I am happy recent municipal elections brought about a significant change in the White Rock council — one that I hope results in some detailed and careful review of how both residential single family residences and multi-dwelling complexes are approved for building permits and design.
Over the past eight years the previous council have given the green light to many buildings in our community that have succeeded in changing the very feel and look of our neighbourhoods.
We are at a crossroads in our city and where we go next will determine if we can save the city that we know and love or will be witness to a new and much less desirable neighbourhood in its place.
A large number of new house constructions over the past several years have shown that many developers and builders decidedly favour either highrise density or the type of home that not only dominates the lot, but in many cases completely swallows the lot with nothing left that can be called garden or green space. These homes have changed the view corridors of other homes around them and have caused loss of natural light or reduced sunlight as well as loss of privacy and of course loss of nature.
There needs to be an acute oversight of what kind of structure can be built on a lot . It must ensure that any plans for a new home include the preservation of 25 to 30 per cent of the lot size as green space or garden, which will ensure that homes do not dominate the environment but complement it.
We must protect our environment for the benefit of our community, nature and the wildlife that otherwise is being squeezed out. We must protect green space for the sake of our own wellbeing and mental health.
There is an old Lakota saying that “when a man moves away from nature his heart becomes hard.”
This is increasingly happening in our world of concrete and brick.
Our neighbourhoods are under siege and it is incumbent upon our city councils and mayors to do all they can to preserve neighbourhoods by adding esthetic value to them with thoughtful and pleasing structures and not one where lots are nothing but house, massive driveways and multi-vehicle garages devoid of green space.
I would suggest that, in many cases, where we have seen density as the focus of creating affordable housing, it has not made homes more affordable. However they have made developers and builders richer. Since when is a 450 to 500 sq. ft. condo selling in downtown Vancouver for upwards of $600,000 an affordable option for anyone?
These ‘supersized’ homes being built in our communities today will be put up for sale in years to come, but will be completely unattainable to the vast majority of people due to their size and their assessed values.
You will need significant equity from a previous home or have significant financial assets from other very fortunate circumstances, both of which do not favour Canadians with an average income and the mortgage rules placed on them with down-payment limits being applied.
The decision is ours to make. Do we want to nurture, create and demand that the emphasis on our real estate is about homes that have connections to nature?
Or, do we continue to accept the ‘maximization’ of square footage on a lot at the expense — and ultimately the loss — of what is really important in our lives, the preservation and the connection to nature in all our communities.
In years to come I am convinced we will rue the densification of our neighbourhoods and the loss of green spaces in our gardens. There is more at stake here than just pocketing large sums of money from a grossly overvalued home due to human greed and market demand.
Michael King, White Rock