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Urban Planning + Architecture

This Video Perfectly Explains Vancouver’s ‘Missing Middle’ Housing Mystery

WATCH: The city has a ton of houses and towers, but what about all the stuff in between?

Christopher Cheung 14 Dec 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Christopher Cheung writes about the sociology of the city for The Tyee. Follow him on Twitter at @bychrischeung or email him.

You’ve probably seen those postcard pictures of Vancouver, the ones with glassy towers, a pristine shoreline and sublime mountains. But this skyscraper vision of the city represents less than one-fifth of the reality.

The rest? Dominated by houses, houses, houses. As Uytae Lee puts it, “it’s either Super Size or Happy Meal.”

Lee is an urban planning grad and video whiz who’s made explainers for the CBC and his own label, About Here. He teamed up with Vancouver non-profit Urbanarium for his latest production The Missing Middle Mystery.

Tyee writers, me included, have attempted to answer why the planning ethos here is literally go big or go home: huge towers, or single-family housing. But for a comprehensive walkthrough of how Vancouver got to a “Titanic versus rowboats” style of building and design, Lee delivers.

It’s a crash course on zoning, density, racism and the ridiculousness of public hearings. (There’s a clip from 2009 of people protesting laneway housing, crying, “We will run out of food! We will run out of water!”)

Here’s the original video, with three suggested solutions on how to fill in the housing gap.

‘The Missing Middle Mystery’

The problem with parking

The straightjacket of setbacks

The rules of rezoning

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