Kluckner – Old is Worthless, New is Valuable?

Following is part of the coverage of the rally to save Legg residence by heritage advocates, courtesy of CityHallWatch, full details here:

http://cityhallwatch.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/coverage-vancouver-demolitions-legg-25-may

Provisional transcript of Michael Kluckner video.

Michael Kluckner

… The whole point is the question of people living in neighbourhoods, versus the people who see neighbourhoods, and see buildings, as a business opportunity. This is particularly the case on the west side of Vancouver at the moment and then in examples of failed heritage policies, such as the impending demolition of the house behind. Which, because it’s an A on the heritage register, and has been for almost 30 years, ought to have been protected from its fate.

The situation that is going on here is a little bit different from what was happening in the late 1980’s when this whole process of the redevelopment or the demolition of the city began. And I suppose it’s a bit different because so much of what’s going on here now is based on, not on builders doing spec-built houses and then selling them to people, but it’s new owners coming in, buying the houses and then wanting to build a new house because it has a business opportunity aspect to it.

The houses in Vancouver that were built in the 1920s/1930s/1940s, they left a lot of room for garden, a lot of room for green space. There wasn’t such a desire to have the Great Indoors as we have now. And so when you have in the areas of the city with the large lots, you have that opportunity to build something bigger that becomes more valuable – that’s what really is triggering what’s going on here in Vancouver and has been going on here since the 1980s.

But everything about our system screams that old is worthless and new is valuable. Look at your property assessment forms, any of you that get property assessments. It will say that your lot is worth one million dollars and your home is worth forty thousand dollars, regardless of whether it’s upgraded and updated.This sends a code to people that are new to this country that says, on an official government document, that old is valueless. And there’s something that we have to do to change that. With the building code, the way that the building code is enforced, and the other speakers after me will speak more about building code and zoning, it makes it very disadvantageous to keep an old house and to try to keep it going and to update it and modernize it. Because you get new codes and things thrown at it, costs that make it almost impossible to save.

But the thing that I want to do is I just want to say that there’s a further aspect of this that I think really goes to the heart of what we are as a city. And that’s thisquestion of houses being built and left vacant. It’s this hollowing out of the city of Vancouver, and we are not alone in this, believe me. This is happening all over the world. I just got back from London, and during the time that I was the there, the issue of ghost houses, as they’re called, is really heating up. And so I just want to read a paragraph or so from an article in The Guardian quoting Ed Miliband, who is the Labour leader in England.

He’s talking about London and he says, “We’ve got to stop this phenomenon of empty properties being bought by overseas investors and nothing done about it. We live in one of the richest, most diverse, and exciting cities that has ever existed on the planet, but the connection between the great wealth London creates and everyday family finances has been broken.” The Guardian revealed in January that a third of the properties on Billionaires’ Row in London were standing empty, including several huge houses that have fallen into ruin after standing almost completely vacant for a quarter of a century. The Guardian estimated that there was 350 million pounds worth of vacant properties on the most prestigious stretch of one street of north London, and there are said to be 60,000 empty properties in London.

Reference: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/06/ed-miliband-crackdown-ghost-homes-hoarded-investors

What are we – quarter of the size of that city, or a fifth of the size of that city? But we’re in the same situation hereSo in terms of addressing who can do something about this, we’re talking about the City for the zoning, we’re talking about the City for building code and streamlining processes. And working with theHeritage Plan, keeping the Heritage Plan going. That’s been in effect since 1986. What is a building like this coming down for now? Secondarily, we have to address the Provincial government, the Provincial government for the way the property assessment system works and the way that vacant houses can be left vacant, and that there is really no disincentive at all in the tax system at all for people who have been demolishing properties.

I’ll leave it there, thank you all.

************

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