As Vancouver’s Broadway Plan looks to ramp up housing and jobs, critics worry about density, affordability

A rally was held in Vancouver Saturday opposing the city’s draft plan that would add density to a centrally located 860-hectare area of the city. 

The Broadway Plan, which features plans to add housing and job spaces to the city’s “second downtown,” covers an area from 1st Avenue to the north and 16th Avenue to the south, Clark Drive to the east and Vine Street to the west.

The area is home to more than 78,000 people, and the plan calls for adding as many as 50,000 more residents and 24,000 to 30,000 additional homes over the next 30 years. It is also home to more than 84,400 jobs, with as many as 42,000 jobs added in the next three decades. 

Mixed-use developments as high as 40 storeys may be allowed near SkyTrain stations, according to the plan. Older rental stock could be replaced by housing developments between 15 and 20 storeys with 20 per cent of the space at below-market rents. 

Bill Tieleman, the organizer of the rally outside City Hall Saturday that included representatives from 20 Vancouver neighbourhoods, said the plan would create too much density and change the nature of the city. 

“We want to stop the concrete canyons,” he said. 

Tieleman says the plan will lead to renters being displaced as older, more affordable rental stock is demolished to make way for towers.

“They will be unaffordable,” he said. “We already know that new buildings in Vancouver are very unaffordable.” 

The Broadway Plan will allow for greater density in Vancouver’s ‘second downtown,’ which covers an area from 1st Avenue to the north and 16th Avenue to the south, Clark Drive to the east and Vine Street to the west.

Owen Brady, director of Abundant Housing Vancouver, says concerns over tenants being displaced are legitimate. 

“But we also need to worry about displacement because people just can’t find a place to live,” he said.

“We need a lot more apartments. We’re going to have to have higher heights. We’re going to have to have denser buildings.”

Brady said numbers from Vancouver’s Housing Needs report suggest as many 136,000 households will need suitable housing over the next 10 years.

“We need to act fast and it has to be more than just Broadway,” he said.

Earlier this week Mayor Kennedy Stewart pledged amendments to the plan that would protect renters if older buildings are demolished and redeveloped.

“The relocation of tenants would be a rare event, but these folks would be fully compensated either with a cash payout or with a right to return to a new building at or below their current rent,” Stewart said.

Stewart said displaced tenants could return to redeveloped buildings and pay up to 20 per cent below market rates.

Andy Yan, an urban planner and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, says he has questions about the plan, noting that units in newer buildings tend to be smaller than those in older buildings.

“Are these going to be similar size units? Are they going to be tiny units?” he said. “That isn’t necessarily coming out in the details of this plan, but yet it’s going to have a dramatic effect upon these rental neighbourhoods.”

In a statement, the city said it has heard from residents who say they want an approach that focuses on creating more housing, supporting the economy and addressing the climate crisis. 

The draft plan is scheduled to go to city council later this month.

On The Coast11:08Broadway Rental Protection Measures

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart joins us to discuss the rental protections for residents living along the Broadway corridor that were announced this morning. 11:08

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