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Efforts to protect old homes could worsen affordability crisis: activists

Last Updated Jan 9, 2017 at 5:53 pm PST

An old home such as this one could benefit from the proposed heritage tax credit. (Photo NEWS 1130's John Streit)
Summary

25 local academics signed open letter to council to rethink zoning bylaws

Group argues proposed rules would limit the amount of new living space available, make city harder to afford

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – An open letter signed by 25 local academics and activists calls on Vancouver city council to rethink their overhaul of zoning bylaws.

The Character Home Zoning Review aims to keep homes built before 1940 from being demolished while ensuring new buildings fit in with their existing neighbourhoods.

But Abundant Housing Vancouver Daniel Oleksiuk, one of the letter’s signatories, argues the proposed rules would limit the amount of new living space available, and make housing in the city even harder to afford.

“Instead of opening these neighbourhoods up to more people, it closes them off a little bit more by reducing the amount of new housing that can be built there even more, so it’s a step in the wrong direction for housing affordability,” he says.

The zoning review would impose new restrictions on floor space ratio (FSR): the amount of floor space in a building relative to the size of the lot it’s on. In many cases, the FSR requirement in new buildings would be lowered from 0.7 to 0.5.

In their report, the city argues this step would help to manage the scale and “neighbourhood fit” of new buildings while leveling the playing field between character homes and new homes.

“If you want to stop old homes from being torn down we should make a rule for that, and we already have a heritage registry for that,” Oleksiuk argues. “This rule isn’t that. It’s about limiting what new construction can happen.”

The Character Home Review is scheduled to be implemented by mid-2017.

Among those opposing it are Vancouver City Planning Commissioner Neal LaMontagne, Sauder School of Business professor Tom Davidoff, and LandlordBC CEO David Hutniak.