By Bruce Gilmour, DRA president
This summer, my family and I enjoyed the pleasures of country life in the south Cariboo. However, with my ear to the ground, I was also learning about trouble brewing back home in Dunbar. It came out in dribs and drabs because the city did not bother officially informing the Dunbar Residents’ Association about big changes planned for our community. Now the story is less about being asked to the table and more about struggling with what we learned after the fact! As explained elsewhere in the DRA’s fall newsletter, the city is planning to allow four-, five- and six-storey rental buildings on blocks along arterials. Anyone who lives on a block adjacent to Dunbar Street might see four- or five-storey rental apartment buildings going up next door, with six-storey buildings on Dunbar.
The city says this is necessary because of the urgent demand for more rental housing. But I think the real need is affordable housing that meets the variety of needs in our community, from the young family starting out, to long-timers having to make changes as they age. The city’s failure to talk to residents means its plan does virtually nothing to ensure the resulting housing meets the needs of all ages and abilities, or is affordable. The new buildings will be mostly market rentals, which will be ridiculously expensive in a place like Dunbar. When land prices are sky-high, rents will match, and who will really be served by this plan except the builders, developers and rent collectors?
Lots of people will be hurt, though. People who have lived in these areas for decades, upgraded their houses and planned to retire in them, may find a four-storey apartment going up next door. There are better, less-disruptive ways of adding the kind of inclusive, affordable housing our area needs, and the city should be working with us in creating it without losing what has attracted us to this community in the first place.
Consultation is key. The DRA has had no official notification of updates to the neighbourhood plan, an engagement process, or timelines. Nor have residents in affected areas been told how to contribute to the plan. Apparently, the city now thinks that online surveys that most people don’t even know about are sufficient to check the communication box!
What can we do? Although public hearings on the plan began Nov. 2, there were so many speakers that they have been extended, with the next hearing Nov. 9. There’s still time to write council and speak out for the liveability that must be the starting point of any conversation about rezoning.
Let’s insist on a local process for creating housing that fits the size and scale of our neighbourhoods and adds to its inclusivity and affordability. Speak out to preserve retail character and diversity, green space and walkability, pedestrian safety and community gathering spaces, parks and playgrounds, traditions and heritage, and housing forms and character. Liveability is built from active and healthy neighbourhoods with affordable and inclusive housing for its residents!
How to contact city council:
- Emails to Council : firstname.lastname@example.org; CLRboyle@vancouver.ca; CLRbligh@vancouver.ca; CLRcarr@vancouver.ca; CLRhardwick@vancouver.ca; CLRdominato@vancouver.ca; CLRdegenova@vancouver.ca; CLRfry@vancouver.ca; CLRkirbyemail@example.com; CLRswanson@vancouver.ca; CLRwiebe@vancouver.ca
- AND submit through the online form so it counts in the public hearing: https://vancouver.ca/your-government/contact-council-public-hearing.aspx
- Sign up to speak, either by phone or in person: https://vancouver.ca/your-government/request-to-speak-at-a-public-hearing-form-1.aspx