Let the Debate Begin

In some martial arts competitions the participants begin by bowing to their opponent.  Perhaps we could find a way to mimic this act of humility for speakers making presentations at community consultation meetings.  I am anticipating some very interesting “open house” or “information meetings” coming up this year.

My wife and I have reached an interesting time in our lives where we must look both forward and behind.  Our house is very comfortable, but the stairs seem to get steeper and higher every year. So we look at the real estate ads and ponder what our essential needs really are.  Inevitably we look for something smaller and perhaps more affordable.   At the same time our grandson is staying with us while attending VIU.  A wonderful treat. Of course, conversations often turn to the question: housing is so expensive now, how will our grandchildren be able to afford their own home?  (We are fortunate that our children have already dealt with that issue.)

So I would like to challenge the District of Lantzille Council, and our community, what are you going to do to allow, or even to encourage affordable housing in Lantzville?

The first challenge might be to determine what the term “affordable housing” means.  Obviously we need to go beyond the simplistic “what grandma and grandpa or  grandkids can afford”.  The City of Langford has developed an “Affordable Housing Program” which requires developers of new subdivisions to build one affordable home for every 10 single family lots developed.  These homes are priced at 60% of market value.  In some respects Langford shares the costs of these units, with incentives for the developers such as free administrative support, density bonuses, and streamlined approvals.

If we want to have affordable housing two factors must enter the discussion: allow smaller lot sizes and  build smaller houses.  Smaller lot sizes raises the issue of densification.  More density means more people, and more cars. But it also has many positive aspects such as reduced costs per unit for installing utilities, tighter neighbourhoods and better delivery of services.  Some people don’t like the concept.  But in the context of a diversity of lot sizes allowed in specific areas (as in our Community Plan) why not? There may be a number of caveats in determining where denser development could be allowed, such as adequate connecting roads, close proximity to services such as buses or stores, and close proximity to schools.  Council has already discussed the possibility of higher density developments near the Lantzville core, because that area meets many of these concerns.  Finally, there is room for trade-offs whereby in return for allowing higher density, the community receives more or bigger green spaces!

The topic of smaller homes raises some interesting opportunities.  In particular, the numerous options allow for considerable diversity within the context of higher density. One option that has become popular is “patio homes”, which have smaller yards, narrower roads and a smaller footprint.  These communities of patio homes tend to be attractive to seniors who no longer wish to have big gardens nor numerous vehicles littering their yards. Another option is the manufactured home park .  There are a number of these in Nanaimo, and  my observations indicate they attract residents from all ages.  Isn’t that something we would like for Lantzville, ie. a diversity in people coming to live here?  Another option might be some multi-story residences, such as condos, or care facilities for seniors.  Looking into the future, I expect I will need to move into such a residence, but I wouldn’t be able to stay in Lantzville because there are no such facilities allowed here yet.

Finally, there is a very simple concept that I think is worth discussing.  That is to allow smaller homes to be built.  So many of the new houses built today are 2500 square feet or more.  Okay if you can afford it. But how about reducing the minimum house size to something young people can afford?  It would be easy to have bylaws to make sure these homes looked nice and fit into the neighbourhood.  But what could make these homes attractive would to assure they are engineered and preplanned such that they could be enlarged at some time in the future when the residents could afford it. 

I am sure there are many housing options I have not included here (e.g., townhouses).  I hope these ideas stimulate some real world solutions.  With a little imagination and conciliatory thinking, maybe my grandchildren might some day be able to afford a home in Lantzville.

Posted in A View from the Outside, April 2015
2 comments on “Let the Debate Begin
  1. Brian Blood Brian Blood says:

    Lloyd. I couldn’t agree with you more about the need for more variety in housing size and price. The new Foothills group are talking about making some of their development more affordable than in previous plans. What they mean by affordability is anyone’s guess at this point. I am ok with local government having a role as enablers in terms of lot size and zoning for maximum square footage of building size for example. I draw the line at using my taxes so that someone else’s children can live here. We either have a free market or we don’t. If some of the children in West Van can’t afford a house there when they fledge, they can move to Surrey. If housing becomes unaffordable in the whole country……well it won’t because over broad geographic areas housing prices and rents are ultimately self correcting. If the problem is that too much wealth is concentrated in two few hands so that we all become tenants of the 1%…..well that is ultimately self correcting too.
    I didn’t use to but now I, like you, look more favourably on the idea of townhomes, condos and manufactured home projects as well as secondary suites. They can all be regulated for style and quality.
    Still, I don’t mind if nothing happens. With 7 billion fractious humans seething over the planet a little peace and quiet goes a long way.
    You didn’t mention a sort of accomodation need after we don’t require a dwelling at all. I mean a cemetery. We have buried our loved pets in the back yard but we have to leave Lantzville when we die and I don’t mean a mansion in the sky. Maybe the new Foothills developers will include a cemetery. By the way the phrase about dwelling after death in one of God’s many mansions which some people seem to think is going to be like living at Opra’s house was really mistranslated from the Hebrew for “camping place”.

  2. Gordon Pascoe says:

    Good reading re: future housing plans. My one quibble is the rash assumption that more people inevitably means “more cars.” This means more roads, More parking. “Densification” …?Not really. More people . . .? Find and develop a transportation system that works . . . more cars are not the answer, and have year after years proved it.

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