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School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 4 – Changing Expectations

This is the final installment in a four-part series about the demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools. Here are links to parts one, two and three.

North Americans are culturally attached to the single-family house, especially for families with children. Thanks to Barrie Sutcliffe for this great photos of houses on the outskirts of Edmonton, Alberta.

In many core cities, insufficient affordable and suitable housing for families provides a push for young families to leave urban neighbourhoods for the suburbs.

The pull of suburban environments is the other side of the coin. 55% of Canadians live in a house, and many believe that young children have the best outcomes in a single-family house with a private yard. Cultural attachment to … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 3 of 4 – Intergenerational Neighbourhoods and Housing Diversity

105-year-old Sir William MacDonald Elementary School was one of 11 Vancouver schools threatened with closure in 2010. Thanks to Sqeaky Marmot on Flickr for this great Creative Commons photo.

Wrestling with the conundrum of why growing cities like Vancouver face declining public school enrolments, the first two posts in this series suggest links between municipal and regional populations of school-aged children and the affordability and suitability of family housing. Today’s post explores the value of intergenerational communities in both urban and suburban contexts, and considers how housing diversity may influence demographics at the neighbourhood scale.

Urban Context
Researching the dispersal of children across local neighbourhoods, the Curious Dad newspaper column found that Vancouver’s east-side communities house the most young children, while … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis: Part 2 – Family Housing

This is the second post in a series exploring demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools in the City of Vancouver and its suburbs.

Last week’s post showed that, though the proportion of Metro Vancouver’s population made up of school-aged children is declining, that decline is occurring more rapidly in the central City of Vancouver. More suburban in character, the City of Surrey (pop 400,000)  is home to the only public school district in British Columbia where enrolment is actually increasing.

Canada-wide statistics show that these trends are not unique to Metro Vancouver. One analysis of 2006 Canadian census data showed that “27% of first-time parents made the move out the city and very few moved in.” A Statistics Canada report suggests that “one of the explanations for … Continue Reading

School Troubles in a Booming Metropolis – Part 1

This is the first post in a series exploring demographic, housing and land use contexts of troubled public schools in the City of Vancouver and its suburbs.

Kids attending public schools in Vancouver, Canada are back in class today after an extended two-week spring break. In previous years, spring break was just one week long, but school districts around BC are experimenting with their instructional calendars in desparate attempts to save money on heating, school buses and wages.

Edith Cavell Elementary School in Vancouver sat empty for two weeks this year during an extended spring break. Creative Commons photo by author.

Recent years have not been easy for public schools in Vancouver. A local newspaper identified threatened school closures as one of the top news stories … Continue Reading

Online Storytelling Part II – RentersSpeakUp

The region of Metro Vancouver, Canada (pop. 2 million) is experiencing a housing crisis, with a shortage of affordable rental housing.

In Metro Vancouver, purpose-built rental stock is aging, and not being replaced fast enough. Thanks to Gak for this Creative Commons shot of walk-up apartments in Vancouver.

From the perspective of regional housing planners, providers and advocates such as the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association and the Co-op Housing Federation of BC, the situation urgently requires both direct federal funding and ongoing support in the form of a national housing strategy.

Approximately 80,000 rental households in Metro Vancouver lack affordable housing, spending more than 30% of their incomes on rent. 30,000 households spend more than half of their incomes on rent. These … Continue Reading

Growth Patterns Across Canada

The Neptis Foundation study learned that 80 per cent of Calgary's growth in the 1990s had occurred through greenfield development. Yikes! Thanks to Michael Soron on Flickr for the stunning Creative Commons aerial photo.

It’s been almost two years since I transplanted myself from Ontario to British Columbia, and I continue to be fascinated by the differences in attitude and political will around planning issues in the two provinces. I recently stumbled across an interesting study by the Neptis Foundation that compared recent growth patterns of three Canadian metropolitan regions: Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver.

It’s a thought-provoking study, if not altogether surprising. It’s no secret that Vancouver is reputed as a model of sustainable development and good planning while … Continue Reading

CIP Niagara conference: Building the Regional City

This afternoon in Niagara there are a variety of mobile workshops and concurrent sessions. I’m at a “Building the Regional City” panel featuring Vancouver’s Ann McAfee, as well as Kathryn Friedman, Deputy Director of University of Buffalo’s Regional Institute, and Francis Gentoral, Regional Manager for the Canadian Urban Institute in Southeast Asia. This panel is focusing on regional cities that cross municipal, state/provincial, and even international boundaries.

McAfee compares Vancouver and Melbourne as examples of liveable cities but has different governance structures. The Vancouver has 22 municipalities. Metro Melbourne has a larger regional population and 32 municipalities, but an older built environment and a smaller downtown population. Melbourne’s limiting factor is water.

Unlike Vancouver, Melbourne has no metro government and the state presents regional plans without public engagement. But, both regions have similar goals, namely to diversify the economy, nurture local business, … Continue Reading

The bark and bite of growth boundaries

With the recent release by Metro Vancouver (GVRD) of the draft 2040 Regional Growth Strategy, some are noticing conspicuous similarities to the policy tools of another northwestern metropolis.  In the South Fraser Blog, Nathan Pachal appropriately identifies the resemblance of the GVRD’s reshaped initiatives to those of Portland Metro (Portland). 

Portland has long been lauded (and, in some circles, jeered) for its strong measures to combat sprawl and manage growth.  I posted a video last month from the Big Look Task Force last that gives a good background on Oregon’s strong land-use regulations.  In Portland’s case, the regional government has control over the well-documented Urban Growth Boundary (UGB).  In his post, Pachal correctly states that the Green Zone of the Livable … Continue Reading