M Power Series: Can our real estate market be channelled for social good?

Joel Solomon and Gregory Henriquez weighed in on this tough question Tuesday night

April 20, 2016

By Vancouver Magazine / Photo: Sheldon Coxford

Vancouver’s real estate market is the subject of conversation throughout this city, and it was no different Tuesday night at Brian Jessel BMW. At the first event of this year’s M Power series, social entrepreneur Joel Solomon and architect Gregory Henriquez debated a very interesting (and intriguing) proposition: could our city’s real estate market be channeled for social good? The answer, they said, was a resounding maybe. Many of the tools to do that are already in place, most notably the Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) that have been used to build everything from new schools to new parks in this city. But Henriquez said that until this city’s residents better understand and embrace those tools it’s going to be difficult to fully tap into the capital that’s being poured into our collective back yard.

The other key, they both said, was a more robust embrace of density and the value it can unlock on everyone’s behalf. Of course, Henriquez said, density does not come without controversy, but that controversy is often driven by the loud voices of the few who choose to participate. More people need to speak up, he said, and realize that density is key to making Vancouver truly accessible. After all, when you move 100 people onto a piece of land that was previously occupied by 10, you get a greater number of residents in the area who will support local businesses and organizations. More importantly, that additional supply will give residents more options in terms of where they want to live—and, ideally, bring prices in that segment of the market more into line with reality in the process.

Both panelists also agreed that we need to change how we see Vancouver as a city. Solomon said that when he grew up, Vancouver was very much a single-family-zoning city. But in parts of Europe, single-family homes are essentially for economic royalty—and so it may be here in the not-so-distant future. “In Vancouver,” he said, “owning homes is an opportunity, not a guarantee.” That said, there is one way to save the single-family home, at least for the time being. By improving mass transit, you essentially open up new land by making it more accessible for commuters, Solomon said. He described last year’s failed transit referendum as a “disaster” and criticized the provincial government for funding the $3.5-billion Massey Tunnel—but not transit.

The M Power Series, a partnership between Vancouver Magazine and Brian Jessel BMW (where the recurring panel is hosted), brings together thought leaders from around the city to weigh in on pressing, of-the-moment issues—and how they might be solved. The next talk will be held on June 14.

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Guests mingle before the panel.
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Joel Solomon (centre) and Gregory Henriquez (right) chat with Brian Jessel BMW marketing manager Diana Zoppa.
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Henriquez speaks with more attendees.
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Henriquez with Van Mag publisher Tom Gierasimczuk (left) and editor-in-chief Max Fawcett (centre).
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Editor-in-chief Max Fawcett moderates the panel.
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Henriquez and Solomon clearly having a good time.
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As are the people in the audience.
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The rosé from Culmina Family Estate Winery was great.
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Cool beers from Stanley Park Brewing.
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There was plenty of food to go with that wine and beer.
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Including these.
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Don’t forget a copy of Van Mag on your way out (or a BMW, for that matter).

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