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Why Design Build firms are necessary for Vancouver’s gentle densification efforts.
In a bid to help fill the “missing middle” housing gap, the City of Vancouver has announced a new housing initiative, the Making HOME program or, Home Options for Middle-income Earners. This initiative seeks to provide an opportunity for middle-income earners to own a home in Vancouver’s single-detached neighbourhoods. The benefits of this initiative and its challenges are adjacent to those faced by Design Build firms in Vancouver already.
This proposal seeks to enable current Vancouver homeowners to create up to four sellable market homes on a single residential lot, as long as up to two additional dwellings are permanently set aside as affordable rental units. The Making HOME program, if endorsed by Council, would surpass all current zoning provisions in Vancouver’s single-family areas for buildable floor space. It is a pilot project to address social, economic and environmental equity, with a new approach to gentle densification.
To make the vision come true, Vancouver is going to need Design Build firms, such as Novell, with experience in both new build construction and major renovations. In order to navigate the complexities of this level of redevelopment, experts in multiple fields will be necessary, including:
- Designers who can creatively envision a thoughtful and beautiful approach,
- Architectural Technicians who can understand the building requirements
- Project coordinators who can navigate the City, and organize trades,
- and Builders who can direct a renovation and new build simultaneously.
Design Build firms offer the breadth of service necessary to deliver this type of project from start to finish.
Building for the Future with Design Build
1. Starting with INTENT: How are Design Build firms already making affordability and multi-generational living a priority?
As a professional Design Build firm, we’ve seen the effects of the housing market on building demands first hand. Almost all of our projects are custom designed with gentle densification in mind. Multi-generational concerns and housing affordability often informs our project goals.
- Efforts to create gentle densification in Vancouver has been occurring for years. For instance, laneway houses have expanded our options for density and functionality, and multi-generational planning has been on the rise for years.
The Making HOME project is an extension of these efforts.
- With the average price of a detached home in East Vancouver being $1.4 million, housing options are becoming increasingly limited in Vancouver. When companies listen to homeowners, the result is homes that are ready to support multiple generations in the years to come.
- The “missing middle”, referred to in the HOME announcement, are the 80% of potential Vancouver homeowners who cannot access social housing, yet cannot afford the high cost of many of the urban and suburban housing options. The joint income of these households ranges from $60K to $175K.
- Accordingly, the Making HOME initiative is responding to the “60 percent of the city that is simply out of reach to average families, couples and those looking to downsize their homes.” – Mayor Stewart, The Globe and Mail
Here is an example drawn by the City of Vancouver as to how five dwelling units could exist on a single-family residential lot.
2. THOUGHTFUL DESIGN leads to meaningful spaces: How can the Design Build process offer intangible value to densified homes?
Expertly crafted spaces facilitate life’s moments: from everyday needs, to work at home spaces or social gathering events. Homebuilding is done best when the process considers what matters most to its inhabitants, and plans for the decades to come.
Thoughful Design Build can make this vision a reality by offering services that would deliver the project in totality; and it all begins by listening to what people care about the most.
- The Making HOME initiative offers an excitingly feasible opportunity, but we must be wary of having a single-minded approach. Building for building’s sake just won’t do. That being said, the benefits of a successful Making HOME project cannot be ignored! On top of widening access to the housing market, the Making HOME program promotes a walkable Vancouver while providing an alternative to unfettered vertical densification.
- It’s an opportunity for the younger generations, their friends and families to remain in Vancouver. The program would fight the widening sprawl of Vancouver’s commuters, and/or the dispersal of younger people by sheer virtue of affordability.
3. FULL SERVICES from a one-stop shop required: How would a homeowner begin to undertake such a large project?
It is early days, and much still to be determined. Of those that may be eligible for such a major development, this type of project would undergo a case-by-case permitting and development process. While the City of Vancouver boasts an expedited process for the Making HOME initiative, there is still much to consider and we have seen incredibly slow permitting activity around the Character Merit Program, for example. Interested homeowners should strap in for a long process. Patience will be necessary.
Such a complex project requires experts who can envision the totality of the project, including:
- intensive custom design for complex dwellings;
- permitting and development expertise to forge a path for the rest of the industry, and navigate new challenges as they arise;
- construction expertise for coordinating a major addition, major renovation and new build simultaneously.
For this, Design Build firms with a firm understanding of both custom new build and major renovations will have the full breadth of expertise to offer. As well, Design Build firms are a one-stop-shop that can thread together the details from early concept to final finishing, and remain accountable throughout.
In reality, not all 67,000 single-family lots in Vancouver would qualify for this program. While 71 percent of Vancouverites want more home choices in single-detached neighbourhoods, only a small percentage of land would be eligible for the Making HOME pilot program. At the moment, it “would not be applied to designated heritage homes, or homes with rental suites within them to avoid any potential of displacing current renters” says HAVAN, our professional association.
Coordinating a pilot program was at the core of last week’s announcement. According to HAVAN, 100 unit pilot and proof of concept could potentially be in place by the second quarter of 2021, with the first shovels hitting the ground in late 2021.
We know, along with others, that the work to stratify a property will be much more complex, time-intensive and expensive than the City implies.
Why Do We Need This Program?
Similar to laneways, this initiative responds to the urgent housing demands and socioeconomic needs of Vancouverites. Efforts to create gentle densification with laneway homes have seen much community support, but perhaps not enough municipal efficiency.
Laneways are beautiful, functional options for densification, but smoother processes must be in place to make it an affordable option. Accordingly, we have high hopes that the Making HOME initiative can bring heightened awareness to the need for thoughtful developments.
Of course, this project is welcome beyond housing and City development. Its benefits include the relationships of these communities to transportation, to economic development, to existing and new amenities.
A six dwelling property won’t suffice for Vancouverites unless it is thoughtfully crafted, and meaningful to its inhabitants.
This can be best delivered by a Design Build team because the tenets for thoughtful design are already, inherently woven into the Design Build process. Vancouver can be a housing leader. We’re ready!