Vancouver Mayor Won't 'Force' Thin Streets on Any Neighbourhood

A recommendation included in the city's new affordable housing plan to add homes to corner lots and create so-called thin streets won't go ahead without "community buy-in," says Mayor Gregor Robertson.


The mayor made the comment in a statement his office released Wednesday after council approved the plan that city staff says will fundamentally change the city's approach to housing. "Thin streets is an idea that has some merit and it has certainly gotten a lot of attention," Robertson said. "But I want to be clear-this is not something we're going to force on any neighbourhood. If it's going to happen, there needs to be community buy-in."


Developed by the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability, the plan was released last week and got immediate pushback from some residents, particularly over the thin streets concept.


A thin street would be created if the city cut 66-foot wide side streets in half to create 33-foot lots on which to build different forms of housing on the converted strips of land.


That would mean the current owner of a corner lot would get a new neighbour and their once wide side street would be cut in half.


The mayor said the concern from residents is why the city will limit thin street experiments to Marpole, the West End and Grandview-Woodland. All three neighbourhoods are undergoing new community plans.


Robertson said any plan for a thin street conversion must include adding green space and parks, "as well as feedback on community interest" when the new community plans are finalized in 2013.


Other elements of the wide-ranging plan call for at least 20 new projects that will see new row homes, townhouses and duplexes built near major transit arterials. All must be 100 per cent rental or sold at 20 per cent below market.


Some of the housing could reach six storeys in height, according to the plan that also calls for the creation of a housing authority and reducing development costs for builders of affordable homes.


The plan is aimed at finding housing for people earning between $21,500 and a combined $86,500 per year. It's unclear how potential tenants will be chosen for the new housing and how much a house on a thin street, for example, will cost to purchase, rent or lease.


West End resident Randy Helten, coordinator of the city hall watchdog website, spoke to council Wednesday and recommended more public consultation and detail be provided before the plan was adopted.


Helten said a map showing the proposed changes to the city's density wasn't shown to council or the public until Wednesday.


"My point was basically take more time, there's no rush and let's discuss this more," he said.


Twitter: @Howellings


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