Last Wednesday ZUS gave a presentation at the Lab introducing their week’s focus on finding sustainable solutions to gentrification and posing the question: How do we continue to develop great cities in an inclusive manner? As real estate prices skyrocket in desirable neighborhoods and cities, how do we ensure that they remain places where people with a diversity of backgrounds and incomes can live?
This is one of the toughest questions out there in the world of urban livability, and a question plaguing cities everywhere around the world, as I discussed briefly in my earlier post about the Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai.
It’s also a topic that is very near and dear to my heart. I come from Vancouver, British Columbia, home to both Canada’s most expensive real estate market (though we were, admittedly, recently knocked from our post of most expensive city overall ) and Canada’s poorest postal code.
It is a city frantically grappling to find creative solutions to the gentrification being caused by an out-of-control real estate bubble that doesn’t seem to want to pop any time soon.
One of these attempts at taking a unique approach to solving this problem is a project known as Woodward’s, which is as much a social experiment in urban solutions as it is a real estate development.
The pinnacle of an architect’s vision to employ the form of the city to create a more just and equal society, Woodward’s used the tool of density bonusing (http://www.toolkit.bc.ca/tool/density-bonusing) (where a developer builds community amenities in exchange for the right to build higher condo towers than zoning would usually allow) to create affordable housing in an extremely poor neighborhood just teetering on the brink of gentrification.
Woodward’s is extremely contentious, and it will take years to understand the effect that the development will have on the neighborhood. But as we continue thinking along these lines this week, it’s an interesting project to consider on a number of levels.
Then tell me what you think, as this is a fascinating discussion. Do you think it’s a good idea to harness the power of a booming housing market to ensure a certain amount of social housing, or is it just an invitation for more development that will lead to less overall affordability?