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Zoning and the single-family landscape: large new houses and neighbourhood change in Vancouver Pettit, Barbara A.

Abstract

In the 1980s, very large houses began to replace smaller homes in older single-family zones in Canada's major cities. Protests by residents resulted in more restrictive single - family zoning schedules. In Vancouver, however, houses built as large as zoning permitted had appeared in the late 1960s. This case study traces Vancouver's single- family land use from 1900 to 1990. The intent of Vancouver's original single- family zoning (1930) was to create a suburban landscape. To appeal to European immigrants of the 1950sand Asian immigrants of the 1970s, Vancouver's east-side builders developed a distinctive large house easily converted to include one or more illegal suites. By encouraging this design, zoning amendments in 1974 destroyed the sub-urban pattern intended by the original zoning. In response to affluent Asian immigrants of the 1980s, westside builders constructed larger, more elaborate homes. The city reacted to complaints about the size and design of these houses by amending its schedule in the 1980s to legalize suites, to reduce the bulkiness of new construction and to re-establish the suburban pattern. Local residents do not like the new homes, and many neither need nor can afford them. The research indicates that Asian buyers are outbidding locals for these homes, and locals are dispersing to peripheral areas where homes are more affordable and styles support their cultural traditions. The research suggests that the more compact land use pattern of the 1900s may be more appropriate than land use patterns that have resulted from the city’s original and amended single-family schedule. The research concludes that Vancouver addressed symptoms of the problem but not its cause: a zoning practice that continues to exclude the less affluent from single-family zones. Vancouver needs to espouse a more inclusionary zoning schedule that adopts the compact land use and mixed tenures typical before zoning and preserves the traditions of local residents. Other-wise, the zoning changes may preserve single- family areas for affluent immigrants as the Vancouver market aligns itself with the global market.

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