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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transferable development rights : a policy analysis of a planning instrument and its application in Vancouver Goelman, Ari


In this thesis I examine the planning tool most commonly known as the transfer of development rights (TDR) and discuss its application in Vancouver. Before addressing Vancouver's use of TDR, I establish the context of TDR use in North America, suggest appropriate policy objectives and constraints for TDR programs, and outline a series of operational decisions made in designing any TDR program. I proceed to evaluate Vancouver's TDR program in light of these discussions. I found that TDR programs can be effective tools for redistributing the costs and benefits of certain types of land use restrictions. However, TDR programs vary widely in their effects. Depending on the specific design of a given program, it can have very different implications. In Vancouver, the TDR program is a relatively minor adjunct to the process of heritage preservation. Like any planning tool, Vancouver's TDR program strikes a balance between various objectives. However, it can be generally stated that fairness or distributional concerns are prevalent in Vancouver's program. Specifically, the protection of property rights is one of the defining elements of the program. Vancouver's program has been marked by a strong discretionary component, which has tended to create high transactions costs. In recent years, though, transaction costs in Vancouver have gone down significantly. As transaction costs have decreased and the program has grown more fluid, the take-up rate of transferable density in Vancouver has increased. These trends are widely expected to continue, as Vancouver's transfer of density program further matures.

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