Our satisfaction with a given condition is founded on our expectation. In Vancouver, we have long had an expectation of livability in its various guises— urban and rural landscapes; mobility and access; and commercial and cultural activities (food, beverage, entertainment). Our Downtown became an increasingly desirable place to work, then to play, then to live, then to learn. Always tacitly assumed as a place to invest.
In that mode of expectation, affordability and amenity overlaid well— choices at each end of the spectrum.
Success (and geographic constraint), coupled with the normal rules of engagement, has brought a tension in aff and am. It has not been the demon of density that has threatened the equation— no flight from caterpillar blight— but rather the opposite: the creation of an urban culture emerging from the pupae of its anti- urban antecedent.
Affordability is a huge issue. The tool box to bring the price of housing within normal economic reach needs to be completely rethought. It cuts across the whole spectrum, intractable for those in need of supportive housing or deep subsidy.
The Downtown Vancouver Association is committed to the enhancement of Downtown Vancouver as a place to live, work, play, learn, and invest. Its primary perspective is of the "man and woman on the street”, drawn Downtown by amenity (primarily of home and work). There has been a sharply increasing price to be paid; this price can be measured in terms of time, money, and expectation.
Expectation is probably the least understood variable in the affordability/amenity equation, but it governs how we view balance in our lives. It is our lens for how we spend time and money, for our connection and separation with other people, family, friends, and strangers.
Who are we in the Downtown? What do we expect? What are the consequences of expectations— fulfilling them, denying them, changing them?
We are using three breakfast forums to explore realities and priorities, then seeking to identify three concrete actions that can be taken by individuals, the marketplace, and/or City Hall in enabling amenity to mitigate the stress upon affordability.
We need to shape shared paths into the future, embody the relevant amenities we need for sustainable urbanity, and shed the paraphernalia of entitlement from a past that is no longer present.
Amenity answers could be in the tangible realm— the size of windows and how far apart dwellings need to be from each other; or the virtual realm— legal agreements that place transferable affordability covenants on title; and most likely both— speeding up traffic light cycles so pedestrians can walk more freely through the outdoor rooms of our urban streets.
The first DVA Forum is set for 8:00AM on Tuesday, March 27th at BCIT Downtown Campus, chaired by VIA Architecture's Graham McGarva. Speakers will include Gordon Price, Geoff Meggs, Jennifer Podmore-Russell, and those of you who show up to share your 'reality snapshots' with us.
We look forward to seeing you there.