Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The grass is greener in Gregor's Vancouver
We are getting closer to our municipal elections and both parties (Vision Vancouver and the NPA) are hitting the campaign trail hard. I was at a debate tonight where the candidates talked out the Occupy movements, transportation issues and affordable housing. All of the topics brought out some great conversations and I can't help but share my bias that I found the one on affordable housing solutions the most interesting. So much so that (despite my soccer mom attire) I posed a question to the candidates. I asked them about their vision for innovative ownership models to help the working class break into the housing market. So often people talk about the housing form as the solution - row houses, basement suites, tiny condos, laneway houses... but if there is anything this build has taught us, it's that figuring our a creative ownership agreement is critical.
We had to look to Europe to develop ours between the inlaws and ourselves. In the UK you'll find rent-to-own schemes, shared equity models and land trust housing just to name a few. Anton wasn't able to give much of an answer. She reverted back to talking about the housing form and didn't want to touch financing. Gregor dove in and referred to an innovative project involving Habitat for Humanity as well as pointing to other cities where we can get inspiration. With housing prices so divorced from our salaries we really need to get creative about ownership and challenge the traditional mechanisms we currently have in place to finance, price and sell homes in the city.
And in other news. We have experienced our first landscaping failure. Because we live in Vancouver we don't get the blanket of white stuff that covers our backyard and we can still plant things throughout the Fall...or so I thought. About four weeks ago I rented a grass seeder and a roller, bought some seed and got to work. It took me all weekend (with some help) to get the project done and when it was over I was pretty happy. Right away, one of the first things I noticed was the number of birds in our backyard. It was amazing. For a moment I felt like Snow White surrounded by her forest friends. Then I realized the truth. I had just laid out an incredible feast and the birds had hit the jackpot. One of my big mistakes was that I didn't cover the seed with a shallow layer of dirt so not only weren't the seeds protected from the birds, they got cold and never germinated. So, there has been no progress. We still have a dirt pile. This landscaping thing is hard.