From: Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability.
Subject: Recommendations not yet approved by task force for inclusion in its interim report but which are subject to further discussion. (We're not ruling them out.)
Mandatory Grow-ops in All New Construction
This is not to say that all homeowners will choose to grow marijuana, but amendments could be made to the building code to require all newly constructed single-family homes to have a grow-op "roughed in." This would include extra plumbing and drainage, ventilation and commercial-grade 240-volt outlets capable of accommodating an operation of six to eight mercury vapour or HID lights. This would eliminate the need for illegal and unsafe electrical meter bypasses and ensure the safe cultivation of marijuana (if homeowners wish to do so.)
Advantages: Significant mortgage helper with earnings of up to $100,000 per year making Vancouver real estate slightly more affordable. Reduces household debt as recommended by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney. Excess income is kept in the local convenience-store economy. Gardening is a proven stress reducer.
Disadvantages: Bill C-10, which was given royal ascent this week, includes mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana cultivation. Distribution of product traditionally the domain of organized criminals. Grow-rips.
While this has been depicted in popular culture (especially in the films of Deepa Mehta) as a rather depressing lifestyle, it need not be so. Our research shows that some married couples have practised shift-living for decades with successful outcomes.
The concept is simple: Two people, working at opposite times of the day, share the same living space. Person A leaves for work at 7:30 a.m., while person B returns home from work at 8 a.m. Person B is free to sleep, prepare meals and "live" in the space until 6 p.m., at which time they leave for work, with person A arriving home at 6:30 p.m., and so on. Weekends may be alternated in whole or in part but depend largely on both "shifters" developing moderately successful romantic relationships with other "shifting" pairs.
Advantages: Immediately reduces rent and utility charges by 50 per cent for both participants.
Well-suited to Vancouver-sized condominium homes.
Effectively doubles number of small rental units, and increases vacancy rates.
Disadvantages: Inflexible arrangement does not allow for unforeseen circumstances i.e. illness, sleeping in late.
Not suitable for singles with children unless children can maintain same schedule as shifting parent.
These are distinct from the current crop of laneway homes, many of which are attractive and architecturally innovative structures.
Typically these are pre-existing standard-sized single-car garages, approximately 12 feet x 24 feet or 288 square feet in size. (Slightly smaller than the smallest allowable, non-SRO rental units.)
The addition of baseboard or oscillating-fan heaters will make these spaces livable to the more "bohemian" renters who value open-plan living. This concept takes advantage of the ample on-street parking opportunities in many of the city's RS-1 zoned neighbourhoods.
Advantages: Provides much-needed affordable rental housing stock for baristas and other food-service workers in neighbourhoods where their services are most needed, i.e. Kerrisdale, Dunbar, Kitsilano, Commercial Drive area.
Provides homeowners with much-needed mortgage helpers.
Utilizes "dead space" formerly taken up by automobiles.
Repeated incidents of vandalism to cars parked on street may prompt car owners to switch to bicycles, thus filling some of the city's empty bike lanes.
Disadvantages: Running water and toilet facilities not available in most cases. Since many garages are poorly insulated and weather-proofed, tenants must have high tolerance for spiders and condensation.
Vancouver has many mature trees located on private property. Constructing small homes within the trees can be accomplished with minimum input from the city's planning department and minimal skill, while maintaining the permeability of most residential lots. The city would enforce a requirement that all tree houses be constructed of recycled material, i.e. repurposed construction hoarding, election signs and scrap wood. As well, the city would amend the current building code to allow for electrical connection via single indoor-outdoor extension cord.
Advantages: Makes use of underutilized tree space while providing homeowners with legal mortgage helper. Recycled material requirement will mean less construction waste in local landfills and subsequent reduction in greenhouse gases. Brings the city closer to its Greenest City goal.
Disadvantages: Neighbours of adjacent properties may have privacy concerns. Liability issues that come with living in a tree. Studies show lifestyle is most attractive to males aged 10 to 14 years of age and therefore may not benefit renters most in need.
Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver.