PRESS: How a Seattle Plan to End Single-Family Zoning Could Change Affordable Housing

Kriston Capps from The Atlantic gives a quick summary Seattle’s recently released Housing Affordability and Living report:

“Seattle may very well be destined to fall into the Pacific Ocean. Until that dark day when the big one hits, the city has to grow and live. And for a place on the brink, Seattle sure seems to want to set itself up as a model for everyone else.

Back in the fall, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council called on various community leaders to develop a Housing Affordability and Living Agenda for the city. Last week, The Seattle Times got its hands on the draft report of the group’s recommendations. One of the suggestions registers big on the Richter scale: Get rid of single-family housing.”

Read more here.



PRESS: Vancouver millennials need to give up the dream of owning a single family home

piece by Jillian Glover stating her view that the dream of owning a single family home in the city is dead and that compact housing options are the way of the future:

While we read every day about the lack of affordable housing and rise of foreign ownership in Vancouver, family-friendly housing is what the city desperately needs to combat these problems. Property speculators may snap up single family homes and waterfront condos to park their money. But I doubt that they will find a rowhome or a three bedroom apartment off Commercial Drive as appealing.

These are types of homes that people live and raise their families in, because single family homes have become completely unaffordable to those of us who are not developers or offshore investors.

Local developer Bob Rennie is right. The dream of owning a single family home in Vancouver is dead. I urge millennials to get over it. If you want a big home, move to the suburbs.

You can read more here.


PRESS: Millennial Families Priced Out of Cities

Yet another piece on the ongoing affordability issues in Vancouver, this time from The Tyee. Some quotes:

A lifelong Winnipegger, 33-year old Oanh Pham feels she’s always walking a “tight line” when it comes to housing, even in a city renowned for its relatively affordable market compared to the rest of the country.

Yet despite her University of Manitoba degree in psychology and business — and years of experience managing volunteers for non-profits overseas and locally — in some months the mother of one earns just $10 too much to qualify for income assistance, but still too little to pay all her bills.

“I’m just not really sure what the barriers even are sometimes,” she said. “I’m in a tight spot because I’m over-qualified for many jobs but I’m under-qualified for others.” For Pham, it’s meant a years-long struggle to find housing that is at once affordable, appropriate and feels safe enough to raise her 16-month old daughter Hannah…..

…..At the most unaffordable end of the spectrum: Vancouver. A report release recently by Vancity Credit Union warned that young families could soon be priced out of the Metro Vancouver housing market altogether. By 2025, only senior business, construction and engineering managers will be able to maintain affordable housing in the region, the credit union predicted.

You can read more here.


PRESS: Chelsea Novak’s thesis on Living Small

Chelsea Novak at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism – recent released her thesis titled Living small: The prospects for tiny houses as a solution for affordable housing in Vancouver. It is worth the read for people interested in small housing issues. Here is a quote:

On a clear January morning in Abbotsford, Kayla Feenstra nails shingles to her house. Thirty years old and self-employed, she has what so many living in Metro Vancouver at her age only dream of: her very own, mortgage-free home. It may only be 130 square feet and on wheels, but it’s hers. And while there’s still some work to be done on the house, so far it’s only cost her $15,000.

Feenstra is part of the emerging tiny house movement in North America: a group of individuals who embrace the idea of small living, and who typically live, or hope to live, in houses between 80 and 180 square feet built on trailers. Like Feenstra, they’re willing to give up square footage for things they consider more important. Feenstra first made the decision to go tiny back when she was renting a basement suite. “I walked into my living room one day … and realized that I hadn’t been in there in three months.” She already knew she wanted to own her own home some day—in fact she had an offer on a house, but it fell through because of her self-employment. “After that, I started really questioning myself on what I need,” she says. “How much space I need, what my priorities are. Like, I want to travel and I want to go do stuff, and I don’t want to be a slave to a quarter-million dollar mortgage or half-million dollar mortgage.”

You can read it online here.

PRESS: Where are the Kids? – Five-part Series

I recently republished a five-part series – called Where are the Kids? – on the distribution of families with children in Vancouver, based on 2006 census information. I originally wrote it for Re:place Magazine, in 2009, prior to switching it over to Spacing Vancouver. Since we recently closed Re:place, I wanted to republish it on Spacing Vancouver for archival purposes. Given that the statistics largely remain the same today as it when the pieces were originally published, I think it is equally relevant now.

Like many of the articles I write, I created custom maps and graphics that visualize the information and highlight some of the patterns that are evident. Of particular relevance here is the pattern that sees the least number of families with children in locations with high- and mid-rise house types. To me this is a clear indication of the need for a wider diversity of house types – small, affordable homes, in particular.

Regardless, here is a link to the first part – from which you can access the rest.




PRESS: Brent Toderian on How Big Cities Should Grow

Having been asked a number of time about whether there is an ideal size for cities, Former Vancouver Director of Planning wrote his most recent piece titled How Cities Grow Big; Not How Big Cities Grow! – on his blog. His response:

….it isn’t size that matters—it’s design that matters. You can have a well-designed larger city that works, or a poorly designed smaller city that’s dysfunctional. Your city can get better as it grows, or worse. The key variables are the values, intelligence, and tools that shape your growth choices.

Most cities perceive growth to be a positive thing when done well, supporting such civic goals as improving affordability, enhancing ecological sustainability, supporting social equity and choice, and stimulating creativity and economic development. Again, the key issue is the nature and quality of the growth.

With respect to infill housing, he writes:

The most obvious example of the importance of the nature of growth, is how much of that growth is infill, suburb or sprawl. More and more cities, including many I’ve advised, are making the key proactive decision around how much growth will go to infill development (in both inner city and suburban contexts), and how much will go to new greenfields developments (aka new suburbs). It’s a key decision for every city, a matter of civic choice based on public interest, not just a result of often self-serving interpretations of “market forces.”

You can read more here.





PRESS: This City Life series on Kids in the City

Jillian Glover over at her great This City Life blog recently launched a new series called “Kids in the City”, where she is profiling families living in urban density. In her words:

My goal is to showcase how families can be happy and healthy living in compact homes that don’t contribute to urban sprawl (such as condos, townhomes, laneway houses, duplexes, etc.).

Four have already been posted and they are all interesting reads, for those who want an insider look at people living in the city. Interestingly, one of the piece profiles Jonathan Cote, Mayor of New Westminster, and his move from a single family home into a condo.

You can read more at This City Life.




Small Housing BC at Science World, April 25 – 11am-3pm!

Members of Small Housing BC will be taking part in Science World’s Green Month celebrations on Saturday, April 25th between 11am-3pm in the Ken Spencer Science Park – near the new Housing Exhibit! You can enter through the North Gates for free – without paying to get into Science World, proper.

We will be available to talk to the public and will have copies of their toolkit on hand for perusal, as well as some scaled models of small houses.

Please drop in and say hello!


Please note that access to Science World neither necessary, nor included.

It’s Finally Here! Small Houses: Innovations in Small-scale Living from North America

We are very excited to share the news that our Small Houses: Innovations in Small-scale Living from North America is finally ready to go public! As many of you know, we have scoured the small home landscape of North America, in search of interesting and innovative models worth sharing.

Our toolkit, available for free download here, showcases 10 innovative examples of housing under 1500 square feet from around the continent: surveying and documenting recent innovations in small house types – from small lot homes to cottage housing – in places where the regulations have been purposefully designed, or substantially reformed, to encourage the development of well-conceived small forms of housing.

We are very excited about the results and hope you find it as interesting and informative as we do.

Last but not least, a few words of gratitude to you all for your patience, as well as the many people whose support and guidance made this possible, including the kind folks at the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia, Sean Hodgins of Cenury Group, David Crenna from the Canadian Home Builders Association, Rebecca Siggner of BC Housing, Margaret Eberle of the Metro Vancouver Housing Committee and Duncan Hill from the National Housing Research Committee (CMHC), just to name a few.

As wonderful as this is, however, our advocacy for small houses is not stopping here. This is only the beginning. A number of things are in the works already and we will be sure to share these with you as they unfold.

In the meantime, enjoy Small Houses: Innovations in Small-scale Living from North America. Please don’t hesitate to pass it forward. More importantly, we would love to hear any feedback or insights you may have for us.

Thank you all, again.


Download Small Houses: Innovations in Small-scale Living from North America (3.4MB). Given its size – and depending on the speed of your connection – it may take a little while to download, so please be patient.

Sneak Peak! Small Housing Innovations from North America


We’ve combed the continent to find examples of municipalities that are pushing the boundaries when is comes to small housing. We found house-plexes in Portland, lock-off suites in Burnaby, pocket neighbourhoods in Washington state and Growhomes in Montreal – and that was just the beginning!

Download our featured case study – small lot homes from Los Angeles, California and stay tuned for more examples of the small housing movement.