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Old February 9th, 2011, 11:54 AM   #181
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Old February 23rd, 2011, 04:54 AM   #182
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Old March 1st, 2011, 04:34 AM   #183
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Vancouver still world's most liveable city: survey

(Reuters Life!) - Vancouver topped the list of the world's most liveable cities for the fifth straight year, while Melbourne claimed second place from Vienna and Australian and Canadian cities dominated the list's top 10 spots.

In the annual survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Canadian west coast city and 2010 Winter Olympics host scored 98 percent on a combination of stability, health care, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure -- a score unchanged from last year.

It has topped the list from 2007.

Although Melbourne pipped the Austrian capital for silver medal, there was no other major change near the top of the list of 140 cities worldwide. Auckland, New Zealand, came in 10th.

"Mid-sized cities in developed countries with relatively low population densities tend to score well by having all the cultural and infrastructural benefits on offer with fewer problems related to crime or congestion," said Jon Copestake, editor of the report, in a statement.

Pittsburgh was the top U.S. city with 29th place -- just ahead of Honolulu -- while Los Angeles moved up three places to 44th and New York held onto the 56th spot.

London moved up one place to 53rd while Paris came in at number 16.

The top Asian city was Osaka at number 12, tying Geneva, Switzerland and beating out the Japanese capital of Tokyo, which came in at 18.

Hong Kong came in at 31 but Beijing, capital of the world's most populous nation and No. 2 economy, straggled in at 72.

There was also little change at the bottom, with Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, once again claiming the worst position with a rating of 37.5 percent, narrowing beating out the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka.

The Economist Intelligence Unit survey ranks cities based on 30 factors such as healthcare, culture and environment, and education and personal safety.

Following is a list of the top 10 most liveable cities as ranked by The Economist Intelligence Unit:

1. Vancouver, Canada

2. Melbourne, Australia

3. Vienna, Austria

4. Toronto, Canada

5. Calgary, Canada

6. Helsinki, Finland

7. Sydney, Australia

8. Perth, Australia

8. Adelaide, Australia

10. Auckland, New Zealand

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Old March 8th, 2011, 06:02 PM   #184
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Casino project a 50-50 gamble; some councillors already critical
By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun
March 8, 2011 5:31 AM

This man interrupts the presentation by David Podmore, CEO of Pavco, speaking for the developers at a public hearing at Vancouver City Hall in Vancouver, Monday, March 7th, 2011. This was the first night of the public hearing into the proposed BC Place Casino complex, which had 162 people asking to speak.
Photograph by: Stuart Davis, PNG

An application for the largest casino west of Ontario ran into criticism from Vancouver city councillors Monday night, who expressed concerns about potential negative social and business impacts.

Their comments came at a jam-packed hearing in council chambers that drew about 300 people, who appeared to be about equally divided on the project, judging from their T-shirts and placards.

The councillors weighed in after staff explained the proposal and its proponents discussed its merits, but before any of the more than 160 people signed up to speak had been called to the microphone.

Paragon Gaming, the B.C. Lottery Corporation and the B.C. Pavilion Corporation all want the city to approve a $500-million development to build two hotels and a 1,500-slot, 150-table casino next to BC Place. The casino would be a much-expanded version of the Edgewater casino that now operates across the street at the Plaza of Nations.

Concerns raised by councillors included the scale of the project, the rise in gambling addiction and the provincial government’s cut in gambling funding to arts and entertainment groups.

Coun. Tim Stevenson said he was troubled by the proposal and that he had been inundated with letters from people opposed to the expansion.

He said had voted for a consolidated Edgewater casino application in 2004 but with reservations.

“We were assured at that time that ... there would be no need to go further, that we had accomplished all that was needed and that it was not too large or too obvious and that it was just right,” he said.

“So I am quite surprised to see this very, very, very expanded facility coming forth.”

Coun. Raymond Louie criticized BCLC’s forecasts of revenue, saying previous promises of revenues to the city for the existing casino had not been proved out.

But it was Coun. Kerry Jang, a University of B.C. physician who specializes in mental health issues, who hit a nerve with BCLC president Michael Graydon.

Under exhaustive questioning, Graydon acknowledged the corporation doesn’t know how much money it makes from the 4.6 per cent of people who are problem gamblers. He also acknowledged that the percentage of those with a severe gambling addiction — at 0.9 per cent — had risen in B.C. He said BCLC focuses on a message of gambling responsibly.

To cheers from opponents, Jang said: “So, don’t you think your head is in the sand, saying, ‘Well, we’ll talk about responsible gaming but we won’t talk about problem gambling?’”

The public hearing process around the proposal promises to be one of the most exhaustive in the city’s recent history.

As of Monday night more than 163 people had signed up to speak, many of them in favour. The night started with competing rallies on the steps of city hall.

Dressed in a bright yellow T-shirt with the words “Save Our Jobs,” Lesley Harris stood at the front door, worried that if council turns down the expansion she will lose her job as a promotions manager in the existing casino.

Standing 30 metres away, recently retired B.C. Supreme Court justice Ian Pitfield worried that if the application is approved, his colleagues on the bench will see more cases of families broken because of gambling problems.

Between the two were more than 300 people, who appeared to be about equally divided about the proposal.

When the doors to city hall were unlocked, they flooded in together to claim seats and territory from which to hold up banners or flash T-shirts.

There wasn’t a chair left empty on the third floor of city hall; opponents sat on the foyer floor beside casino workers, all of whom had been given the yellow support shirts by Paragon’s management.

Even Warren Buckley, the president of the B.C. Pavilion Corp, which is nominally the applicant for the development, was left standing at the back of the foyer, far outside the teak-panelled chambers.

Opponents carried placards with the names of individual councillors, saying “Build Our City, No Casino Expansion.”

Despite the obvious divide between the two camps, there was little initial sign of antagonism or anger.

Only when PavCo chairman David Podmore and BCLC’s Graydon began to defend the plan did some jeers break out.

When someone in the crowd yelled “bull----” while Graydon was talking, the mayor briefly stopped the proceedings and sternly appealed for civility.

At issue is a desire by Paragon, the B.C. Lottery Corporation and PavCo to see a two-acre parcel at the west end of BC Place redeveloped into what they bill as an entertainment complex.

Last year, PavCo gave Paragon a tentative 70-year lease subject to the city approving the expansion. Paragon wants to build an 800,000 square foot development, half of which would be two hotel towers with 646 rooms. Another 114,000 square feet between the two towers would be for the expanded casino.

BCLC, which has a mandate to expand gambling in the province, has said that if the application is successful, it would increase the size to 1,500 slot machines and 150 gaming tables, which city staff say would be the largest casino in Western Canada.

The hearings continue Tuesday night.
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Old March 23rd, 2011, 04:47 PM   #185
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Higher density draws mixed reaction
Community meeting held to weigh pros, cons of development plans
21 March 2011
Vancouver Province

More than 100 Vancouver residents turned out for a community workshop Sunday to discuss the pros and cons of a developer's proposal for a residential-retail development at Kingsway and Broadway.

The City of Vancouver hosted the workshop highlighting the Mount Pleasant community plan. The plan allows for three tall buildings near the intersection of Broadway and Main Street, which the plan labels "Uptown."

Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. presented details of its proposed development for the trapezoid block bounded by Broadway, Kingsway, East 10th Avenue and Watson Street, a small street that runs parallel to Main Street on the east.

The site currently houses a parking lot, which replaced a row of low-rise commercial buildings on Broadway that were razed in an electrical fire on Christmas Day 2009.

Christopher Vollan, vice-president of Rize, said the community plan, adopted by city council last November, does a good job of maintaining the character of the neighbourhood -with a nod to the artists who live and work in the area -while encouraging density in the form of highrise apartments.

"People are somewhat resistant to change," he said. "This forum isn't about changing minds, it's about getting feedback."

The project, designed by Acton Ostry Architects, would create an "iconic landmark building."

Vollan noted 30,000 to 40,000 people move into Greater Vancouver every year, and housing them in suburbs is not the greenest solution to accommodating growth. Increasing the city's density is one green solution.

"People say, 'Density is great, but do it somewhere else,'" said Vollan.

Mount Pleasant resident Joel Parker had reservations.

"My biggest complaint is the size of the 26-storey building," he told The Province.

"It's not that I don't think we should develop it, it's a wonderful community. But Vancouver can do much better than pulling off a huge, big building much like we've done in Yaletown.

"It can be in keeping with the flavour of the buildings that are there and could be a beautiful community, so they could split it up into three six-to 12-storey buildings," said Parker, who moved to Mount Pleasant two years ago.

City council could vote on the Rize application as early as June.
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Old April 7th, 2011, 07:21 AM   #186
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The birth of a city, from humble beginnings as a two-block strip on the Gastown waterfront
6 April 2011
Vancouver Sun

In 1862, John Morton, Samuel Brighouse and William Hailstone were mocked for spending $555 on a big chunk of land squeezed between Burrard Inlet, English Bay and a pair of government reserves.

New Westminster was the main town on the B.C. mainland; only "three greenhorn Englishmen" would lay claim to 550 acres of swampy forest in the middle of nowhere.

But the Three Greenhorns had the last laugh -although it took awhile. In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to locate its terminus at the head of Burrard Inlet, where the provincial government had quietly given the company 6,000 acres of land.

On April 6, 1886, the City of Vancouver was incorporated. And the Three Greenhorns' great folly became the West End.


There were only about 600 people in Vancouver when the city was incorporated, almost all of them men. They lived in a rough and tumble village that had sprung up around a couple of hotels/bars in Granville, Vancouver's original name. Most locals called it Gastown, after hotel owner Gassy Jack Deighton.

Granville wasn't much. An 1884 photo shows a dozen modest wooden buildings perched between Burrard Inlet and dense forest.

Many of the buildings were built on pilings, because the natural waterfront was largely tidal flats. Vancouver's legendary archivist, Major James Skitt Matthews, annotated the 1884 photo in detail, noting that high tide came in 100 feet at Carrall Street.

Visitors came in by boat, because there was little access by land. Often they'd paddle underneath a hotel or store, then lower provisions down through a trap door on the main floor of the building.

The streets weren't really streets in the modern sense. In some spots they were rough dirt paths dotted with tree stumps; in other places they were covered with planks so people didn't have to deal with the mud. Sewage was emptied right into Burrard Inlet, where it was washed away twice a day by the tides.

Granville was centred along today's Water Street, from Carrall to Cambie. Cottages were also carved out of the forest on Cordova. John Morton had a cabin on the bluff by the present-day Marine Building, and there was a small waterfront settlement at Hastings, by today's New Brighton Park. There were also native settlements in Stanley Park, Kitsilano and False Creek -some dating back hundreds of years.

The main employer was Hastings Mill, at the foot of Dunlevy, which was founded in 1863. It was reached by Hastings Road, a wagon trail that meandered along modern Alexander, Railway and Powell streets.

Granville sounded quite rowdy, with three hotels, a wine and spirits store and the Terminus Saloon all dispensing liquid happiness. Scottish butcher George Black gave "fashionable evening dances" at his residence, but Matthews' notes on the 1884 photo state Black also kept a "notorious bear" on a chain outside his shop.

In February 1886, 125 residents -all men, and almost all British -petitioned the provincial government to incorporate the city of Vancouver. Their wish was granted two months later.


Vancouver's first election on May 3, 1886, was a wild affair, rife with labour unrest and racism. The favourite going into the election was Hastings Sawmill manager Richard Alexander, of Alexander Street fame.

But a strike at the sawmill divided the community, particularly after Alexander announced he would hire Chinese workers to replace the white strikers. The strikers talked real estate salesman Malcolm MacLean into running against Alexander. MacLean had only been in town a few months, but won in a squeaker, 242 votes to 225.

The election was probably stolen. Up to 50 MacLean votes came from a single lease on a Cordova Street property, while MacLean's backers drove away a group of Chinese labourers who had been sent from Hastings Mill to vote for Alexander.

In any event, the boom was on, as the city raced for the arrival of the CPR. Trees were felled, brush was cleared, and workers set small fires to clear the land for building.

One of these fires was whipped up by a wind on June 13, 1886 and, within an hour, it devastated the city. Every building in the 1884 photo of Granville was destroyed.

"The city did not burn," said pioneer William Gallagher, "it was consumed by flame; the buildings simply melted away before the fiery blast."

Vancouver had a large transient population, so no one knows how many people were killed: estimates range from eight to 28.

But the city quickly rebuilt. Granville's buildings had been made of wood; many of the new commercial structures were brick. Several buildings built immediately after the fire are still around, including the 1886-87 Oppenheimer Block at Columbia and Powell (now Bryan Adams' Warehouse recording studio), and the 1886-87 Byrnes Block and Ferguson Block, across the street from each other at Carrall and Water.

The first CPR train pulled into town on May 23, 1887. The rail line was initially built on a trestle over top of the tidal flats, and ended up at a wharf at the foot of Granville. A bigger station opened in 1898, which was in turn replaced by the current station in 1914. By then the old tidal flats had been filled in for rail lines.


The heart of the city was initially Carrall and Cordova. But the CPR owned a bunch of land further west, so it successfully lured development westward by building the first Hotel Vancouver at Georgia and Granville in 1887, and then adding an opera house nearby.

Like the CPR station, there have been three Hotel Vancouvers. The second one opened in 1916, while the present one was started in 1929 but wasn't completed for 10 years -construction was halted because of the Great Depression.

Pioneer Gallagher said the tallest trees in the city were at Georgia and Granville, up to 300 feet tall. Most of the area was forest when the city was incorporated, although there had been plenty of logging -Stanley Park was logged several times before it was declared a park in 1888. Many of the park trails are old skid roads, where loggers would "skid" freshly cut logs.

You can see the layout of the early city in "Bird's Eye View" maps published in 1890 and 1898 by The Vancouver World newspaper. They featured an artist's conception of every building in the city from high in the sky above Burrard Inlet.

The buildings were clustered in Gastown, Chinatown, the East End (Strathcona), Yaletown and the West End, although only as far west as Jervis. There were also a handful of buildings in Mount Pleasant, reached by a bridge across Westminster Avenue, the original name for Main Street.

Why was there a bridge? Because False Creek went all the way up to Clark Drive. The eastern end of False Creek was filled in for railway lands between 1916 and 1920. A sliver of water also poked up to Columbia and Keefer; there was a cluster of industry nearby, including the Royal City Sawmill at the top of Carrall. Carrall was an important street in early Vancouver: it also had the city dock on the Burrard Inlet side.

The rich built their homes on the bluff above Coal Harbour where Morton had built his cabin. West of Burrard, Hastings turned into Seaton Street, which was known as Blueblood Alley. But the bluebloods soon left for the West End, and then Shaughnessy. Only one Blueblood Alley mansion remains: Henry Abbott's home at 720 Jervis.

Abbott was the CPR superintendent in charge of building the railway to the coast. He is remembered in Abbotsford and in Abbott Street.

The CPR supplied Vancouver with many of its street names -the city was laid out by CPR surveyor Lauchlan Hamilton, who named Hamilton Street after himself. But Hamilton didn't name the city -that was done by William Cornelius Van Horne, head of the CPR.

Van Horne thought Granville was too obscure for the CPR's terminus; he wanted something that people knew. So he renamed the budding city after English explorer Captain George Vancouver, the first European to sail into Burrard Inlet.

Van Horne's vision of a Pacific Coast metropolis was quickly realized. The population exploded from 600 in 1886 to 6,000 in 1888, 13,000 in 1890, 25,000 in 1901 and 117,000 in 1911. But it came with a price: Vancouver grew so rapidly, and so constantly, precious little remains of the 1880s city that started it all.

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1) There was a bridge across Main street, which was then called Westminster Avenue. The bridge was there because False Creek used to extend almost to Clark Drive; it was filled in for railway lands in 1916. False Creek also extended to Keefer and Columbia in Chinatown.

2) Mount Pleasant was the first neighbourhood settled outside the downtown peninsula. The first four streets up from False Creek were Front, Dufferin, Lorne and Lansdowne, which became First, Second, Third and Fourth in 1926.

3) There was a sawmill at the southern foot of Carrall and a public wharf at the northern end. There were also wharfs at Abbott, Columbia, Gore, Dunlevy and Granville.

4) The city was centred around Gastown, with Cordova the main shopping street.

5) Much of the downtown area was comprised of housing. The city's first wealthy enclave, nicknamed Bluebood Alley, was on the bluff west of Burrard, where the Marine Building is today.

6) Vancouver's population in 1898 was about 25,000. The West End was still sparsely populated; the map doesn't even bother to include Stanley Park.

7) Granville Street was built up north of Smithe, but largely vacant south of it. One notable exception was the corner of Granville and Drake, where the Yale Hotel was built in 1888 and still stands today.

8) At the northern foot of Granville was the second Canadian Pacific Railway station, a massive Victorian structure that was torn down in 1914 for the current station.

9) The Vancouver Daily World newspaper was founded in 1888 and lasted until 1924, when it was purchased by The Vancouver Sun. For many years it was owned by the flamboyant Louis D. Taylor, an American immigrant who was elected mayor of Vancouver seven times between 1910 and 1934.
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Old April 9th, 2011, 01:02 PM   #187
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Great city!!!! and very good to live, sure.
La libertad, Sancho, es uno de los más preciosos dones que a los hombres dieron los cielos; con ella no pueden igualarse los tesoros que encierran la tierra y el mar: por la libertad, así como por la honra, se puede y debe aventurar la vida.
Freedom, Sancho, is one of the most precious gifts that Heaven gave to men; with it the treasures of the earth and the sea can´t be compared; for freedom, and for honour, one can and one should give his life(Cervantes in "Don Quixote")

Il faut être absolument moderne (Rimbaud)
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Old April 10th, 2011, 04:07 AM   #188
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I have a soft spot for Vancouver. It may be somewhat boring, but it's designed extremely well and its surroundings are stunning.
There Is Only One Kraków
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Old June 23rd, 2011, 05:59 AM   #189
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Updated first page June 22
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Old June 24th, 2011, 05:26 PM   #190
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Burrard Gateway, Vancouver

Photos by Built Form on SSP:

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Old June 25th, 2011, 12:37 PM   #191
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really nice
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Old June 25th, 2011, 04:50 PM   #192
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looks really tall.
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Old June 25th, 2011, 05:35 PM   #193
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50+ floors, looks to be around 170m.
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Old June 26th, 2011, 04:40 AM   #194
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That's a fantastic project!!
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Old July 17th, 2011, 06:05 PM   #195
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Rental housing crisis looms

The region needs 65,000 new units a year, yet only 600 are built annually. With mortgage rates set to rise, quality affordable housing may become even more difficult to find

By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver
Sun July 16, 2011

When Tom Durrie moved to Vancouver in the 1960s, it was a dream come true for the California native. But these days, he has to work a job-and-a-half just to keep a roof over his head.

Durrie, 80, is a victim of Metro Vancouver's rental housing market, which gobbles up nearly half his paycheque every month and keeps reaching into his pocket for more every year.

At least he has his own space. One of his buddies has been looking for something affordable in Vancouver's east side for a while now. Others are living in cramped quarters or dingy basement suites because they can't afford anything else, or landlords won't accept their pets.

"I'd hate to be looking now," said Durrie, who has lived in the same building on Vancouver's east side since 1996 and holds down part-time jobs to make ends meet.

"Three years ago I'd considered moving but I really couldn't find anything. If it was a little bit cheaper it was awful; if it was a little bit nicer than this, it cost more. In a way, what I'm paying is a bargain."

Durrie's situation is becoming increasingly common across Metro Vancouver, where an increase in the number of new international migrants and a hot real estate market have conspired to boost the number of renters vying for apartments, basement suites and condo units.

And Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. predicts that as mortgage rates climb over the next 18 months, more people will turn to renting as a more viable alternative to buying their own home.

In addition, 40,000 people -or 18,000 households -move into the Lower Mainland every year. Those numbers are expected to rise as the region prepares for another one million people by 2040.

This has Metro Vancouver mayors fretting over where to put the newcomers. The region needs 65,000 new rental units every year, yet only 600 purpose-built rental units have been created annually in the past five years. "We have all these people coming in and no space for them," warned New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright.

Marg Gordon, CEO of the B.C. Apartment Owners and Managers' Association, predicts the challenge will come in the next decade as Metro Vancouver's aging rental stock continues to deteriorate and municipalities approve more redevelopment in their communities.

According to CMHC's spring rental market survey, the rental apartment vacancy rate in Canada's 35 major centres was 2.5 per cent in April 2011, down from 2.9 per cent in April 2010. In Vancouver, it was at 2.8 per cent, up from 2.2 per cent a year earlier and above the 10-year average of 1.3 per cent, said CMHC analyst Richard Sam. Vancouver has now dropped behind Toronto, which has been dubbed a more expensive place to live because of rising rents driven by a tightening rental market. By comparison, the vacancy rate in Toronto was 1.6 per cent in April, down from 2.7 per cent a year earlier.

Gordon noted Metro Vancouver is seeing a higher vacancy rate because of a number of factors: more people are buying their own homes, while others are sharing suites and apartments, moving back in with their parents or renting out their investment condos, which has helped somewhat to increase the rental stock.

But within 10 years, the market will be much tighter, as many of the existing purpose-built rental units -erected more than 50 years ago -could fail, unless they're extensively renovated or repaired to newer standards and a new housing policy is developed.

"Although many of the buildings are old, decrepit and falling apart, we need to find ways to keep them in the housing stock," she said.

Without them, she warned, there will be even fewer options for those who need it most: families and individuals who earn less than $45,000 a year.


Across Canada, the average twobedroom rent in new and existing structures was $864 in April 2011, compared with $848 in April 2010. Vancouver has one of the highest average monthly rents for two-bedroom apartments at $1,181, according to CMHC, but was slightly less than Toronto overall. Richard Sam, a market analyst with CMHC, said Vancouver tends to have more one-bedroom apartments, which may be driving rents for two-bedroom suites higher because of the demand.

Households considered in "core need" are those who are unable to find appropriate housing without spending 30 per cent or more of their income on shelter. Yet about 80,000 people in Metro Vancouver spend about 30 per cent of their salaries on rent, according to the B.C. Apartment Owners and Managers' Association, while another 30,000 people hand over half their paycheques to a landlord each month.

Durrie's rental apartment on Adanac Street costs $878 per month -about 45 per cent of his $1,922 paycheque. Ten years ago, that same suite, including utilities, cost $715 per month.

But he counts himself lucky: he has a good-sized, one-bedroom apartment on the third floor with a view of the North Shore mountains and Commercial Drive.

Across the water in Richmond, by comparison, Steve Torr has been struggling to find a decent apartment for himself and his five-year-old shepherd lab Tajia.

The 29-year-old paralegal has been sharing a 600-sq. ft, $1,000-a-month, two-bedroom caretaker's suite with a friend in the industrial business complex where he works. Both have dogs, which has made it difficult for them to find anything better, even though Torr said he's willing to take out a $50,000 pet insurance policy.

"Oh my God, you have no idea," he said. "I'm almost to the point where it's easier for me to buy a Winnebago and live in the car."

Torr said he never expected it would be this tough to find a place when he and Tajia moved to B.C. from Ontario four years ago.

Although there are pet-friendly suites out there, he said, most of them have a 20-to 50-per-cent surcharge on usual rents. And while he could find a place in Surrey or Langley, the money he'd save on rent would be guzzled up in gas driving to work in Richmond every day.

He and his buddy are sharing a suite so they can save enough money to buy their own homes.

"We've just been looking for a nice place to improve our quality of life," Torr said. "It's a complete catch-22 in this province. It's completely ridiculous. The rents are so inflated that unless you make $60,000 or $70,000 [a year] you can't save for a mortgage. The houses are too expensive for any reasonable or rational person to be able to afford."


Metro mayors say their hands are tied. They blame the federal government, which in the 1980s eliminated tax incentives and infrastructure funds that had helped stimulate a boom in the number of purpose-built rentals across B.C. The government further discouraged rental housing development by not allowing reinvestment in rental housing to be exempt from the capital gains tax.

This resulted in landowners focusing more on developing condos -particularly in hot markets like Vancouver -because they are more profitable than rental housing.

And in some cases, municipalities have placed moratoriums on rental housing, Wright said. No new rental housing has been built in Coquitlam for 20 years, something the city's mayor blames on the high cost of land.

Coquitlam has instead legalized secondary suites and is looking at other options such as laneway housing to accommodate its growing population, of whom 50 per cent are renters.

"There isn't a bank out there that will lend money for rental housing in suburban B.C. because land values are so high," Mayor Richard Stewart said. "Almost every project goes as condominiums. We have a large amount of rental housing but it's not being replaced."

In Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson said the city's rental housing scheme has been stalled because it can't get "any traction" from the federal government despite constant lobbying. Since 2004, only 180 rental housing units have been built each year compared with 3,000 units for owners.

"The federal government has rebuffed us year after year," Robertson said. "We're pulling out all the stops and we can barely move the needle in getting rental housing."

To help boost rental housing, the city in 2009 approved its STIR (shortterm incentives for rental) program, which runs until December this year. By offering incentives to developers, including a development cost levy waiver, parking requirement reduction, expedited permit processing and increased density, the city hoped to address the shortfall in the city's rental market.

Only six per cent of new market development since 2004 has been rental housing, despite the fact 52 per cent of residents don't own their own units.

Coun. Raymond Louie said the STIR program has shown some success and will help alleviate the pressure on the Vancouver market, which has 15,000 units that will be under threat in the next 10 years, and will need another 15,000 more just to cover the existing shortfall.

But he noted STIR is only a temporary measure, and Vancouver is calling for the federal and provincial governments to get involved. The city would like to see federal legislation allowing landlords to treat their rental housing units as a business so they can write off a portion on their taxes, as well as any reinvestment in rental housing to be exempt from capital gains taxes. Otherwise, Louie said, there's a disincentive to revitalize rental stock.

"It makes more sense for the provincial and federal governments to participate so we don't end up where all rental stock is decaying to substandard levels," he said.


Meanwhile, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said his city would like to create rental housing zones that would protect existing apartment buildings from being turned into condos later on. But the concept has met with resistance from the provincial government, he said, because this would hurt a homeowner's ability to make money off property investments.

"We keep looking for ways to stimulate rental development," Corrigan said. "But no matter how hard we work, the numbers don't."

Peter Simpson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association, agreed it's tough getting politicians to buy into the idea of providing incentives for rental housing. And developers aren't willing to build something if they can't make a profit on it.

"There's a lot that can be done for rental housing, but there has to be a return on investment," he said.

Simpson, along with Gordon and Wright, is a member of the Rental Housing Support Coalition, which is pushing senior governments to develop a national housing strategy and remove tax impediments and capital gains taxes on landlords to encourage purpose-built rentals.

"All municipalities are trying to densify as well and rentals have to be part of that mix," he said. "We have to find room for another one million people in this region."

Simpson said investment-owned condo rentals have been the "saving grace" in Metro Vancouver because they have eased the rental crunch by adding new stock to the rental pool.

But CMHC noted those condo units tend to be on average 45-to 60-percent higher than typical rentals because they include features like concierge service, in-suite laundry and fitness facilities. Newer purpose-built rental apartments also compete with those condos for tenants at the higher end of the rental market, the report said.

Development of affordable purposebuilt rental stock hasn't kept up.

Cities like Surrey, which will take the lion's share of the new immigrants in the next 30 years, are trying to find solutions to the looming affordable rental crisis.

Surrey Coun. Judy Villeneuve agrees with Gordon that the crunch will come in 10 years when cities redevelop, particularly around transit stations, and rip out the older, deteriorating housing units. She said municipalities must find ways to encourage more rental stock or the gap between rich and poor is going to get bigger.

"There's no money to build new housing," she said. "We're going to be accepting new immigrants and refugees who need that housing."

Surrey has a memorandum of understanding with BC Housing, which has three or four projects for transitional and other housing underway in the city. The city is also taking steps to legalize the more than 18,000 basement suites within its boundaries, to ease some of the pressure.

But Gordon argues that while basement suites and condo units serve a much-needed demand, they aren't permanent rental stock. Condo owners might decide to live in their units or sell them when times go sour, she said, while the supply of new basement suites is dwindling and will eventually run out.

Gordon suggests Metro Vancouver municipalities could help boost the rental stock by making land available; increasing density; reducing development fees and regulations; and speeding up the development process.

"There's only one pocket that pays for that and that's the owner; they have bills to pay like everyone else," she said. "We need to make it back to the days of GST rollovers and tax rollovers ... all the incentives that made it possible to run rental housing and be profitable."


Rental housing demands and shortages appear to vary across Metro Vancouver. But many people agree on one thing: "It's just a matter of luck," said Heather Bould, who is looking for a suite in Burnaby, but has a sheepdoglab cross named Lucy.

Surrey resident Steve Hecocks, who is searching for a three-bedroom ground-floor suite in a house for his daughter and her family in Surrey, said there appears to be more affordable rental options south of the Fraser compared with other municipalities.

He and his wife decided to buy a townhouse in Surrey because it was cheaper than renting an apartment in Metrotown after they sold their Burnaby home. "Burnaby and Vancouver are a little more expensive," he said.

Hecocks also wants something with laundry facilities and a bit of a yard for his grandchildren, all for $1,000 a month. He found the perfect home once but it slipped from his grasp because the current tenants decided they didn't want to leave. He's also fled from places that had peeling paint and broken windows in dodgy parts of town.

"A little bit of paint and elbow grease would go a long way," he said. "We'll find something, but it might not be exactly the dream place I want."

But there are those, like Durrie, who dread being chased to the suburbs by skyrocketing rents.

"I don't know where else I would go; I wouldn't move out to the suburbs ..." he said. "I suppose I could go live with one of my kids."

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Old July 19th, 2011, 12:38 PM   #196
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Experts warned B.C. of fire risks before taller wood buildings allowed: documents
Sun July 18, 2011 10:40 PM

Surrey's fire chief says new guidelines will help to avoid major fires in large wood complexes like the one that destroyed this building in May in Richmond.

The Architectural Institute of British Columbia has ongoing serious concerns with fire safety in six-storey wood-frame buildings.

The institute first expressed its view in a letter submitted to the provincial government before the building code was changed in 2009 to allow taller wood-frame buildings.

The letter, obtained by The Vancouver Sun through Freedom of Information, formed part of the consultation process before the changes were made.

“It is our opinion that implementing the code proposals by Jan. 15, 2009 ... would be premature, unnecessarily risk-prone and therefore not entirely in the public interest,” executive director Michael Ernest wrote in December 2008.

When contacted last week, Ernest said the same concerns exist today.

The buildings are most at risk during construction, and the larger the building the more potentially damaging the consequences will be, Ernest said.

In May, one of B.C.’s first six-storey, wood-frame buildings burned to the ground weeks before it was to be completed in a massive fire in Richmond. The flames could be seen for miles and sparks ignited spot fires that threatened 10 homes in the area.

The building’s sprinkler systems had not yet been activated.

Last week, Surrey fire department announced plans to improve fire-safety guidelines during the construction phase of large wood-frame buildings.

And Vancouver will take a close look at safety requirements before approving the city’s first six-storey wood-frame building — a social-housing project slated for 1050 Expo Blvd.

“I still hear those cautions,” Ernest said. “When some regulation is brought in, certainly something with the building code, which is created purely in the public interest, that’s got to drive it. You’ve got a balance of interests, and the province made its decision.”

Although the provincial government is not planning any building code changes to prevent similar fires, more proposals for taller, wood-frame buildings are being accepted, including the one proposed for Vancouver.

The city’s Urban Design Panel last Wednesday held a scheduled review of the proposed building, one of 12 sites being developed for social housing in a partnership between the City of Vancouver and BC Housing. The $30.6-million project will provide 133 suites of social housing. The Remy project in Richmond also had a social-housing component.

Vancouver will take a special look at the Expo Boulevard building with the fire department, with an eye to strengthening the safety requirements during construction, said Will Johnston, the city’s director of licences and inspections.

“Some time next year we will be issuing a new bylaw and fire bylaw for the City of Vancouver. These measures will be incorporated into that bylaw [for large wood-frame buildings].”

New Surrey guidelines will include the installation and activation of sprinklers as each floor is built, more active on-site security to patrol for potential fires and more safeguards during hot work such as soldering or welding.

Stephen Gamble, the Township of Langley’s fire chief and past president of the B.C. Fire Chiefs’ Association, told The Sun he is looking forward to seeing the new Surrey rules.

“We will be looking at how that could work in the Township of Langley,” Gamble said.

Ernest said it’s up to city councils or other approving bodies to reject developments if they don’t have the resources to deal with the risks.

“If there’s a building proposed, and whatever the risk is can’t be handled by municipal services or the industry when it’s building it, then somebody’s got to be wise and caring enough at the permitting stage to say, ‘We can’t handle this.’”

Other documents obtained by The Sun through FOI requests show that at a stakeholder meeting held to discuss the proposed building code changes on Oct. 2, 2008, suggestions included banning drywall heaters during construction, requiring on-site security 24 hours a day and the early completion of the sprinkler system.

The government also conducted a survey in 2008 as part of the consultation process, the results of which The Sun obtained through another Freedom of Information request.

Fully 37 per cent of respondents opposed the building height clause, with comments ranging from concerns about safety to concerns the process was being rushed.

“Combustible construction over four storeys poses unjustifiable life risk to occupants and firefighters; need review of fire department capacity due to unreliability of water supply,” wrote one respondent.

“Concerns with fire during construction phase, including risks to adjacent properties,” wrote another respondent.

More than 100 respondents participated, and just over half identified themselves as engineers, building officials, local government representatives, architects, fire officials, contractors or tradespeople and developers.

The remainder did not identify themselves.

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Old July 23rd, 2011, 11:05 AM   #197
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Waterfront arts precinct for West Vancouver?
By Tessa Holloway, North Shore News July 22, 2011

A waterfront arts precinct stretching along Argyle Avenue with a new exhibition space and education centre on the Ferry Building site is the hope of West Vancouver arts groups.

According to the plan, drawn up by the Arts in Ambleside Advisory Commission, a new multi-purpose art and museum exhibition space and administration building would be built on the site of the Ferry Building Gallery, while that gallery could be moved, possibly onto the pier itself.

The report also calls for a neighbouring "arts square" at the foot of the pier and an educational building and café on the other side, as well as additions to the Silk Purse Gallery that would include a permanent outdoor stage for John Lawson Park - a full "arts precinct."

The commission presented an interim report with conceptualized site designs to council Monday. The group is now looking for resident feedback on the proposed locations.

"We really did an exhaustive exploration of sites within that whole

waterfront precinct, and not just on the waterfront, we looked at a lot of other sites," said Jennifer Marshall, a consultant with Urban Arts Architecture. "It's the one place where there's enough space and it's a space that's already been claimed by culture."

The locations the commission turned down included the 1300-block of Marine Drive slated for redevelopment as part of the AmblesideNow, project the tennis courts at 13th Street and Marine Drive, a spot at Argyle Avenue and 15th Street, Argyle and 13th Street and a location next to the Silk Purse.

The Ferry Building site was the only one that stood out as meeting the criteria of having space to expand, remaining connected to the commercial core while also being a dramatic, waterfront site, said Marshall.

The café was included to provide revenue and also to bring people in, she said.

Marshall asked council to consider making the land available at no cost for construction and to consider expanding the grants provided for operations. She said the commission hoped to raise the entire construction cost through private donations, grants and community amenity contributions, but didn't exactly rule out asking for municipal funds.

"Who knows what the future holds, but that's not what the plan is," she said.

The challenge, she said, will be recovering operating funds.

Marshall suggested the site could be booked for weddings and other events, and that revenue would increase from events, partnerships, donations and an expanded endowment fund. Construction won't begin until the operating budget is in order, she added.

The commission plans to return to council with a final report in the fall, which will include more details about projected costs and facility size, said Marshall. It's budget for researching and generating both reports is $80,000.

The advisory commission has representatives from the West Vancouver Museum and arts organizations, such as the Silk Purse, Ferry Building Gallery, and others involved in arts delivery in British Columbia.

Commission chairwoman, Merla Beckerman, said the plan is ambitious, but is designed to carry West Vancouver through the next 25 years, although the components could be staged for completion into multiple phases. Beckerman noted that West Vancouver's arts groups have been talking about a new combined arts facility since the 1970s. She said this time the momentum is here to put shovels in the ground.

She said the plan is to move forward at the same time as AmblesideNow.

"Our timing is very good for this, and certainly (it's) a needed facility," she said.

The commission also sought approval from staff to amalgamate all the boards of West Vancouver's arts organizations and museums, which Beckerman said would allow them to share staff, share space and save money.

A 2009 report suggested exhibition space of 6,000 square feet would be a small component of a 28,000-square-foot building would also house collection storage and administration offices for all West Vancouver's arts organizations

The interim report is available to the public as part of the online council agenda package for July 18, but no website has been created yet for the plan.

There will be a booth set up at the Harmony Arts Festival to solicit feedback.

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Old August 2nd, 2011, 10:32 AM   #198
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Critics skewer City of Vancouver’s affordable housing target
By Sam Cooper, The Province
July 28, 2011

The only clear thing about Vancouver’s ambitious new strategy to tackle the city’s homelessness and housing affordability crises, is no one has a clear idea on how much it will cost, or even how to actually place homeless people into social housing.

Vancouver’s strategy to create about 39,000 new “affordable” homes by 2021 was approved in city hall Thursday, after council heard from a long list of speakers including housing providers, advocates, and homeless people.

The plan calls for 7,900 social-housing units, 11,000 market rental units and 20,000 new condo units in 10 years.

Before the tricky question of who would actually pay for the new units was raised in debate, city staff lobbed a stunner at council.

Housing planner Judy Graves said staff is having trouble moving the existing homeless population into empty rooms in newly completed city-owned social housing sites, which are part of a provincially-funded package of 14 buildings to be finished in the next year or so.

Officials haven’t answered what exactly the challenges are, but the problem seems to be about competition for units, and the difficulty in moving addicts from the Downtown Eastside from shelters into permanent rooms with rules about drug use, safety, and maintenance.

NPA mayoral contender Coun. Suzanne Anton, NPA council hopeful Mike Klassen, and Wendy Pedersen, an advocate for low-income housing from the Carnegie Community Action Project, all questioned the cost and lack of details in the new plan.

Pedersen urged the city to lobby “fiercely” for national funding, and demanded the plan include commitments to build more low-rent hotel rooms in order to replace stock that she says is rapidly being lost due to property speculation in Vancouver’s red-hot housing market.

“There is no way for the city to get a handle on the homelessness or housing crisis, without senior governments,” Pedersen said. “We can’t meet these goals.”

“This plan is extremely utopian — the math doesn’t add up,” Klassen said. “Will it cost several hundred million or a billion? That’s not clear.”

Anton, who voted against the plan, rejected the idea of starting a “rent bank” where tenants facing eviction for not paying their rent can apply for a loan or grant from the city. She questioned how the city could afford the rent bank, and whether it would attract people from across the region to flood into Vancouver.

“That’s a very good question, and those are the questions that will be answered when the report comes back to council,” Vision Vancouver Coun. Raymond Louie said Thursday in an interview about the rent bank and general costs of the plan.

Much of the hoped for funding would come from public and private partners, Louie said.

Some critics doubt that “affordable” condos proposed in the plan will be useful to low income earners.

“The affordable condos are too small for families, and they are not affordable to anyone that can use them,” said housing advocate Fraser Stewart, citing a development currently proposed in the Downtown Eastside, Sequel 138, in which one-bedroom units would start at $227,000 for about 450 square feet.

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Old August 7th, 2011, 04:21 PM   #199
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Oxford's downtown tower kicks off new round of construction
The buildings, offering more than a million square feet of office space, will be welcome additions in an area with low office vacancy rates
By Derrick Penner, Vancouver Sun
August 6, 2011

The slender 35-storey office tower Oxford Properties is building in the space between the iconic Marine Building and Guinness Tower in downtown Vancouver is a breakthrough.

When Oxford breaks ground, which is planned for this fall, the project will be the first purpose-built office building to start construction in the downtown core in almost a decade.

And it will kick off an expected significant new round of office development, followed closely by a new 25-storey Bentall Kennedy building at 745 Thurlow, and the 22-storey Telus Garden project at Robson and Seymour, after a decade in which some feared condominium development would push the purpose-built office tower out of Vancouver's core.

Then just outside the city's official Central Business District (CBD) the Aquilini Group is planning a 22-storey office building adjacent to Rogers Arena.

The new buildings - over one million square feet of office space - will be welcome additions in a downtown market which has maintained notoriously low office vacancy rates and limited options to accommodate companies looking for large blocks of space.

For Oxford, vice-president David Routledge said conditions in the downtown market made its 1021 West Hastings building "the right time, the right product."

"Oxford's Vancouver portfolio is virtually 100-per-cent leased, and we also see a trend of steady demand and good growth in the Vancouver market," he added.

The 1021 West Hastings building will accommodate the facade of its University Club neighbour in its design and contain 270,000 square feet of office space with each floor consisting of some 8,000 square feet to fit in the narrow lot between the Marine Building and Guinness Tower, both of which are also owned by Oxford.

Maury Dubuque, vice-president at commercial realtor Colliers International, said 1021 West Hastings floor sizes are small - about half the size of typical downtown Vancouver office buildings - but Oxford has designed it shrewdly for downtown Vancouver, where there the average office tenant takes up between 3,000 and 3,500 square feet.

"That's a brilliant idea to make use of a small site," Dubuque added.

And looking at the mounting number of new projects in development, Dubuque surmised that it is simply about time.

"I know that doesn't sound scientific, but downtown the average age of Triple A (premium-quality) office buildings is about 18 to 20 years."

Vancouver has the reputation as "among the top-performing office markets in North America," Dubuque said, with downtown's vacancy rate hovering at just under four per cent in total, but at just three per cent for its top-quality buildings, according to Colliers' latest statistics.

So, Dubuque added, the city needs new buildings to rejuvenate its stock of top-quality buildings as much as it is to catch up with growth in the market and make up for the period in which office space largely lost out to condominium development.

Dubuque said that during the condominium boom, while office developers were calculating investments in office property valued in the range of $500 per square foot, condominium developers were proposing projects valued around $1,000 per square foot.

"Obviously they were able to bid up the price of those sites to make it economically unfeasible to commercial developers," he added.

So, according to statistics collected by commercial realtor Cushman & Wakefield, downtown Vancouver went from a period between 2000-2005 when developers completed 1.6 million square feet of new office space to the 2005-2010 period where just 260,000 square feet was completed.

Burnaby, by contrast, saw almost 1.4 million square feet of office space built between 2000-2005 and another almost 1.1 million square feet completed between 2005-2010.

However, the City of Vancouver has made some conscious choices in its CBD to tilt the advantage back in the favour of office developers, Brent Toderian, the city's director of planning, said in an interview.

Toderian said that in 2004, within the CBD, the city put a moratorium on the conversion of building sites to allow residential development, which has since been replaced by official policy that generally does not allow residential construction in the zone, which is bound by Thurlow Street in the west and Beatty Street in the east and runs from the waterfront to Robson Street.

Toderian added that the policy has taken an element of speculation out of the equation for downtown's office developers.

"As soon as we did that, combined with the favourable market conditions, we have the applications we see now," Toderian said.

Construction schedules for 745 Thurlow, the Aquilini building at 800 Griffiths Way and Telus Garden - which is part of a larger development that includes a 44-storey residential tower - have not formally been launched.

However, Telus has said it wants to see its new, 500,000-square-foot headquarters building complete by 2015. Telus is expected to occupy about half the space, leaving about 200,000 square feet available for lease.

Dubuque added that all the new buildings introduce the latest technology and incorporate the concept of environmental sustainability into their designs, which are important considerations for the big law, accounting and engineering firms, which will be likely tenants for the properties.

Oxford, for example, is aiming for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (Leed) Gold rating for its building. Telus wants a Leed Platinum rating for its tower.

"Large corporate users, virtually with no exception, have corporate sustainability initiatives that would cause them to only examine Leed-certified buildings," Dubuque said.

And commercial realtors are confident that the new buildings being proposed won't flood the downtown Vancouver market with new space.

"Our vacancy rates are so tight right now, and [rents] are high enough to pretty much justify kicking off new buildings," said Andrea Welburn, research manager for Cushman & Wakefield in Vancouver.

What the new buildings will do, she added, is give bigger tenants the freedom to move or expand and make space for growth. "It's quite exciting," Dubuque said of the planned projects, "because we haven't had a significant [construction] cycle in some time."

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Old September 17th, 2011, 06:19 PM   #200
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I'm from Toronto, lived in Vancouver for a while. And now I moved to San Francisco to work in the Valley. I think Vancouver is closer to Toronto in culture than SF.

The only similarity between Vancouver and SF is size. Otherwise, buildings in SF are much older, and just like the rest of California the mexican/latino scene in SF is very strong. I don't see any similarity between the two at all! Vancouver people are much more laid back. And also, family is practically non-existant in SF. Most families are in South Bay.

And btw, I love Vancouver a lot more.
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