Vancouver Advances PILOT Affordable Home Ownership Program

by Michael Mortensen, MA MCIP, RPP – a Vancouver Developer & Planner abroad |

Vancouver City Council approved the advancement of an Affordable Home Ownership PILOT program yesterday. Based largely on “Shared Equity” models of affordable housing drawn from the US and the UK, the program identifies sites along arterial roads well served by frequent transit systems and close to Local Shopping Areas (LSAs) as potential locations for 6-storey development provided they generate targeted affordability outcomes. “Inboard” sites within 100m of these sites would be eligible for 31/2 storey forms of development (stacked Townhouses, Rowhouses etc) provided they meet similar affordability targets.

Public Involvement

Council directed City Staff to consult broadly with:

  • Regional & Local Employers
  • The Public
  • The Development Industry; and
  • Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation 

Eligible Sites


Back to the Future? Vancouver’s Streetcar Suburbs

The policy map above appears to be a natural iteration/evolution of Commercial/Mixed-Use “C-2” and “C-3A” zoning on the streetcar grid that has defined much of our city for almost 130 years – a development template based on the dual logic of electric mass transit and pedestrian mobility, married to convenient local shopping. The notable hole in the grid above is of course the Cambie Street CanadaLine corridor which is the subject of more intensive forms of redevelopment, serviced by the rapid transit line.

In my old neighbourhood at Main and 26th , I’ve seen a few new arterial buildings –  built under existing zoning –  that maintained great neighbourhood shopping in small stores at grade with new rental and ownership units above, notably the rental building at 28th Ave with the “East is East” restaurant and the new Liquor Store, and the BlueTree development on the NE corner of Main and King Edward Ave (which replaced a contaminated gas station). They’ve been positive additions to the community and they have added and retained valued local shops and services.

main street

Main & 28th Ave, Vancouver BC

Here in the UK where I currently work, the idea of shared equity housing has been around for quite a while, typically included in large redevelopment programs and in the redevelopment of Council-Owned or Housing Association-Managed Social Housing Estates. I think that what is also interesting about the program is the income mix and the degree to which the interests of Shared Equity owners are highly aligned with those of other owners. The challenge is to find the 20% or so “public equity” and to resolve the equity questions in how that public asset is shared.

Provincial amendments to Vancouver’s City Charter are required for the City to enter into these agreements.

Read the Council Report here:




TOD Census Data for Metro Vancouver Transit Stations

This update on my recent post on Transit Oriented Development in Metro Vancouver is a great example of how embracing the creativity of citizens can help us to see our cities in new ways and inform discussions on how our cities and neighborhoods can evolve as more sustainable, liveable places.

Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of NYC once famously stated: “In God we trust; all others bring data”.

data wizard

Well this experience suggests that if you ask, you shall receive! First Frances Bula tweeted about her trip around the Millennium Line; then I used Google Earth to capture images of land use within 800 m of the stations; then – less than 24 hours later – someone smarter than me runs Census data through a Geographic Info Systems application to generate population density maps for all stations! We all learn something in the process.

Starting with my 800 m radius snapshots of neighbourhoods around our Millennium Line stations, Jens Von Bergmann ran some 2011 census data to give us some idea of the population density within 400 m and 800m for these stations (and more, including the Canada Line). His very interesting results are found here on his “Mountain Doodles” blog: see Link . Nice work Jens!


And here is the table: Vancouver stations in blue organized by the most dense population within an 800 m radius according to Jens’ data.


Transit Oriented Development: room for smart growth in Greater Vancouver

A tweet by journalist and urbanist Frances Bula sent me to Google Earth to look at Transit Oriented Development (TOD) around Vancouver’s Millennium Line stations. As Frances notes, it is surprising to see the amount of land that remains in low intensity residential and industrial use around stations new and old, even years after the two sections of the line have been completed.


Out of interest, I drew an 800 m radius (a 10 minute walk) around each Millennium Line station and zoomed in to create a quick photo essay on the scale and intensity of land use – putting a different lens on Frances’ tour. The images on Google Earth are often out of date, so much may have changed over the last year or so, but you still get a sense that we have considerable room for new mixed-use development all along that line.


The other notable observation is the degree to which other cities have taken the TOD baton and run with it. In the early 2000’s, Concert Properties’comprehensively planned “Collingwood Village/Joyce Station” neighbourhood in Vancouver was considered pioneering TOD; it generated 95 units/acre while accommodating shops and services, park spaces and community uses (CMHC study here). In the decade that followed, Town Centres outside of Vancouver began absorbing much of the new Transit Oriented development in Metro Vancouver.

The Google Earth images below show clusters of new towers and multi family developments in Burnaby and New Westminster along the Millennium Line. Similar tours would show considerable new development in Richmond along the Canada Line (where they had early plans for TOD in advance of the completion of the line); in Surrey along the Expo Line (2013 presentation); and in Coquitlam in advance of the completion of the new Evergreen Line (2013 report). The most recent proposals for the retrofits of Brentwood Mall and the Lougheed Town Centre include buildings of 60 to 70 storeys (article here) which exceed heights and densities in Vancouver’s downtown core.

Vancouver is again making new strides with the third phase of planning for the Cambie (CanadaLine) Corridor (COV Document) which builds on earlier rezonings for Oakridge Centre at 41st Ave, and with the completion of the “Gateway” at Marine Drive (opening April 7). The latest news is that a new Canada Line station is being planned at 57th Avenue as part of the community amenities generated by a proposed rezoning and redevelopment of a 25 acre site owned by Vancouver Coastal Health (CBC story). Along the Expo/Millennium Line, the City is updating the local area plan for Joyce/Collingwood Station (COV report) as well as developing new plans for the Station atCommercial & Broadway (Grandview Woodlands plan update here).

So, are we making the best use of the land around our rapid transit stations? And are the cities promoting high intensity uses along the line doing enough to create commensurate levels of amenity to support their new populations? Take the virtual tour and let me know what you think! When I am back in Vancouver this month, I’ll do some proper on-the-ground tours to capture the look and feel of these emergent neighbourhoods.

Waterfront, Burrard, Granville, Stadium

Vancouver’s downtown stations are intensely developed. Main Street is filling in with the build-out of South East False Creek and with the proposed future relocation of St Paul’s Hospital to the False Creek Flats.



VCC-Clarke (Vancouver)


Commercial Broadway (Vancouver)


Renfrew (Vancouver) 


Rupert (Vancouver) 

7 Rupert.JPG

Gilmore and Brentwood (Burnaby)

8 Gilmore and Brentwood.JPG

Holdom (Burnaby)

9 Holdom.JPG

Lake City Way (Burnaby)

11 Lake City Way.JPG

Production Way (Burnaby) 

12 Production Way.JPG

Lougheed Town Centre (Burnaby) 

13 Lougheed.JPG

Braid and Sapperton Stations (New Westminster)

14 Braid and Sapperton.JPG

Columbia & New Westminster (New Westminster)

15 Columbia and New Westminster.JPG

22nd Street (New Westminster) 

22nd Street.JPG

Edmonds (Burnaby)

17 edmonds.JPG

Royal Oak (Burnaby) 

18 Royal Oak And Metrotown.JPG

Metrotown (Burnaby)

19 Metrotown.JPG

Joyce Collingwood  (Vancouver)

20 Joyce Collingwood

29th Avenue (Vancouver)

21 29th ave and Nanaimo.JPG

Nanaimo (Vancouver)

22 Nanaimo.JPG

-30 –

by Michael Mortensen, MA MCIP, RPP
a Vancouver Developer & Planner Abroad ©2016