UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Rehabilitation of inner city buildings for family residential use: Vancouver Murray, Charlotte C.


In this thesis it is proposed that the rehabilitation of existing buildings for family homes can make a substantial contribution toward reestablishing the central area of the city as an attractive place for a variety of people to live. A literature review summarizes the factors which influence inner city liveability, and those that influence the decision to rehabilitate or demolish a building. It is argued that the city needs a concentrated and varied residential population living in the inner city if the core is to retain its vitality, and that familiar structures provide a sense of place and continuity. Evidence suggests that housing supply shapes the inner city population, both of which have diminished in overall numbers. The exodus of families from the central city has been stimulated and encouraged, while equivalent support has not been available . for those who wish to remain. There is also evidence of a changing attitude, city support for inner city family housing and increasing numbers of families who want to live there. In an outline of requirements for the family environment, ways are suggested that can render the inner city a safe and stimulating place for children to learn the skills of an urban citizen. Three sets of goals are presented: those derived from statements regarding the aspirations for a livable and vital central city; those derived from the socially accepted basic needs; for family housing; and those derived from preferences beyond basic housing needs as expressed by people in Vancouver and Toronto. Rehabilitation is defined as the process that restores something to its former level of usefulness. Building rehabilitation is defined in relation to the physical properties and life cycles of the building components. Second, it is defined as an action that diminishes obsolescence, a process judged by various views of the buildings relative usefulness. A third definition describes the mutually supportive nature of housing rehabilitation and heritage conservation. The second part of the thesis presents a survey of 20 percent of the inner city area of Vancouver. A random sample included 54 small neighbourhood plots where data was taken covering 1556 building lots with 780 pre-1945 and 572 post-1945 buildings. Amongst the older buildings 64 percent were still the original houses, accounting for 37 percent of all buildings in the sample area. By contrast 46 percent of the newer buildings were commercial and only 4 percent were houses. Half the older buildings had been built by 1913, and 80 percent by 1921 when zoning was introduced in Vancouver. Only one third of the buildings' sites were zoned exclusively for residential use. Most of the sample were in fair or better condition, and half were unchanged from their original form. There were good indications that most of the 54 plots were suitable locations for family homes. In the third part of the thesis the sample plots, and 771 of the inventoried buildings, were evaluated to assess their relative suitability for rehabilitation. Three sets of criteria were established related to the three sets of goals from the first part of the study. Appropriate indicator variables were selected from the inventory and scaled according to their influence on the decision to rehabilitate or demolish. A simple additive weighting procedure was used, with separate weights assigned for each criterion set, derived from expert opinion. The results of the evaluation were normally distributed, showing a satisfactory differentiation among the sample. The findings suggested that rehabilitation was most promising in the Mt. Pleasant and Strathcona sample plots. The indication was that rezoning would considerably improve rehabilitation prospects for the older buildings. Gentrification appeared to be likely in the most favorable areas. Also the best chance for an advantageous linkage is where heritage buildings are found in good family neighbourhoods. The findings indicated that different rehabilitation programs would be needed for the various areas of the city. Suggestions are given regarding these programs, as well as recommendations for political, educational, and design activities to support efforts toward the rehabilitation of selected older buildings and heritage neighbourhoods.

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