Leveraging Affordable Housing in North Vancouver

Pinnacle International in Lower Lonsdale     An article recently came out which brought to light the issue of homelessness in North Vancouver; something traditionally associated with Vancouver’s downtown Eastside. When most of us think of homelessness, we think of mental illness, the closing of Riverview and drug addiction. However, many people who end up at shelters do not fit any of these criteria.

    The price for North Vancouver real estate is not cheap, and neither are rental rates. Most of us understand that to live in Greater Vancouver, and even more so on the North Shore, we are required to pay a premium to enjoy the benefits of the lifestyle we enjoy here. If this were not the case among North Vancouver homeowners, I suspect many would move to outlaying regions, where rental rates and home prices are significantly lower.

    It is important to remain informed about any topic, and I myself am guilty of ignorance in this field as I would have traditionally associated homelessness with drug addiction as well. However, circumstances vary greatly, and it’s easy to label somebody if you don’t ask any questions. A North Vancouver shelter recently commented that the individuals coming to stay there have a wide variety of reasons they do not have elsewhere to stay.

    The reason can be as simple as recently losing a job and not being in a situation financially to recover from the loss of income. However, it is also possible to live with a roommate who was the one that lost their job, and failed to pay their portion of the rent, leading to your eviction. Many Canadians live paycheque to paycheque and it is not difficult to see how somebody could quickly find themselves in this kind of situation. Ideally, everyone should have a rainy-day fund but in today’s world of consumer debt, many are having a hard time keeping up with payments.

    However, there is a lot of negative emotion among residents surrounding the proximity of shelters and subsidized housing to their Vancouver homes. It falls in the category of not-in-my-backyard syndrome, where many Canadians are OK with the idea of having such facilities, and yet they do not want them located nearby.

Density Restrictions    There are new developments in downtown Vancouver that are being approved by the city, despite exceeding zoning density and height restrictions, because the city is being enticed by the developer including a large amount of subsidized housing. This way, the city looks good because it is addressing a concern held by many voters, and the developer is happy because they’re getting higher densities than would otherwise be possible.

    Could this type of thing happen in North Vancouver? Could we see new North Shore developments that entice local officials with affordable housing options or incentives such as community space and amenities? With recent debate ongoing with regards to North Vancouver’s OCP, we will likely see greater densification restrictions any way. However, local residents who own North Vancouver real estate may not want to see further densification that goes beyond regulation, as it gives developers an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

    Although, this is already a reality in truth: in Vancouver, if you as a private owner wish to apply for a building permit of your property, you will be required to follow the protocol set out by the city planner. Conversely, if you are a large developer that has just acquired that same piece of property, you have the leverage required to go to the city and apply for a higher densification than is currently allowed. Leaving your average Vancouver real estate owner at a large disadvantage.

North Vancouver Real Estate    So, it isn’t impossible that at some point in the future we will see new development in North Vancouver that far exceeds current regulations, and this is a reality any homeowner or resident has to live with in today’s world. Residents can voice their concerns at public hearings and protests, but that doesn’t mean the city or the developers will listen once push comes to shove.