The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
Municipal Politics
Urban Planning + Architecture

Vancouver’s Dramatic New Plan for Broadway: Five Questions

Here’s what’s in the sweeping proposal, and what council needs to know before voting on it.

Patrick Condon 29 Nov 2021 |

Patrick Condon is the James Taylor chair in Landscape and Livable Environments at the University of British Columbia’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture and the founding chair of the UBC urban design program.

The City of Vancouver’s Broadway Plan has been released for public comment and is full of dramatic proposals. Profusely illustrated, over 100 pages long, the plan gives citizens a lot to chew on during this busy season. So here is a guide to what the plan contains and five key questions it leaves unanswered.

The plan anticipates adding 50,000 residents housed in 25,000 new units, all built within a ten minute walk of the new Broadway subway line. A rough balance between residents and jobs is anticipated with up to 42,000 new job sites projected.

The area covered by the plan covers about seven per cent of the city land area, and if population trends play out over the next 30-year build-out phase, this area will absorb about 44 per cent of all the city's population growth over that period.

The plan organizes the subject neighbourhoods within its boundaries into four schemes: "centres, villages, residential areas and employment areas." These areas roughly map over what is there now. The full length of Broadway along with some of the adjoining blocks are termed "centres." Areas currently zoned industrial are "employment areas." Neighbourhood shopping streets such as South Granville, Main Street and Fourth Avenue are "villages." Everything falling outside these zones is deemed "residential.”

851px version of BroadwayPlanAreasCovered.png
The areas covered by the Broadway Plan. Purple are ‘residential zones,’ light blue are ‘centres,’ red are ‘villages,’ and yellow ‘industrial.’ Image: City of Vancouver Broadway Plan.

The plan is heavy on urban design details, with appealing illustrations that do not always successfully obscure the heights of new towers. The plan also includes a list of ambitious goals. These include new civic infrastructure, ecological performance and affordable housing — for which no specific targets or examples are provided. This absence suggests a set of questions that council will need to grapple with prior to the planned spring tabling of the plan for approval.

1. Will this housing be affordable to city wage earners?

No specific targets for affordable housing are provided except in the case of existing apartment buildings slated for demolition. In such cases residents are assured that there will be one-to-one replacement of their rental unit provided at current rents (the city of Burnaby already does this).

Otherwise readers are left to guess how many units will be affordable. And if current history is a guide, there will be proportionately few.

The word "affordable" occurs 85 times in the text, but without any numeric or proportional targets provided. Also, the word "affordable" is often conflated with largely unaffordable housing types. The plan speaks, for example of “buildings that deliver affordable housing (e.g. secured rental housing, below-market rental housing or social housing)." Why conflate secured market rental with other more legitimately affordable housing types? New rental units built recently in the city are only affordable to the top 10 per cent of city wage earners.

On the plus side the plan signals that new market projects will be subject to the city's new development cost expectation tax designed to tamp down land speculation along the corridor, and that these taxes will fund some affordable housing. But here again, the plan does not yet specify what percentage of these funds might be directly applied to solve the affordability crisis. At the currently set level of $340 per square foot, this tax on up to 25,000 housing units could produce over $8 billion. Even if only half the new units were thus taxed it would amount to $4 billion, enough to cover the construction costs for 8,000 units of affordable housing.

Council should be given an accurate accounting of these resources and how they might be deployed. In that discussion this DCE speculation tax might be revisited and raised. The $340 figure was set in 2019 to quell land price speculation along the corridor. Since that time speculation along the corridor has raged ahead unabated, suggesting that the DCE is, if anything, too low for its intended purpose. It should be adjusted to achieve its intended purpose and provide a larger fund to ensure that at least 50 per cent of new units are truly affordable.

2. What are the jobs we expect along this corridor and will those wages match the price of housing?

The plan does not address what seems a key question. What will the new jobs be and will those wage earners be able to afford the rents or mortgages charged for this new housing? We know that larger numbers of Amazon and Microsoft employees are set to arrive in Vancouver. But the salaries for Canadian workers in those corporations are less than what their American equivalents are paid. And certainly tech workers will need food services, health care, tax filers, retail services, teachers, taxi drivers and all the other service workers that keep a city running. Projections of average wages and appropriate market prices for new housing and wages needed to sustain these units would not be hard to compute at this stage and should be part of any major plan such as this one.

3. Will our new zoning authority be used for public benefit?

B.C. municipalities now have the power to zone by tenure. This means that the city, in the context of "upzoning" these eight square kilometres for far more density, will have a one-time-only chance to designate a certain percentage of these newly zoned lands for rental-only and/or co-op-only housing.

851px version of BroadwayLandInflation.png
Map of changes to assessed land value between 2005 and 2020. Changes largely over 300 per cent and often over 1,000 per cent follow the path and extent of new Broadway subway, now under construction. Image adapted from

Such a move would also be a means of controlling land price inflation — the root and branch of our affordability problem. When land is zoned for developments that fetch the highest price — and in Vancouver that means high-density strata units — it zooms upwards in value. Land speculators use their information networks to see this coming and bid up the price of such land sometimes even before the zoning happens, much less before a development is slated.

An effective way to combat this ever-higher spiral in land costs is to bar certain lands from such uses, or tax such uses so heavily that other kinds of developments on the land make more sense financially. The result in either case: less land price inflation and therefore lower unit costs.

4. Must every new building require a large parcel ‘assembly’?

Here is another question related to how serious the city is about keeping land inflation in check. We have all seen the signs around town on arterial facing lots shouting "for sale, land assembly." Such assemblies have in many cases led to fantastic increases in parcel prices as owners understand the leverage they hold over the fate of the big project by selling or not.

851px version of BroadwayPlanIllustration.png
The Broadway Plan shows these building types illustrated for approval in ‘low density residential areas.’ Buildings of this type require lot assembly of up to a full block. Image: City of Vancouver Broadway Plan.

Land assembly projects tend to involve prototypical new buildings that require one-third block, half block, or full block assemblies (of typical 33 foot parcels). Perhaps it is now time to ask whether it would be better to seek lower densities in order to make such dramatic assembly no longer required. If we are looking for densities below 35 dwelling units per acre these can be had with minimal or no lot assembly, eliminating the land price inflation that lot assembly triggers.

851px version of HighDensityBuildingKits.png
A high density building type that does not require parcel assembly at Vine Street and 10th Avenue in Kitsilano. Image: Google maps.

A good example of this form is on the corner of Vine Street and 10th Avenue. It delivers over six times the density of a standard detached building on a standard Vancouver lot. But building it did not require lot assembly. The result is more than adequate for the population increase in the designated "residential areas" of the Broadway Plan.

5. What about civic space?

The plan provides zero indication of where new civic spaces (parks, schools, playgrounds, community centres, daycares, libraries, etc.) might be located. This is a big departure from previous and successful Vancouver planning efforts. In both the Yaletown and Olympic Village planning processes, for example, these elements were among the first things factored into initial planning drawings. Now we have a planning effort that anticipates multiple times more new residents than Olympic Village, yet ignores the very features that made Vancouver's higher density areas famously livable. Council deserves better than this before being forced to vote on such an incomplete plan.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Comments that violate guidelines risk being deleted, and violations may result in a temporary or permanent user ban. Maintain the spirit of good conversation to stay in the discussion.
*Please note The Tyee is not a forum for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, denying its existence or minimizing its risk to public health.


  • Be thoughtful about how your words may affect the communities you are addressing. Language matters
  • Challenge arguments, not commenters
  • Flag trolls and guideline violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity, learn from differences of opinion
  • Verify facts, debunk rumours, point out logical fallacies
  • Add context and background
  • Note typos and reporting blind spots
  • Stay on topic

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist, homophobic or transphobic language
  • Ridicule, misgender, bully, threaten, name call, troll or wish harm on others
  • Personally attack authors or contributors
  • Spread misinformation or perpetuate conspiracies
  • Libel, defame or publish falsehoods
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities
  • Post links without providing context


The Barometer

Tyee Poll: What Coverage Would You Like to See More of This Year?

Take this week's poll