UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Home is where the heart (of the city) is : impacts and implications of the 'living first' strategy in downtown Vancouver Wong, Karen


With its busy and active streetscapes and urban built form set harmoniously against mountains, water, and lush green landscape, Vancouver has set a remarkable precedent for downtown living. Its Central Area has been guided by a strategy of 'Living First', where residential developments are preferenced over other uses and housing is located near work spaces to facilitate numerous transportation options. The 'Living First' strategy has successfully accommodated the growing residential population in high density neighbourhoods that are well connected to services and employment spaces via transit, walking and biking paths. However, beyond the aesthetics of gleaming condominium towers, vibrant residential communities, and streams of pedestrians on its landscaped streets, it is argued that the 'Living First' strategy has been too successful. The strategy has resulted in a number of implications regarding conflicts between residential neighbourhoods and the entertainment district, the potential displacement of commercial uses, insufficient job space for future growth, and social dislocation and exclusion. 'Living First' also raises questions regarding housing affordability. The strategy thus needs to be re-evaluated to accommodate these concerns. Despite these challenges, 'Living First' provides a suitable urban model that is both environmentally sustainable and efficient from a cost and land-use perspective. Research methods employed are key informant meetings, a literature review, and data analysis of publicly available documents such as planning reports and policies, and census data.

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