The lack of purpose built rental units still an issue for Vancouver



The spring Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation 2013 Rental Market statistics have been releases. There is not a huge change in the rental market for Vancouver, but vacancy rates are still at a critically low rate and rents are increasing faster than inflation. The report can be view at CMHC report

The over all vacancy rate is 2.9% for 2013 up marginally from 2012 which was 2.6%

In 2012 the vacancy rate for the different units were has following:

Bachelor 2.3% ,1 bedroom 2.6 %, 2 bedroom 2.9% and 3 bedroom 2.4%.

In 2013 the vacancy rate for the different units is as following:

Bachelor 2.2% (-.1), 1 bedroom 2.8% (+.2), 2 bedroom 3.8% (+.9) 3 bedroom 1.9 (-.5)

 The Wellesley Institute states that  “Housing experts say a 3% vacancy rate is the minimum for a healthy market.’ Wellesley Institute

 On the price of rents also went up as well.

In 2012 the average rents for the different units  in Vancouver were the following:

Bachelor $855, 1 bedroom $965, 2 bedroom $1,219, 3 bedroom $1,407.

In 2013 the average rents for the different units in Vancouver are the following:

Bachelor $ 891 (+$37=4.3%), 1bedroom $995 (+$30=3.1%), 2 bedroom 1,260 (+$41=3.3%), 3 bedroom $ 1,434 (+$27=1.9%)

In all unit types the rental increase was more than the Consumer Price Index (CPI)which is .4%.

So there is still a critically low vacancy rate and renters are paying more for rent.

First big test for new Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone: Stanley Park Causeway.


Update Tuesday, June 25, 2014:

At the Monday night Park Board, after hear speakers who mostly spoke in support of Commissioner’s Barnes motion, the majority of Commissioners voted to pass the motion to create safer conditions for people walking and riding bikes on Stanley Park Causeway. The two NPA did not vote in support of the motion. Now, the issue lies with Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone.  After his ministry concludes its investigation,  will it improve safety conditions on the causeway?

 Built for cars: Stanley Park Causeway

Without a doubt the number one priority of the Stanley Park Causeway from the beginning has been to move cars fast. People riding bikes and walking have been literally pushed to the margins. When the Lions Gate Bridge was renovated and the Stanley Park Causeway was widened little serious design attention was placed on creating a safe built environment for bikes and pedestrians.

On May 25 at around 7 pm the predictable results happened, a 61 year old women was killed after falling off her bike and was struck by a bus. While the details of the horrible collision are still being investigated what is clear, is that the shared path on the Stanley Park Causeway between people walking and riding bikes is unsafe and needs to be redesigned. One only has to be out there for a little while to see how unsafe the space is with the speed of the cars and bikes in close proximity to people walking.

Check out these photos  that I took on Tuesday June 18 between 4-5 pm of the space:

The responsibility for the safety conditions on the causeway is the responsibility of the Provincial government and the new Minister of Transportation, Todd Stone, since the causeway is part of the highway system. The Ministry of Transportation is currently investigating the death on the causeway.

At the Monday June 24th Vancouver Park Board Commissioner Barnes is going to bring forward a motion calling on Park Board staff to work with Ministry of Transportation to create safer conditions for people walking and riding through the causeway. This will be the first big test for Minister Stone. Will he allocated resources to quickly improve conditions for people not in cars?


New Board Walk in Stanley Park on Cathedral Trail

boardwalk stanley park

The Vancouver Park Board opened a new boardwalk in Stanley Park last week to protect and restore a sensitive habitat on Cathedral Trail. The project was a partnership with Stanley Park Ecology Society  (SPES) This area was hard hit by the windstorm in 2006 and many of the knock-downed trees still bear monumental witness to the weather catastrophe.

The Cathedral trail is just past lost lagoon on the edge of Stanley Park trails. The area is a very sensitive environment of a swampy bog that is home to some unique little creatures as moles and salamanders. The boardwalk allows visitors to access the area, but still protect the habitat from being harmed by the foot traffic.

More photos:

How to Increase Cycling and Walking—Lessons from Cities Across the Globe

From SFU Continuing Studies (City Program)

Tonight’s lecture with John Pucher is sold out but his lecture will be LIVE WEBCAST .It all starts at 7 pm (Vancouver time) on June 14.
Please comment and tweet your questions during the webcast using hashtag #SFUcycle

Friday, June 14, 2013, 7 pm
SFU’s Vancouver campus (Harbour Centre)
515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Room 1400
Lecture is SOLD OUT. Watch the live webcast here on June 14, 7 pm:

In this talk, John Pucher will document the boom in cycling in both European and North American cities. Adding to his previous talks, John will discuss how cycling can thrive even in cities with no history or culture of daily, utilitarian cycling, but only if government policies provide safe, convenient, and pleasant cycling conditions. He’ll also address the fact that similarly, government policies are key to encouraging walking and making it safer. Safe infrastructure is a prerequisite, but it must be complemented by many other supportive measures.

The hopeful message is that almost all Canadian and American cities are on the right path. Dozens of cities throughout North America have more than doubled levels of cycling since 1990, and some large cities such as Chicago, Portland, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, have more than quadrupled the bike share of work commuters since 1990. Virtually all North American cities have plans for expanding their cycling networks, combined with a range of complementary programs such as bike sharing, bike-transit integration, safe routes to schools, mass car-free street events (ciclovias), and better training of both motorists and cyclists. Even in the American southeast, which currently has the lowest rate of cycling, many cities are installing cycle tracks, bike lanes, and bike parking.

In short, North American cities have already made considerable progress in raising both cycling and walking levels, but far more needs to be done. With over 40 percent of all bike trips shorter than two miles, there is great potential for further growth. It is crucial to convey to the media, the public, and politicians the enormous economic, social, environmental, and health benefits of walking and cycling, both to individuals and to society as a whole.

At the conclusion of his talk, John will discuss several approaches to implementing the necessary policies to increase walking and cycling while also making them safer. Public information campaigns, combined with advocacy and coalition-building, are obviously crucial, but there are other implementation strategies that can be used to enhance public and political support. Perhaps the most effective strategy of all is to make cycling and walking possible for everyone, and, in particular, to get more seniors, children, and women on bikes and on their feet. Broadening the base of public support for walking and cycling is key to getting the necessary political support and funding for the measures necessary to promote walking and cycling in our cities.

Report from Council on Transportation 2040 plan

building better roads

Vancouver City Council yesterday considered a report on the 2040 Transportation plan, which proposes a number on new measure to upgrade the network of bike lanes. The  plan contained upgrades to the Adanac bike path, the north side of Cambie Bridge and upgrades to the Canada line for pedestrian and cyclists. Here is the report with a detailed description of the work:CoV report

All councillors supported the report unanimously even after a bit a politicking on an amendment proposed by Cl. Meggs. The amendment was to defer a proposed barrier on the Adanac bike path on Union at Gore to east-bound commuter traffic in response to concerns that were raised by area residents. The deferral for one month is to allow engineering staff to do more consultation and develop the design a little more.

Councillor Affleck proposed an amendment to stop all work on the Adanac bike path on Union for a month, but it was not support by the majority on council. Then he requested that Cl. Meggs’ motion be removed from the main motion to be voted for separately by Councillors. Then curiously he voted for the amendment. Then on twitter he stated the following.

Affleck tweet on bike laneWR

It seems kind a strange to vote for a motion and then try to claim that your political opponents ramming a measure through! Sadly, the NPA is deliberate attempting to politicize attempts to create safer conditions for people riding bikes and to create a more sustainable transportation system in Vancouver.

The good news is after listening to a speakers list of over 14 people, speaking both for and against the plan, council approve $2.9 million in upgrading for new cycling infrastructure.

Interested in creating better consultation practices in Vancouver?


From the folks at SFU Public Square:

City Conversations Special Event!

City to Citizens: We want a better connection with you

‘The city doesn’t listen to us’ has been a perennial complaint in Vancouver. The city is taking it seriously. On Thursday, June 20 at a special outdoors SFU City Conversations, public members of the Mayor’s Engaged City Task Force will describe their initial recommendations to improve the conversations between the city and its citizens—and then will engage the public in an extended conversation on the topic.

Our presenters are task force members Lizzy Karp, creator of Rain City Chronicles; Sam Chan, an SFU PhD candidate studying transformational change; and Lyndsay Poaps, former Vancouver Parks Commissioner. Then it will be your turn. City Conversations will be held at the Lot 19 Parkette (at the north end of Hornby St., between Hastings and Cordova St). You’re welcome to bring your lunch, and food will be available nearby.

When: Thursday June 20th 2013

Time: 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Location: Lot 19 Parkette (900 West Cordova Street – the park at the north end of Hornby St., between Hastings and Cordova St.)

Cost: Free

*Note* Guests are welcome to bring their lunch to City Conversations events

This special event is sponsored by the Downtown Vancouver BIA, in addition to Bing Thom Architects and SFU Vancouver.


The state of people riding bikes in Vancouver: send more children, women and older folks

building better roads

The City of Vancouver has considered an impressive collection of measures to improve the built environment of the roadway system to promote more cycling. The City needs to promote active transportation and transit use as the city grows as road space is limited. The plan is called  2040 transportation plan. 

Soon  Council will be deciding on the Active Transportation Corridor on Cornwall and West Point Grey road.  The goals of the project is to  encourage folks of all ages and abilities to use active transportation along Cornwall and West Point Grey Road by making a better built environment for walkers and folks that are riding bikes which is safer and more inviting. You can read more about the project here: Active Transportation Corridor.

Undoubtedly this council and the one before have done more for people riding bikes than any Vancouver council before. The hugely successful implementation of the separated bike lane on the Burrard Bridge was a seminal moment in Vancouver to make cycling safer. photos of opening day

Cyclists had been advocating for a long time for bike lanes on the Burrard St. bridge to make a safer link over False Creek. The history of its implementation has been a long and troubled one. A modest bike lane trail on the eastside of the bridge was abandoned in 1996 by the NPA after only a couple of days. A pilot bike lane proposal passed by Mayor Campbell and Council was cancelled after the 2005 election by the NPA. But with the separated bike lane installed in 2009 by Mayor Robertson, Vancouver has turned the corner on making the city safer and more accessible to people riding bikes.

Cycling in Vancouver needs to go mainstream and become an activity that is completely normal and done by everyone because it is the easiest, fastest and safest way to get around. Building a network of separated bike lanes is the next big challenge for the city. With the construction of the Hornby and Dunsmuir bike paths and with the soon to be completed Comox /Helmcken Greenway the city is well on its way to incrementally improving the built environment for folks to ride bikes. The priority now is to build a bike network so folks who would never ever dream of riding a bike will do so. Continue reading The state of people riding bikes in Vancouver: send more children, women and older folks →

Finally housing designed for families with kids in the West End.

laneway housing wr

Photo of Block one of the handout material from workshop. yellow-placemaking, red- wayfinding, green-gardens grey-imporved surface treatment, blue-laneway housing opportunity. purple-maintain parking, dark green-rain garden

Handout material from the workshop

Laneway housing workshop 2.0 Wednesday June 5, 2013

The West End Planning Team wants to encourage and facilitate a new type of housing. The modest infill proposal is geared to families. Six sites have been identified as appropriate where redundant surface parking spaces could be converted to housing behind larger apartment building.

At the walking workshop on Wednesday June 5, starting at the West End Community Centre and ending at Barclay Heritage Square city planners presented an exciting new pilot project to redesign laneways in the West End which included plans to encourage more walking, enhanced design elements and new type of housing in the laneways.

The pilot project consists of 3 blocks starting at the West End Community Centre (West End CC), which has been named the “Heart of Denman”. The plaza of the Community Centre and alley between King George High School has been chosen as an area where more social “connectivity” could be facilitated. The area has a convergence of services and facilities such as Joe Fortes Library, the West End CC, BC Housing and the High School. But the area really lacks a sense of “place” and is heavy dominated by a bland functionalism.

The laneway re-design process is guided by seven principles, which are as follows:

1. Fostering Community Growth. Green, people-friendly laneways which encourage connection, interaction, and celebration that can add to the vibrant and diverse charter of the West End’s neighbourhoods.

2. Enhancing Tree and Leafy Laneway. The mature green, leafy charter of the West End provides a quiet, relaxing and gardens flourish. Laneways can be a gathering and green space.

3. Building Shared Spaces. Share creative , social and cultural spaces are important for a growing community. Laneways are great places to plant a community garden, fix a bike, make a new friend, or connect with a neighbour.

4. Strengthening Laneway Livability. Instill a strong sense of community along the laneways through building design, lighting, safety, and utilities management that can help make laneway more livable by creating new community spaces. Taking pride in these spaces will also help keep them clean and safe.

5. Improving Walkability. West Enders love to walk. Making laneways more pedestrian-friendly can create more safe and accessible ways for people to travel throughout the West End.

6. Strengthening Local Connectivity. Enhancing the physical and visual connectivity of laneways with parks and other neighbourhood assets can help strengthen peoples’ connections with community facilities, with nature, and with one another.

7. Activating Lanescapes. Incorporating laneway design elements and street features that engage pedestrian interest can help create active, dynamic spaces to live and play.

Critical for the possibility of re-thinking laneways in the West End is the fact that the laneways are the widest in the city at 10 meters (33 feet). So the narrowing of the laneways to incorporate new features and housing is not an un-tested idea, as this already occurs in the rest of the city. Also by way of a proven model of best practices of lanes in Vancouver, Molehill laneway has been working well for over ten years.

The re-thinking of the laneways has been heavily influenced by the Molehill model. Many of the features of the traffic calming, community gardens, community art, unique lighting standards and a over all sense of place were much discussed. While many of the ideas of Molehill such as raised cross walks seemed exciting and new 10 years ago now they seem to only make sense and are proven measures to create safer conditions for pedestrians.

The most exciting discussion of the workshop was around the creation of a new building type in the West End. In the 3 block pilot project 6 sites have been select for modest infill proposals. The design guidelines and actual zoning and density levels have not been specifically stated but, the general concept is to create a form of housing in the laneways that would be suitable for families with kids to live in. The new housing would be located on the back laneways of apartment buildings that have surface parking that is longer necessary. The new type of housing would have to be 100% rental which could make it a more affordable housing option for families.

Having housing for families with kids is really a critical issue for the West End. Typically couples start out with kids in the West End, but when the second child comes a long, the two-bedroom unit starts to feel a little cramped. Solutions to this problem are not readily available in the current stock of market housing and rental stock. Too few spaces that would be accessible to families are built at a price-point the works. For the city to change zoning and foster the conditions to make a new type of housing possible only makes sense, as with current zoning and land use policy are not working for many folks with kids.

Laneway Survey

Rethinking laneways in the West End

more photos of Molehill laneway

One of the most under valued lane use resources of the West End are the laneways. That could  soon change as the West End Planning team is starting a series of workshops entitled “Laneways 2.0” with the view to explore the possibility of developing new types of housing there.
West End Planning Process

Laneways have long been neglected spaces seen only as the backside of buildings where garage is stored and cars parked. Little design attention is given to the back alleys which is a real lost opportunity as this space could be a vital tool in creating more housing and better community.

Danish planner Jan Gehl has long contended that the spaces between buildings are as worthy of attention as the building themselves. The “spaces between buildings” is where we live and are spaces that connect us our communities.

In the Vancouver the real gold standard of what laneways could be is the Molehill Community Housing project located between lane beside Nelson Park, where communities gardens where developed, with traffic calming, space for sitting, community art and impressive landscaping.


The prospects of having new types of housing and an enhance design guidelines for laneways in the West End is a really exciting development in the West End planning process and really has the possibility to be a transformative moment to urban life in Vancouver.

More Open Houses for the West End planning process.


From the West End Planning Team:

Wednesday June 19, 4-7pm
Best Western Sands Hotel
1755 Davie Street

Saturday June 22, 1-4 pm
West End Strawberry Festival
Barclay Heritage Square

Tuesday June 25, 4-7pm
Blue Horizon Hotel
1225 Robson Street

“In April 2012, the City initiated a new Community Planning process for the West End. When completed, the plan will provide long-range guidance on a variety of issues – including housing, transportation, parks and public space, social issues, arts, culture, heritage and more. The new plan will replace the older West End Commercial Policy Plan (1986) and West End Residential Areas Policy Plan (1987).

For information on our planning work to date, upcoming events and opportunities for public involvement, please stay in touch via the following means:

Web & List-serv sign-up:
Twitter: @westendplan
Telephone: 3-1-1”