UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Housing language in Vancouver Amron, Jordan


In April 2021, Vancouver City Council approved a motion to “improve social housing” by upzoning two residential districts on the east and south sides of the city from four to six stories. Densification, city planners and officials argued, would not only unlock federal funding to help redevelop some 100+ “non-market,” “aging” properties; it would also help concentrate, and thus decarbonize, the city’s energy-inefficient sub-urban form. In a win-win move, Vancouver could fight the housing and climate crises with a single policy. This project investigates how a language of housing redevelopment has worked in the (re)production of Vancouver, British Columbia over the last century. Chapter 1 is a wide history of ‘density’ in three acts. First, in the early 20th century, early Vancouver planners institutionalized a technology of density to defend against the overcrowded slum, by then a global and feared scourge. Second, in the wake of urban renewal, a group of insurgent planners turned density from ‘bad’ to also ‘good’, and a metaphor of densification was articulated to help propel an intensifying process of urban redevelopment. And third, in the early 2000s, a failed attempt to enshrine EcoDensity into the charter of the city nonetheless lives on in the spirit of city policy. Chapter 2 is a case study of a particular affordable housing redevelopment. Less than a month after the 2021 rezoning passed City Council, the nonprofit housing provider Entre Nous Femme (ENF) informed tenants at Alma Blackwell—a 44-unit, mixed-used social housing complex it owns in East Vancouver—that the property would be demolished and rebuilt with double the stock. While density was a key catalyst and rationale for redevelopment, I argue that public divestment from the housing sector transformed both landlord and tenants alike, and between them was deployed contested visions of ‘community’ to justify and resist redevelopment. Chapter 3 is a history of the demoviction, a portmanteau invented by tenants in the neighboring city of Burnaby and used by Alma Blackwell tenants to contest redevelopment. I argue the concept works by foregrounding the byproducts of redevelopment—the evicted tenant and the demolished building.

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