Editor’s Note: The Space Race

September 1, 2014

I used to feel guilty about our house. built in 1994, it was the first lick of gentrification on our block: grey ’20s bungalow, brown ’20s bungalow, then suddenly this two-tiered confection of pink stucco squatting property line to property line. Our neighbours were all lifers — across the street was born in his house; next door grew up four blocks away. Hardly anyone had young kids like we did. We stood out.

Over the last decade, a number of our neighbours have passed away, and their families have done the math: borrowed money is cheap, tradespeople are everywhere, and renovations (with or without permits) and new builds can raise the value of a house to match the land, doubling the worth of what were nest eggs but are now furnished investment instruments awaiting cash-out.

Today, fully half our street has been rebuilt. We’ve grown accustomed to the sound of construction and the sight of hurricane fencing around the boulevard trees. We don’t stand out so much anymore. I certainly don’t feel guilty. It’s the same all over town, and all this activity is adding up to…what? A lot of demolition and construction but not much of a plan, argues Frances Bula. For The Middle Ground,” she interviews a wave of developers and architects striving to help Metro Vancouver reach its goal of adding a million people to the region by 2040—without turning every street into a slice of Coal Harbour. What she discovers is less than encouraging.

Is this our future? Houses for the affluent and high-rise rental for everyone else? Towers have become the bête noire of our age, as pink stucco monster homes were in the Hongcouver era. Development will be a defining issue in this fall’s election. Towers will focus our unease, which is captured in all the difficult words: density, heritage (see Caroline Adderson’s The Vanishing Point), affordability. That last one is really, as Kerry Gold writes in Sprawl’s Well That Ends Well, just shorthand for the ever-widening gap between those with few housing prospects and those with an overabundance. “A gold-plated toilet in every bathroom” — the 2014 slogan?

 

SIDEBAR

4 Figures We’re Busy Contemplating

2 guards shooed us away from different locations during our fall trends fashion shoot 

65 percent of the writing in our list of top comedians got cut. No joke

2,243 character houses have been demolished in three years on the West Side that Heritage Canada called endangered

8,700,000 million visitors will hit the city this year. Here to greet them is new tourism chief Ty Speer 

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