Monster homes threatening suburban housing supply
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 6:16PM PDT
Tracy Sims hopes the next owner of his family home will see its true potential as a place to live rather than just the potential profit.
The Coquitlam man is putting his parents' house on MacIntosh Street on the market, and is doing some home maintenance to spruce it up for interested buyers.
The neighbourhood has been undergoing a transformation. Modest split-level houses are being torn down and replaced with much larger ones, a practice that is becoming commonplace in this and other suburban neighbourhoods in the Lower Mainland.
“A lot of people, they wonder why I’m fixing it up because they think they’re just going to knock it down,” Sims told CTV Vancouver. “The hope is, with the maintenance inside, that someone will come and appreciate it for a few more years. There are a lot of memories and attachment people have to their homes so naturally you want to see it passed on.”
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart said the city is trying to encourage greater density to tackle the problem of older homes being replaced by mansions and the impact this is having on the skyrocketing cost of living.
“From our perspective, the challenge isn’t the large home, it’s the inappropriate use of a dwindling supply of residential land,” said Stewart. “We can't get bigger so we have to figure out how to use less land for each family.”
But Stewart said there isn’t currently anything to prevent people from building monster homes on single-family lots.
“We can’t prevent that but we’re trying to provide some other options like a duplex or a triplex or two houses or three houses or even four houses on the same single-family lot. Carriage homes, coach houses, ways of producing a larger number of smaller units within that same square footage… This region needs to accommodate a growing population on the existing footprint, and the quarter-acre lot that all these neighbourhoods got built on, that’s passé. We can’t keep perpetuating that 7000 square-feet lot anymore because land is so precious.”
Urban Development Institute president Anne McMullin said changing zoning regulations would be one way for cities to ensure land is used more efficiently.
“We need to frankly abandon this whole idea that 85 per cent of our landbase is zoned single-family when only about 20 to 30 per cent of the people live on it,” said McMullin.
“If you really wanted to be bold, you’d say to the vendor ‘you can sell it but whoever buys it, if they’re going to tear down that home, they have to build more than one home on it.’ Now, the community may not like that, but that’s how you solve the problem.”
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber