NEWS

Vancouver eyes new affordable housing ideas

07/31/2012 03:04 EDT | Updated 09/30/2012 05:12 EDT
The City of Vancouver is considering some bold new ideas to try and solve its affordable housing crisis.

On Monday night, the city recognized thirteen entries from a competition launched in May.

The designs set out a variety of plans to increase density while dropping real estate prices, from building long houses in lanes to constructing bridges of housing atop existing buildings.

"Floating homes to underground dwellings — you name it, we heard it in the competition," said city manager Penny Ballem.

Christina DeMarco's Thin Streets concept, which pitches narrowing streets and adding row units, took home an award.

"I came up with the idea by cycling to work across the city every day and I realized there was a lot of under-used road space in the city," she said. "There's still enough room for a sidewalk, a road, and street trees."

'I will not be able to afford to live here'

UBC student Andrew Neuman won an award for his shared equity concept, which divides properties and adds housing where residents would buy shares in co-ownership.

Neuman says it could reduce the price of a dwelling on a $1-million lot to as little as $100,000.

“So it brings down the cost of housing through sub-division and shared equity.”

Neuman said the issue of affordability in Vancouver hits close to home.

"Unless something like this sorta comes about, I will not be able to afford to live here," he said.

"I've been an architect student … my wife is a teacher. We have three kids and on those salaries alone, based on … the cost of housing in the neighbourhoods that we're currently living in, in a small basement, we won't ever be able to afford to buy anything like that or move up in that way."

Not just 'a paper exercise'

Ballem says the nine imaginative entries showcased Monday will be seriously considered.

"Our intention is to act on these," she said. "This is just not a paper exercise or a virtual exercise."

Mayor Gregor Robertson is optimistic.

"The winning ideas, I think, are very viable — both the people's choice and the jury," he said. "I think a lot of attention was on what could actually work here."

Designers like Neuman say the real challenge will be to convince the public, not city hall, to implement the ideas.

Seventy ideas were submitted from around the world. Winners were chosen in different categories by both the public and a jury. The plans will be included in an affordability report headed to council in the fall.

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