The real impact of NV densification and Official Community Plans

Following is a letter written (July 9th) to both North Van Councils by a North Shore resident, Hazen Colbert; reprinted with permission.   Following his letter is a response to him from CNV Councillor Pam Bookham and his reply to her.

He also sent some price statistics for homes in Squamish and Whistler – please contact us if you’d like that information.

Your Worship & Council of Both DNV and CNV,

In 2011, the DNV created an OCP. Since then, implementation has focussed 
solely on densification ignoring the remainder of the OCP. The City now has 
a draft OCP which supports continued rapid densification. Densification is 
solely focussed on large condominium projects. Densification was to be a 
tool for affordability, to create younger family housing options, and to 
encourage public transit use. Over the past year, the District (and the CNV) 
have added an unprecedented number of new condo projects.

The impact on the housing market in North Vancouver is shown below:

North Vancouver      Avg Price                  1-Yr Change        5-Yr Change
All Homes                $ 675,000                  3.9%                     20.7%

Detached                  $ 1 million                  6.5%                    28.9%

Condo Apartment    $ 352,700                  -.6%*                 11.3%

*Low rise stratas are most significantly impacted since off-shore 
speculators who represent about 50% of the condo apartment market are most 
amenable to higher rise buildings.

There are very clearly three trends in the market:

1. Overall housing affordability continues to worsen.

2. There is a massive supply of unsold condominiums on the North Shore, 
which is rising as new listings far, far outpace sales.

3. On the North Shore, municipal densification is not a housing strategy but 
a wealth creation tool benefiting existing single-family home owners at the 
expense of people who own other forms of housing.

In the past year, about 754 resale condo apartments sold on the North Shore. 
There is no reliable estimate for new project sales.

A number of new projects on the North Shore have been approved 
and/commenced. These include the Onni project on Lonsdale, Seylynn Village, Bosa at Lynn Valley Center, the Grouse Inn redevelopment and the Concert Waterfront project.

Based on the existing market sales profile, a number of these projects will 
fail. There is simply no demand for these properties. In the meantime the 
glut of unsold condo apartments has driven down existing prices, wiping out 
hundreds-of-millions of dollars of personal wealth from condo apartment 

With the exception of Mr. Bell, it is my understanding you are all single 
family home owners. Please stop creating wealth for yourself on the backs of 
condo apartment owners.

Densification has failed everyone save existing single family home owers.

Hazen S. Colbert


Councillor Bookham’s response July 12:

> Hazen, thanks for this information.
> Last Monday I along with Councillors Bell, Clark and Heywood voted to 
> ensure that future development in the City of North Vancouver occurs at a 
> moderate pace and provides the kind of ground-oriented housing that is 
> needed by young families who have outgrown their Lower Lonsdale Condos 
> while protecting rental housing in low-rise buildings in Central and Lower 
> Lonsdale. I agree, we do not need to provide incentives for developers to 
> build higher and denser condo towers. I have argued for a long time that 
> the current pace and form of development has not provided affordability by 
> increasing supply but simply drove up land values everywhere in the city. 
> People buying in new condo towers are paying more for less space, and now 
> are seeing their equity shrink because of the glut of new and unsold 
> inventory. And yes, it’s true that the value of single-family homes has
> continued to rise and is now out of reach of many of the people that 
> housing was originally built for. It may be just a matter of time before 
> we see the long predicted correction impacting single family homes as 
> well.
> I can assure you that I have never voted for a development proposal with 
> any self interest in driving up property values in mind. I voted against 
> the Onni proposal, Harbourside and the Shore. These three projects will
> bring 337, 800 and 375 for a total of 1512 units to market in the next few 
> years. These are in addition to the many other developments currently 
> under construction. If you are looking for a reason for the unsustainable 
> pace of development, look no further than the role developers have played 
> in funding the election campaigns of candidates who favour growth at any 
> cost.

> Best regards,
> Pam
> Councillor Pam Bookham

Response to her from Hazen Colbert 

Hi Pam,

Thank you for the information, and for your frankness regarding oversupply.

I do not think anyone intentionally set out for personal gain by voting in 
favour of densification. However, now that they are aware of the oversupply 
and the polarized impact on wealth, I would expect that information to be 
acted upon honestly.

The North Shore is not unique with the profile, but is unique with the 
volume of oversupply.

I been involved in the financial side of real estate (including condos) for 
over a quarter-century and seen the boom-and-bust times. There have been too 
many projects on the North Shore approved through rose-tinted lenses. Most 
worrisome is that some decision makers are unaware that municipalities can 
be very adversely affected by the bust cycle. I highly recommend that the 
CNV get is community amenity contribution in hard cash from the 
Lonsdale/13th development now, not later. As for the District, there will be 
no $8 million cash for old Lynn Valley library site. I will send you via a 
separate email some projects I have seen crash.

The reality of these things is stark and simple: (1) developers like height 
and density because it is more profitable; (2) planners like more 
development because it means more planning jobs; and humans will always be indebted to people who give them money.

Thanks again for the response.


Hazen S. Colbert




6 responses to “The real impact of NV densification and Official Community Plans

  1. Phillip Reierstad

    Haven,and Councilor
    So am I to understand that if I own a home in the lower Lonsdale area that I’m obliged at some point in the future to a “young family that has outgrown their condo” provide my home at a price point that they deem affordable should I choose to put my property up for sale, or am I missing something? If you are going to offer an opinion/argument at least offer some plausible rational rather than an empirical/pompous antagonistic statement directed at a specific group of individuals. Any new development proposal in the City of North Vancouver is by default going to involve re- designation of the existing stock of single family dwellings for the simple reason that THERE IS NO UNDEVELOPED LAND LEFT TO DEFINE AS SUCH. To accuse an individual, or group of individuals that fall into the category of profiting at the expense of others who do not fall into this category is crass,and reeks of entitlement.
    Phillip Reierstad
    Lower East Third Street
    700 block.

    • Hazen S. Colbert

      Sir, There are many land locked jurisdictions in Canada and elsewhere that lack develop opportunities yet remain affordable. To create a sustainable community, housing costs should be a function not only of supply, but of economic fundamentals such job opportunities, family income and economic growth. Housing costs should also be a function of access to high speed public transportation. As the empirical evidence shows, housing cost in the CNV and DNV is entirely a function of zoning decisions, and to some degree speculation & bargaining by land owners planning to cash out when their land is rezoned. A mayor and council have a trust to serve all residents of a municipality; single-family home owners, renters, townhouse owners and condo owners. The empirical evidence clearly shows that councils (but not all councillors), I trust solely as a result of happenstance, are focussed only on one category of resident. Densification policies have failed all other categories combined.

    • Phillip, you are not obliged to sell your home to anyone in particular now or in the future, nor sell at any price other than what you agree to accept from a willing buyer. What you decide is entirely up to you.
      I, however, have an obligation to anticipate the future housing needs of our small community and to ensure that there is a range of housing types at various prices and tenures. The building permit stats for the last several years show the number of condo units in high rises and mid-rise buildings far exceeds the number of ground-oriented units families need.

      Councillor Pam Bookham

      • Phillip Reierstad

        Councilor Bookham,
        With all due respect, imposing restrictive covenants on the available stock of certain types of housing within our municipality only make the current situation worse. Single family dwellings in our municipality are not affordable to middle class working families anymore, and haven’t been for years. Ask anyone that has owned a house in our municipality for more than a decade if they could afford to buy the house now. The demographics that Hazen describes in his article with regards to progressive affordable growth within a community do not exist in our municipality anymore. The initiative that you put forth to provide “ground orientated housing to young families that have outgrown their condos” is noble, I’m not sure how you ,and the current council intend to implement such a proposal based on the current market conditions.
        Regards, Phil Reierstad,
        700 Block Rest Third Street.

      • Charyl and Joseph

        Actually Pam Bookham as a council member, your job is to listen to your 80% constituents that are in favor of more density in the Moodyville/3rd Street. Which also your co-worker Councilor Rod Clark requested to have town hall meetings to gather input about densification. Where the professional city planning staff that are trained to guide the growth of the community with solid facts and not your crystal ball anticipation method.

        Do you know that we are over stocked on apartments? The single family home is now not affordable for the middle classed family nor a duplex that both runs at 800K-1100 mil at the bare minimum. Did you not hear the mayor in one of the public meetings say ” Moodyville/3rd St would be a great area to look into adding more density” and may I add he also stated that THIS WOULD BE A GREAT AREA TO MAYBE MOVE DENSITY OFF THE LONSDALE CORRIDOR.
        It’s time to OPEN YOUR EYES and see the big picture this area will never be a Pristine Part of CNV, but it could be developed in to a nice density to serve the people that require the housing type that you mention. Why can’t you and the other councilors not see this area as a vibrant community for lower or middle class citizens. You need to increase more density, which will provide the green space that has been lost.
        It’s time to throw your political agendas out the window with the rest of the councilors that voted against the major popular vote and the recommendations of trained city staff…….unless you all can provide the community with your diploma’s on urban planning and growth.

        Joseph and Charyl.

      • northvancityvoices

        We agree with your statement that ‘we are overstocked on apartments’; and also agree that the 50% increase in density proposed (to an fsr of .75) will allow ground oriented development in order to accommodate families. We do agree that this increase in density will enable more housing types, not sure what the argument is. We also applaud the four members of Council – Bell, Bookham, Clark and Heywood who supported the funding for the extra town hall meetings to be sure that all community members could be heard.

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