Monday, November 26, 2007

EcoDensity and Small Scale Development Projects on Vancouver's West Side

The City of Vancouver will launch their Ecodensity Initiative in the New Year. The intention is to increase density throughout Vancouver without disrupting the character and altering the scale of the City's neighbourhoods. A prime example of this is Art Cowie's Fee Simple Row House Demonstration Project (Click on article 122) where he is taking a low density mid-century bungalow on a large corner lot and building three Row Houses that have fee simple ownership.

Such projects are great for three reasons.

First, from an environmental standpoint increased density in Vancouver takes development pressure off green field lands throughout the region that both feed us and acts as the regions environmental sinks.

Increased density allows public transit projects such as the RAV line to operate efficiently and gets people out of their single occupant cars which are huge contributors to greenhouse gases.

Second, from a social perspective such projects offer both more housing options for area residents while creating housing for wider range of income groups.

One of the criticisms of the low density single family neighbourhood is that it only offers one housing option - large houses for families. Such neighbourhoods do not provide housing options for people throughout their life span. Young people who want to leave the family home only have basement suites to choose from. Single young professionals can rarely afford single family homes and are forced to leave the area. Empty Nesters who raised families up in the area also have to leave to find low maintenance housing to retire to.

Increased density gives all of these groups viable options to stay in their neighbourhoods. Projects such as the Fee Simple Row Houses use carriage houses to offer housing options for the young or for low income people. Busy young professionals get smaller more affordable row houses or townhouses that are new and require no renovations. Empty Nesters can downsize and stay in their neighbourhoods in low maintenance homes.

Third, such projects offer both area property owners and small scale developers a great opportunity to profit from increasing density.

The Fee Simple Row House Project is illustrative. A 3100sf house sitting on a 10,000sf lot is redeveloped into three 3000sf row houses for a total square footage of 9000sf. Factor in an estimated lot price of $1.3 million, building costs of $200/sf gives you a total cost of $3.1 million.

Such a development could conservatively sell for $500/sf, but will more realistically sell for around $600/sf. This gives a sales price of between $4.5 million and $5.4 million with costs of $3.1 million and a potential profit in the range of $1.4 million to $2.3 million.

For local homeowners options for staying in the neighbourhood and profiting from the changes are great. For example, a homeowner could strike a deal whereby they agree to sell their land at a discount in return for one of the finished row houses. Local homeowners could partner up with a developer and participate directly in the redevelopment process.

For further information about this process or to discuss the options and possibilities feel free to call me at 604-763-3136 or email me at

No comments: