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A good idea or an unworkable one? Vancouver looks at adding density in apt zones by adding one or two floors

March 17th, 2017 · No Comments

Vancouver planners are looking at a raft of ideas to increase housing in the city.

One that didn’t get as much attention as the mayor’s statement that the city was going to look at more ways to do gentle density in single-family zones was his reference, in the same speech, to new strategies for densifying apartment zones.

My Globe story on this here.

For those who’ve forgotten, there has been a moratorium since 2004 on demolishing or re-developing most of the city’s stock of those old three- and four-storey apartments that were built in the 1960s and ’70s.

It’s seen as a hugely valuable resource and, after a small wave of demolitions in the early 2000s, the NPA council of the time freaked and imposed the moratorium.

The only way a developer can take something down now is by building an equivalent number of rental suites in a new development and offering to rent them to existing tenants at discount on whatever the new rents are. I suspect hardly anyone is taking up that offer, but the city has never done a study to see what the outcome has been.

In the meantime, apartment brokers have been lobbying heavily to get the city to lift the moratorium, saying it is stifling the creation of new rental in the city.

Okay, that background aside, now they’re looking at possibly allowing owners to add one or two floors to existing older apartment buildings. A half dozen owners have done this in the West End, where additional density is already allowed. A change would mean tweaking the zoning in the many other apartment zones in the city to allow it.

At least a couple of apartment owners I talked to, though, thought the idea was unworkable. Adding that much weight to an old 1960s foundation and doing the electrical, elevator and stairwell upgrades would far outstrip the advantages of getting rents from two more floors of apartments, they said.

So … more to come on this issue.

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