A useful kind of nostalgia - The Orca

A useful kind of nostalgia

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Jody Vance: If we’re going to solve the housing crisis, we have to reject the false binary between NIMBYism and overdevelopment.

Being sentimental, or nostalgic, feeds our collective desire to hold on when faced with change. We push back on the passing of time. Change = bad.

The Marie Kondo folks will tell you it’s “freeing” to let go of the old – and yet, sometimes change can ruffle serious feathers.

Take the Metro Vancouver skyline for example. NIMBYs long for the days of unobstructed views of the North Shore mountains, when BC Place was a marshmallow in Lotus Land. To them, more density is unacceptable.

We brought it on ourselves, guys. Expo 86 took us from Town to Metropolitan. We invited the world in ‘86 — they came, and many stayed. Are we complaining about the growth? Can we blame them for wanting to move here? What’s really broken is how we – as a city – stopped creating spaces for residents as we rolled out the red carpet for big money investors.

We forgot that change, growth and evolution of our city, should include people from all walks. No, this isn’t new information. The crisis is real.

For all the Op-Eds dissing Vancouver and its perceived or real shortcomings — we live in the best city on the planet. Affordability aside, Vancouver has always seen a clause in our paycheques that says: “you get to live in Vancouver, it’s a perk.”

Our incredible livability is only going to make us more popular, especially if people like Greta Thunberg are right. This wedge of rainforest bordered by ocean, mountains and the United States needs to wake up to the unavoidable reality that not only must we share city space, but with even more people.

Yes, that includes noisy NIMBYs.

Searching for The Middle on how to halt the affordability crisis here must start with letting go of what was, and moving toward what we might become. The Middle here means embracing gentle density or be swallowed by overdevelopment.

As a born and raised Vancouverite I absolutely understand wanting to hold onto neighbourhoods we grew up in. I get it, but it’s time for change. In 2019, wanting the street hockey block in the midst of Kits is unrealistic. In today’s reality, you are going to need to head east, WAY east, for that kind of pace.

Want an uberprivate backyard? You’ll need to vacate the city centre. Given our starved rental community, a NIMBY who pushes back on a proposed five-storey building in Kitsilano should be embarrassed by the level of privilege exposed.

If this is you, take it a sign to head rural. If you think your BBQ should be private when living downtown, then I’m afraid your urban coolness is behind you. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

Many of us found our respective entries into independent living in affordable three story “Balfour Properties” in Kitsilano as. The studio apartment for $400 per month, with a beautiful view of the lane parking, I will never forget 2057 West 2nd.

How I loved that space.

I was a teenager with two jobs and IKEA furniture from my parent’s place. We need to create spaces for new generations of 18-year-old me.

City Hall needs to find a way to restock rentals in Vancouver. We need buildings with amenities tailored to meeting needs, not hitting the sweet spots for zillionaires.

We need gentle density. Places with enough space between for kids playing in actual yards, around small buildings, if planned correctly. Imagine accessible green spaces, with trees and grass, that don’t cost in the tens of millions of dollars to create.

As kids we played and found community in these spaces between the three-storey walk ups. Swing sets and teeter-totters set up in central spots — imagine that?

When I saw the story of the Vancouver resident standing up at City Hall to complain about the five-storey development proposed for his Kitsilano neighbourhood, I could only shake my head. Would it have been easier to swallow had there been a 40-storey building pitched, then reduced to five? Embrace the gentle density.

Our city needs more places for people to call home. We need rentals that families can afford. Students, professionals, and families need spaces that they can turn-key.

Now that’s a kind of nostalgia I can get behind.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.