycle them creatively.




Bike Share On The Drive

November 16, 2017

It looks as though Vancouver’s bike share program will be expanding to include Commercial and Victoria Drives next year.

According to a report in the Courier, Vancouver City Council will be putting in $1 million of a $3 million cost to expand the system east of Main Street. The system will now cover the area from Victoria to Arbutus north of 16th Avenue.

I am supportive of the program in general. However, given the millions we as taxpayers are putting into this — and the fact that residents are still being charged $10 a day for the use of a bike — I hope the company’s profits will be an open book.

Can Meena COPE?

November 15, 2017

Meena Wong, COPE’s mayoral candidate in the last Vancouver election, is making noise again on social media. I assume this is in advance of her trying to get the nomination for COPE’s 2018 campaign. Unfortunately for her — and perhaps the party — she has dropped into the wrong side of the Marpole homeless shelter debate.

The Vision-dominated Council has decided to erect modular housing for the homeless in Marpole, and this has provoked a vicious push-back by local residents who don’t want to see that happen in their neighbourhood. They complain that there has been little or no consultation on the project and they want their negative voices heard.

Now, anyone who has read this blog for any period of time — especially during the prolonged Grandview-Woodland Community Plan process — will know that I have spent years arguing that the ruling regime at City Hall, Vision Vancouver, is regularly guilty of a mix of faux and no consultation when it comes to developments on behalf of their development funders. Based on history, I would generally be found manning the barricades at the side of the Marpole residents (although with snow just around the corner and the homeless situation at crisis levels, I would accept the shelter a done deal).

However, the Marpole residents are actually making a far darker neo-fascist argument based on class warfare. The proposed site is close to three schools. As reported in the Vancouver Sun:

“Why would you subject a kindergarten, Grade 1, 2 and on up children to possible dangers with people walking around the community?” resident Mike Burdick, asked. “There doesn’t appear to be any kind of standards for security or safety.” … When asked why he believed housing homeless people near schools was a problem, Burdick said it was due to the prevalence of mental illness among that population.”

In the Courier, another resident, Long Tran, is quoted as saying: “How can it be considered a safe place for the kids?”

There is, of course, no evidence that our homeless population is any more criminal or dangerous than any other group. In fact, the Mental Health Commission of Canada says it is a myth that people with mental illnesses are typically violent.  “In truth, they are much more likely to be victims of crime, hate, and discrimination than to be perpetrators of them,” according to the Commission.  And in this case, they are clearly the objects of hate and discrimination by certain residents of Marpole. They are not wanted in Marpole simply because they are homeless and poor.

Back to Meena Wong. She has thrown herself on the side of the Marpole residents and has refused on a number of occasions to distance herself from their despicable statements against the poor and mentally ill. Asked specifically to do this, she has avoided the question by complaining about the consultation process and mentioning — a propos of nothing — NIMBYs in Point Grey. It is perfectly fine to be active against Vision but not to throw the most needy under the bus while doing it.

Is this what COPE wants to be known for? Attacking the poor, the homeless, the mentally challenged? Hard to believe that the late Harry Rankin would have been, or Tim Louis or their current workers and organizers in DTES can be in support of this.

Dinner Tonight #35

November 14, 2017

A French style of macaroni & cheese, served with a strawberry, celery & mushroom salad. Wonderful.

An anecdote:  I started preparing this before I went to St Paul’s for a checkup today. I got there early enough to visit the excellent cafeteria for lunch.  Guess what the main entree was?  Yes, mac & cheese!  Luckily the mushroom soup was fabulous so I didn’t go hungry.