Contest garners great housing ideas
The City of Vancouver asked.
An open ideas competition held by the city – re:Think Housing – generated some fascinating suggestions for how Vancouver can tackle its housing affordability issues.
Thinking globally, acting locally
And this suggestions came from as far away as Australia, the Netherlands, Turkey, Ireland, Austria, England, the U.S. and from all across Canada, including B.C. and the Greater Vancouver area.
From thinner streets to skinnier houses, from elevated housing to longer houses built down lanes to homes made from cargo (shipping) containers, the city received 68 submissions about how to promote affordable housing on public and private land.
The winners, who were just announced by the city, were chosen form two categories – a jury of six members of the task force, and popular choice based on online votes.
Vancouver architect Ian McDonald, the top juried winner, suggested capitalizing on unused air rights held by commercial properties by building elevated housing in those air spaces.
“The idea is that the existing community remains the same while you add density to the neighbourhood, but not necessarily with towers,” McDonald said. “It’s about re-thinking the way we consider property ownership.”
He quips he submitted the idea “for fame and glory,” but in reality, McDonald says he was drawn by the the City of Vancouver’s attitude to addressing everything from affordable housing to the Georgia Street viaducts.
“I think there’s a real desire for civic engagement…it’s inviting (everyone) in helping to shape what Vancouver is going to be,” he said.
Another jury winner by urban planner Chris DeMarco (formerly with the Regional District of Metro Vancouver), along with Ted Sebastian and Charles Dobson, suggest Vancouver is wasting too much road space by under-utilizing its streets.
She and her team propose the city divide its standard 66-foot-wide north/south road allowances into equal parts (33 feet each), creating two new residential lots and a narrower street right-of-way. They conservatively estimate that more than 10,000 homes could be created, tapping into more than $2 billion in land value.
“It’s a good idea for gentle densification and gentle revitalization of neighbourhoods,” DeMarco says. “Lots and lots of streets in the city are virtually empty because of the way the city is laid out.”
Ultimately, she and her contest colleagues hope the city and the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, which receives winning entries, take their idea seriously and start incorporating it into future Vancouver homes.