02 October 2017 0 Comments Posted By : Glenda Luymes

Too many bedrooms: Single-family zoning contributes to housing shortage, UBC expert says

There may be no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation, but that’s not stopping sociologist Nathan Lauster.

The associate professor at the University of B.C. recently examined how Metro Vancouverites use their bedrooms in order to find solutions to the local housing crisis.

Using Statistics Canada data, Lauster counted 459,994 extra bedrooms in homes across Metro, estimating that about one-fifth of all bedrooms aren’t occupied. (For his study, he allotted one bedroom to each member of the household.)

Lauster also discovered that the region’s spare bedrooms are overwhelmingly found in what he calls “super-sized dwellings,” meaning those with five bedrooms or more. Metro has more five-bedroom-plus homes than both the Toronto and Montreal metropolitan areas.

“We’ve got way more mansions than any other metropolitan area in Canada,” Lauster said in an interview Friday. “The reason for that is a lot of our land is set aside for single-family houses.”

About 80 per cent of Metro’s residential land is zoned single-family. That hampers the construction of two- to four-bedroom homes, such as low-rise apartments and townhouses, which are ideal for housing families.

“We should be filling up that missing middle between apartments and mansions,” said Lauster. “Why are we keeping townhouses out of any neighbourhood?”

The City of Vancouver is working to address the issue. In mid-September, city council referred several rezoning proposals to public hearing. A city-owned site on Main Street is slated for a nine-storey building with 145 social-housing units, while a proposal to rezone two single-family lots on Oak Street would create 50 new homes, including 27 two- and three-bedroom units, in an eight-storey building. More rezoned single-family lots on West 45th Avenue would add dozens of family sized units to the city’s housing stock.

In the meantime, people looking for housing in Metro have had to become creative.

While researching his book, The Death and Life of the Single-Family House, Lauster interviewed a single mother who rented a mansion in a wealthy Vancouver neighbourhood. To afford it, she shared the rent with another single mom and both took boarders.


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