First Peek at Population and Household Data During COVID & Caveats

co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

In this post we look at the most recent population (and household) estimates to see if we can detect any signals concerning how the COVID-19 pandemic may have impacted how (and where) we live. This is inherently tricky; lots of things changed during COVID times, including how well our normal methods of estimation work. That makes time series less reliable, even as we’re especially concerned with how conditions have changed. So in this post we attempt to pay special attention to what we can and can’t glean from the signals we’re receiving so far.

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Three Years of Speculation and Vacancy Tax Data

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

TL;DR

We now have three years of Speculation and Vacancy Tax data for BC, demonstrating generally less than one percent of properties pay the tax in most municipalities. We play around with the data we scraped from files released by the BC government to show

  • how the federal CHSP program systematically overstates “foreign ownership”
  • how source of revenue estimates shift depending upon definitions and tax rates
  • how properties are moving into rentals and
  • what else we can glean from exemptions and revenue data.

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Acting Locally on Housing

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

It may be a measure of the issue’s importance that in the midst of a major climate disaster (not to mention COVID, breakdowns in reconciliation, and other ongoing crises), the leader of the BC Green Party, Sonia Furstenau, dropped a new op-ed on housing. Timing aside, we see this as promising. As we’ve noted in comparing platforms going into the last election, the BC Greens could use some better planning on housing policy.

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Fixing Parking

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

New parking proposal just dropped! As Vancouver City Council once again discusses parking it seems like a good time to give a brief overview of the trade-offs involved, with special focus on the progressivity of parking permit fees. Vancouver proposed to introduce a city-wide parking permit program, requiring residents to buy a $45/year parking permit to park their vehicles on city streets (reduced to $5 for people with low incomes), or pay a $3 overnight visitor parking fee. Additionally the City proposes higher annual fees of $500 to $1000 for new gasoline-powered cars built 2023 or later.

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Satellites, Sprawl, and City Six-Packs

Co-authored with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath

We’re getting better and more accessible datasets for exploring land use change all the time. We have played with the Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL) data in the past, where we looked at the population data on a 250m grid to compare how different city’s population distribute spatially, as well as the 1975, 1990, 2000, 2015 time series to see how it changed over time. These GHSL population datasets take a variety of input data to build, one part is census or other population-based datasets, the other is the built-out area derived from satellite data that is used to estimate population data at the fine 250m grid.

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Lots of Opportunity: Estimating the Zoning Tax in Vancouver

(Joint with Jens von Bergmann and cross-posted at MountainMath)

TLDR

We estimate the land value lost by lot subdivision restrictions in the RS (single-family) zoned lands of Vancouver. These restrictions, also known as the zoning tax, subsidize hoarding of land for the wealthy at the cost of those who wouldn’t mind sharing. We conservatively estimate the overall cost of preventing splitting of lots at $43 billion, or an average of 37% of existing lot land value. Alternative formulations enabling deeper subdivisions raise our zoning tax estimates to $146 billion. We provide examples of what subdivision could look like, tally up non-conforming lots by zone, and discuss some of the implications.

The zoning tax is real, and it is enormous. The exact amount of the zoning tax is hard to pin down because we are so far away from the equilibrium of where people would stop subdividing land or air parcels if they were allowed to do so.

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Recent Sightings

A round-up of recent sightings on-line (cause where else am I gonna show up?)

June through July saw me presenting at the Canadian Sociological Association (CSA) meetings, joining a panel presentation with the Vancouver City Planning Commission (VCPC), and giving an invited talk with the QMI / Urbanarium Urban Lunch Series ahead of the forthcoming visit by Alain Bertaud. Details, Abstracts, Slides, and Video Links (where available) below!

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