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Introduction of Ecodensity Program

Blog by Ian Watt | April 9th, 2007

Vancouver has long enjoyed the status as one of the world’s most livable cities. But despite this reputation, the fact is our city has a large ecological footprint. If everyone lived like we do in Vancouver, it would take four planets to sustain us.

Today, our city faces three important challenges:
  1. how to continue to grow in a way that is sustainable and reduces the city’s ecological footprint;
  2. how to grow in a way that maintains our livability; and
  3. how to grow in a way that improves opportunities to create more affordable types of housing.

Part of the City of Vancouver’s response to these challenges is a new initiative called EcoDensity. The program will be designed to create greater density throughout the city, and do it in a way that lowers our impact on the environment; ensures the necessary physical and social amenities; and supports new and different housing types as a way to promote more affordability.

Single-family dwellings still take up half of the land area in Vancouver. In fact, only 11 per cent of the city’s land area is currently used for multiple-unit dwellings.

Consequently, EcoDensity will explore increasing density in a variety of contexts across the city (i.e. in lower density areas; along transit routes and nodes, neighbourhood centres,). The key will be to support density that is high quality, attractive, more energy efficient, and respects neighbourhood character, while lowering our footprint.

For the next four months, the City will ask citizens, businesses and those in the development, housing, social services and environmental communities, to help look at ways the City of Vancouver can promote greater density in Vancouver that is also green, as well as livable and affordable.

EcoDensity will mean altering some City policies, bylaws, incentives and zoning to reduce barriers and promote ideas that will create communities that are sustainable, livable and affordable.

EcoDensity will help ensure that sustainable ideas that are currently rare or difficult to achieve today, become commonplace in Vancouver in the years to come. EcoDensity will also build on the successes already achieved in some major development and neighbourhood centres in Vancouver. Lastly, EcoDensity will help realize many of the goals and aspirations for communities that were articulated through the community visioning processes, but have not been acted upon.

Some of the ideas the City could explore or questions that will be asked during the consultations are:

  • Do people want the City to allow more flexibility in our bylaws to promote sustainable building practices such as: use alternative energy sources (e.g., solar and geo-thermal energy systems); green roofs; use recycled rain water; recycled building materials?
  • Should the City make it easier for residents in single-family zoned areas to build a secondary suite above their garage, or convert their garage to a coach house?
  • How does the City encourage the creation of more secondary suites? Should we require that any new single family home rough in a secondary suite?
  • Do people want the City take more advantage of streets and nodes well served by transit or areas located around Skytrain and future Canada Line stations by increasing density significantly in those areas?
  • What aspects of our bylaws need to be changed in order to better accommodate or promote sustainable building practices such as energy-saving systems, recycling of grey water and rain water, green roofs, etc.
  • Should the City reduce its parking requirements on new developments, and if so, which type of developments? Should we require spaces for car sharing, or electric plugs in new underground garages to promote the use of electric vehicles? Should the city establish car free neighbourhoods?
  • How can the City help ensure that the necessary community amenities are included in areas where only smaller, incremental developments are built.
  • How could the City promote a greater range of types, sizes, locations and tenures of housing?