Housing for the North Shore Forum Points to the Future
May 27 & 28, 2009
The remarkable rise in property values on the North Shore has created an extreme shortage in affordable housing, and a dilemma for longtime homeowners. Our young people cannot afford to rent or buy on the North Shore, and neither can single parent families and essential service workers such as paramedics, nurses, firefighters and police officers. Our youth workers and support service workers have also been moving away to the outlying areas of the Lower Mainland and are commuting to work on the North Shore. In the Districts of North and West Vancouver, our communities are composed predominantly of single family homes on 66′ x 120′ lots. Due to our high land costs, this type of community living is not sustainable because it is out of reach for young people and single income families in all their forms. What may have worked for many of us in the past, is not the way of the future.
The dilemma for our community is whether we will value our rising property equity above a community that embraces young people and families of all descriptions.
The Housing the North Shore Forum focused on these concerns and presented creative solutions to building a community that is designed for all its’ citizens. We heard from experts on housing including Developer Michael Geller, City Planners, BC Housing and CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation) representatives, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating SystemTM) implementers, as well as North Shore residents.
Good and thoughtful design is key to increasing density. It was discussed that NIMBYism is alive and well on the North Shore. We saw the need to re-think our perceptions of “affordable housing” and consider new models of housing that support how we want to live in community. It became clear that our political leaders will need to provide courageous leadership to present a new vision of neighborhoods that allow choice for it’s citizens through projects with creative partnerships and compelling design.
The continuum of housing for each of us changes over our lifetimes. We need to be proactive in ensuring that housing will be available for our neighbours and for ourselves as we move through the different seasons of life.
One of the most passionate speakers was resident Allison Caldwell – Johnson, who gave an articulate and impactful presentation about the need for a diverse community which welcomes all people and where residents care for one another. We were challenged to get to know our neighbours and as we become friends, we will discover that their housing crisis will become our housing crisis.
The single family home on a large lot has financially benefited homeowners like myself, but it is not sustainable environmentally and as a community model, it does not represent a wise vision for the future.
Environmentally, people’s attitudes have changed in recent years, and we are waking up to the reality that an environmental footprint that is four times what it should be is simply irresponsible. This is another reason to consider new projects that allow for more people to share the land in community.
It was very encouraging to hear all three Mayors from the North Shore, Darrell Mussatto, City of North Vancouver, Richard Walton, District of North Vancouver, and Michael Lewis, Acting Mayor of West Vancouver on behalf of Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, speak about their commitment to lead our community through these changing times and to hear that they are advocates for ensuring housing is available for everyone.
Will longtime homeowners on the North Shore be willing to support our three mayors and their staff to boldly lead our community into a healthy and environmentally responsible future? Changes will be necessary to our Official Community Plans in order to see a diverse group of people living and working on the North Shore.
Marion Town of the Fraser Basin Council wrapped up the day with a final challenge, “What are YOU going to do?”
Residents who want more affordable housing for service workers, who want to reduce their own housing footprint, and are in favour of multiple families creatively sharing land, will need to talk with their neighbours and begin attending Council meetings and voice their support for these new projects and innovative partnerships.
This informative and interactive community forum was organized and hosted by the Lionsview Seniors Planning Society, the Community Housing Action Committee, the North Vancouver School District, the municipalities of the North Shore and the Canadian Federation of University Women.
For more information go to www.housingthenorthshore.ca
Submitted by Wendy Brown
2710 Standish Drive,
North Vancouver, B. C.
604 929 8330
June 1, 2009