UBC Theses and Dissertations
An investigation of the reasons for and impact of rental apartment demolitions in Vancouver's Kerrisdale neighbourhood, 1989 Ho, Danny
This study investigates the impact of intense development pressures on the low-rise rental stock in Vancouver's Kerrisdale neighbourhood. In a neighbourhood which has changed little over the last twenty years, Kerrisdale changed rapidly during 1988 and 1989. Starting in late 1988, the neighbourhood has been inundated with new luxury condominium projects. In the process, 17 rental buildings have been or will be demolished to make room for the new condominium and over 300 tenants (many elderly) will be evicted. This study analyzes why this is happening and investigates what impact the demolitions and evictions have had on the displaced tenants. The case is especially interesting because forced evictions do not generally take place in a city's exclusive neighbourhoods. The study also examines the rationale for the demolitions, the key players involved, and the city and provincial government's response. The impact of the redevelopment pressure has been primarily social. Social impact refers to loss to self-esteem, uncertainty, anxiety, loss of control, and stress. Although there is a perception that Kerrisdale residents are very wealthy, tenants tend to be less well off. An analysis of Statistics Canada income data show that more than 40% of the tenants in the low-rise rental stock earned less than $20,000 per year in 1985. Ironically, it is the tenants in the low-rise buildings who tend to be the least able to cope financially who are the most at risk of eviction. It is the low-rise stock which is the target of redevelopment pressures. While still relatively early in the eviction process (only 7 of 17 buildings have been demolished), this study found that evicted tenants moved to all parts of the Lower Mainland. Younger tenants tended to moved further while the elderly tended to stay nearby. The study found that more than 65 percent of the elderly were able to stay in the neighbourhood. Evicted renters who found places in Kerrisdale generally paid more rent for the same space. Many had no choice but to seek accommodation in the more expensive high-rises. Due to the fixed income of many of the elderly, it is unclear how many would be able to withstand another round of rent increases. An analysis of the development economics of construction in Kerrisdale indicates that the primary rationale for the demolition of the rental stock is economics—there is a much greater profit margin in developing luxury condominiums than there is for maintaining or constructing rental housing. Strong demand from Eastern, local and off-shore investors combined with a severe lack of land zoned for multiple residential development has increased the incentive to demolish the low-rise stock. Two thirds of the developers currently pursuing luxury condominium projects in Kerrisdale are from off-shore and are new players in the Vancouver market. The remaining developers have are from Vancouver. It is the local developers who are developing the majority of the units proposed. They are also the later entrants into the Kerrisdale market. This study has found that the sale of the new luxury condominium units in Kerrisdale will be promoted in both local and offshore (particularly Hong Kong) markets. Many of the projects have been designed with the offshore buyer in mind. The provincial government's response to the Kerrisdale situation has primarily been to avoid market intervention. The city's response has been to slow the rate of change. This has been accomplished by implementing demolition delays, amendments to current building by-laws, rental demolition fees, and the creation of a Vancouver Land Corporation (VLC Properties Limited) with a mandate of building affordable rental housing as a replacement for stock lost throughout the city. The success of these strategies can only be determined over the long term. The results of this study suggest that the rental housing sector is unlikely to improve without substantial subsidies from third parties or from government. Citizens need to be aware that there is a cost to be paid for the status quo. One fact to consider is that there is tremendous demand to live in Vancouver, yet more than 70% of it is zoned low-density. In order to relieve some of the pressure for demolitions, selected rezoning to higher densities is required. At the same time, municipalities need to look at improving transportation access so that new land can be made available to accommodate growth.
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