On Broadway

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

We have finally found some time to take a closer look at the Broadway Plan. There are many good things to say about the plan, it adds housing in an amenity and job rich area about to get a new subway line. It promises to not just undo the downzoning the city imposed on parts of the area in the 1970s but enables a bit more housing to make up for lost time.

The plan also tacks heavily against the displacement risk to renters in the established rental apartment areas by both 1) limiting the redevelopment potential in those areas and 2) increasing the strength of tenant relocation and right of return policies, a hard-learned lesson from the redevelopment activity around Metrotown in neighbouring Burnaby. In short, overall there’s a lot to like.

In this post we want to accomplish several somewhat diverse goals

  1. Provide some code to improve the data analysis in the plan that uses census data,
  2. Place the Broadway plan more firmly into context of historical zoning changes in that corridor, and
  3. Interrogate the decision to limit development potential in the existing low-density areas, which we have argued in the past make for ideal sites to concentrate development becaues of their low displacement implications.

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Ankh-Morpork Urbanism

My household has spent a lot of time escaping to Discworld lately. We started visiting during the beginning of the pandemic (I’d long heard good things). We’ve been returning on a regular basis ever since. And fortunately, the borders have stayed open! With only a small wait time occasionally spent in quarantine (waiting for the volumes we really wanted to read to become available).

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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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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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