Would you believe one in four single detached homes in Vancouver could be torn down in less than 20 years?
UBC Architecture Professor Joe Dahmen and colleague Jens von Bergmann say it’s true.
With their Vancouver-only housing classification called the “tear-down index”, they predict one in four single detached homes could be demolished by 2030.
City of Vancouver homes have seen a high rate of regeneration over the past couple of decades.
Dahmen says risings land prices are making single family homes increasingly unaffordable.
“As the value of the building relative to the value of the land decreases the likelihood that the buildings on that land will get torn down, rises dramatically.”
So do we have to pick and choose what gets torn down?
Dahmen says we have to look at three key things when determining the value of a home; heritage, sustainability and affordability.
“Normally when we replace older structures, we’re replacing them with more efficient buildings… but of course there are impacts to replacing the buildings as well.”
He says we aren’t taking into account the possibility that replacing homes with energy efficient buildings could reverse the intended effect.
“If those, themselves are replaced within a decade or two, whatever savings we get from more efficient buildings doesn’t really amount to much and can even be going in the wrong direction.”
Dahmen says it is a challenge to replace single family homes with another if values continue to increase like they have over last decade or so.
He says Vancouver’s “limited fixed supply” is forcing the city to think about what is being replaced.
“If we can loosen some of the zoning restrictions and revisit them to accommodate the increasing population in Vancouver we can actually come up with new forms and new typologies. So things like multi-unit residential buildings, ground oriented housing that can actually maintain a lot of the qualities people look for in housing while still maintaining density.”
Dahmen admits the growth of Vancouver is difficult to keep up with and that things can get complicated.
So, he says, policy makers and the public need to create a dialogue.
“Considering the full gambit of possibilities will help us reach a solution that actually accommodates our desire for some of the heritage character in the city as well as the need for more units of residential housing.”
Dahmen says to some degree, rebuilding the city is the right step but we need to worry about the rate of which it is happening.
“If we ignore all the embodied impacts of the materials that go in to building these buildings we’re only getting at best a very incomplete view of the environmental impacts.”
He says it’s a sustainability issue.
Without knowing what’s really happening, the city must keep a clear eye towards environmental and cultural impacts before it says goodbye to a quarter of its homes.