Friendly and Financially Viable? : The Case of Social Connectedness in High Density Living in Vancouver, BC Barnes, Sarah
This report explores the benefits that social connectedness between residents of high-density communities has for developers and property managers in Vancouver, BC through the use of seven expert interviews. The following conclusions are generated: I. Social connectedness does promote longer tenancy, which is beneficial for a building’s bottom line in the short term. But, if a tenant is a renter, their annual rent increase is capped at 2.9%, meaning that if they stay in the same unit for multiple years their rent will eventually be below market value given Vancouver’s competitive housing market. II. A building’s sense of community and belonging impacts how it is managed. By and large, more socially connected buildings are easier to manage: they see less crime and vandalism, and residents demonstrate stewardship over shared spaces. But, residents are also more likely to ask for more amenities, reflecting a sense of entitlement. III. Buildings that promote social connectedness for the sake of building community do so at their own cost because they care, and this type of programming does not create a strong financial return. IV. Social connections and friendliness are not considered “Selling Features”. Property managers and developers assume that buyers and renters are more attracted to physical amenities than the idea of a strong community. V. Amenity usage varies widely; some amenities rank extremely low on cost yet are very effective at building community (eg. candy jar, free coffee), while other amenities are high in cost, yet poor at building community (eg. pool). VI. All developers and property managers were fond of the use of fobs, for their security purposes. Property managers and developers assume that fobs help to make residents feel more at ease, because they promote a safe environment. VII.The City could offer various incentives to developers to promote physical design features that build communities. The most popular incentives were density or unit increases, and tax abatements. I have drafted five recommendations for the City of Vancouver: I. Develop mandatory municipal guidelines for developers based off of best practices in social connectedness. II. Develop a one-time only grant program to kick-start social programming in already existing buildings. III. Host peer-to-peer workshops for property managers to advance knowledge sharing, and to equip property managers with the tools and expertise needed to build community within their buildings. IV. Create a set methodology to measure social connectedness, so that the City can compare the strength of community in a residential building. V. Conduct future research comparing Vancouver’s social isolation crisis to that of other gateway cities, such as Sydney or San Francisco. These cities have similar demographics, size, density and land-use to Vancouver.
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