Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Vancouver council changes zoning to boost artist rental space '14-fold'

After nearly five years of development, last night the City of Vancouver changed zoning bylaws to encourage "work-only" art studio rentals in Vancouver's industrial areas.

Artist studios used for low-impact activities like painting, writing, dance and digital media are now allowed in all 12 of the city's industrial districts, instead of just four. A press release from the mayor's office announced "the potential space in which artists are eligible to rent for studios is expanding 14-fold, from two million square feet to 28 million square feet."

Gregor Robertson called the move an "unprecedented increase in availability and affordability" for the arts community. Council also lifted a 500-square-metre limit on artist studios, to allow arts groups to pool together on larger studio spaces.

For years local artists have spoken out about the citywide squeeze on affordable creative workspace. In 2011, councillor Heather Deal declared arts space had reached "a crisis level of threat" following the eviction of the Red Gate Studios on Hastings Street.

Deal said spaces like the former Red Gate would not have been saved by yesterday's zoning change.

"That squeezing out has nothing to do with zoning. If a private landowner chooses to sell or evict tenants, we can't stop them," she explained. "What we can do is say to those artists 'Now you have all these other industrial lands available to you without an intensive bureaucratic process.'"

After a year-long search, Red Gate manager Jim Carrico confirmed he and fellow artists have moved into a new location in Strathcona as of Feb. 1. Carrico called the zoning change a "positive development," but pointed out that further permissions will still be required for spray painting, screen printing, welding and amplified music.

City data reveals Vancouver has the highest number of artists per capita in Canada, with over 8,000 residents employed in the arts. The median income for artists is 36 per cent below Vancouver's labour force average according to the mayor's statement. Deal says Vancouver city council first identified the need for more affordable arts space in a 2008 cultural plan. In 2011, she brought forward a motion to utilize industrial lands for arts.

Deal added city council plans to tackle a similar motion addressing Vancouver's dwindling performance space next week.  

Sarah Berman is a freelance journalist based in Vancouver.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus