Latest Urban Update

A new page tracking construction cranes in Vancouver’s Downtown is live here.

On the urban condo front, 1 new listing, 0 pending, 4 closed. Quiet week for inventory but that is to be expected this time of season.

The CCRA had its meeting on Thursday. The bulk of the time was spent going over a fairly comprehensive review of the so called, “Waterfront Gateway” and how that 6.5 acres may be developed. The meeting went over the public input as well as local government vision for the area.

One of the CCRA board members was concerned about drawing families to the area. This is an idea with which I agree, but I also have serious reservations about the city having the will to do what needs to be done to bring families to the Downtown

Families are typically interested in a more suburban style of living with less crowds,  less traffic, less crime, and an overall perception of a good environment for their children. Those families seeking a more walk-able urban setting might be inclined to seek out Arnada or Hough as they are close in but still more like a residential neighborhood.

This area south of City Hall is not that. It will not be that in the future. Bringing families to an urban neighborhood means that the families have already given up the notion of a quiet culdesac for the kiddies to ride their bikes. The biggest hurdle that remains is the problem with transients camping on the street out front. Parents are unlikely to want to have their children subjected to the potential or perceived dangers associated with this issue. Political entities tend to shy away from discussing it but it is the elephant in the room should the city be serious about attracting families to the downtown core.

Many citizens are concerned with affordable housing and that is a legitimate concern. But this gateway area is not the location for that type of housing. The reason is that the land value is too high. Vancouver Housing Authority has done a fabulous job of providing income restricted housing all over the city and any affordable housing in this new development zone will need to be “relatively affordable” rather than actually affordable otherwise the projects simply won’t pencil.

It never fails however that people will see the rental prices in the area and freak out because they don’t see it as affordable. But if it is substantially below the market rate then it is relatively affordable and that is really the best that can be done with this high density, valuable land.

One of the citizen comments during the meeting referred to the waterfront with this: ‘ordinary people can visit the waterfront, but they can’t afford to eat there or live there’. He was partially right as the rents on the waterfront are definitely well above the reach of a typical earner. But I am not sure what the gentlemen considers “ordinary” people. Several of the venues on the waterfront are reasonably priced and definitely are within reach of people earning less than the median wage in Vancouver.

Downtown properties are going to be a little bit more expensive than properties in Minnehaha, Hazel Dell, Orchards, etc. They just are. There are many areas in Vancouver including some very nice middle class neighborhoods that have land values suitable for truly affordable housing. The Waterfront and lower Downtown are simply not affordable.

25 years ago Downtown Vancouver was an absolute crap-hole. Now it is a nice bustling urban center with lots to do and see. It is clean and safe and evolving into the envy of the region. Why on Earth would anyone want to go back to the way it was in the early 1990s? If the city doesn’t get a handle on the local homeless crisis it will absolutely return to the dark and grimy days of the early 1990s. There is a lot of public and private money on the line here and Vancouver need only look south of the river to see what can happen when city governments do not get their house in order. Portland was once a beautiful city with clean and safe streets; it is now a wretched mess so out of control that it may never recover.

Vancouver city officials are well advised to look at the Rose City as an example to avoid rather than one to emulate.

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