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
Rights + Justice

We Can’t Let Wealthy Homeowners Block Affordable Homes Again

Rental buildings face an uphill public hearing process in Vancouver, while luxury homes sail through without consultation.

By Melanie Matining, Laura Track and Nadja Komnenic 21 Sep 2020 |

Melanie Matining is a OneCity member and an associate and consultant at Elevate Inclusion Strategies. Laura Track and Nadja Komnenic are on the executive of OneCity Vancouver.

Did you know that it’s illegal to build multi-family buildings, like rental apartments or social housing, on the majority of Vancouver’s residential land?

This is an example of exclusionary zoning, a policy that reserves most of our residential land for single detached homes and requires apartment buildings to be justified for “spot-rezoning” on a case-by-case basis. Historically, exclusionary zoning was intended to keep lower-income and racialized communities out of particular neighbourhoods — a legacy that continues to this day, since most residents cannot afford secure housing in these parts of the city.

In July, city council approved a rezoning allowing 81 new units of rental housing in Shaughnessy. Two mansions will soon be replaced with secure rental homes in one of the city’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. This is a neighbourhood that has successfully blocked affordable housing options in the past — in fact, close to 250 residents attempted to block these 81 units from being built, citing a desire to preserve their “neighbourhood character” and making unsubstantiated claims meant to stoke fear and distrust by claiming, for example, that “drug peddlers” and “child sex predators” could be moving in.

Fortunately, this time 10 of 11 council members voted in favour of the rezoning. While we hope this will pave the way for more affordable housing throughout the city, we aren’t overly optimistic. One of the major challenges of building new rental housing in a place like Shaughnessy — and many other parts of Vancouver — is that it requires laborious development applications, gruelling public hearings and divisive council debates.

While debate is obviously vital for any healthy democracy, when rentals and social housing get stuck in public hearing purgatory while single detached homes coast along without any public consultation, there is an undeniable and corrosive double standard at work. Some councillors have inconsistent records when it comes to voting for more affordable housing options in neighbourhoods currently zoned for single detached homes. Without fundamental changes, wins like this one will continue to require enormous amounts of both council and communities’ time and resources. This is no way to address Vancouver’s housing and homelessness crisis.

Many people sent letters and spoke to council in favour of the rezoning. It’s largely thanks to these voices that we now have 81 new rental housing units coming to Shaughnessy. Over the years, many other residents have spoken in favour of more social and supportive housing and purpose-built rentals throughout the city. Despite often fierce opposition from residents who object to having people with lower incomes or who are otherwise marginalized living in their neighbourhoods, we have seen a genuine desire among many Vancouverites for more compassionate and complete communities. This is cause for hope.

Unfortunately, the public hearing process still favours the voices of affluent, home-owning residents, while excluding the voices of poor and working people. It values testimonials rather than mutual engagement with communities facing systemic oppression and significant barriers to participation. And because our current land use rules require rezoning for most rental and social housing, but not for single detached homes, the process continues to favour the most expensive forms of housing, while delaying and sometimes even blocking the kinds of housing we most need.

Despite the efforts by those who want to build a more inclusive city, requiring a public hearing for every rental and social housing building is not an accessible, fair, or sustainable model for securing the just and equitable city we deserve.

The right to secure and dignified housing for everyone shouldn’t be decided by the voices of an affluent minority. To ensure housing for all, including the more than 2,000 Vancouver residents who are homeless, we must look for solutions beyond the public hearing process. This should include fighting for “by right” zoning, which would put social, supportive, co-op and rental housing on a fast-track for approval without having to be spot-rezoned through time- and labour-intensive public hearings.

Vancouver is now about one year into a city-wide planning process that is slated to continue into 2022. While one of the objectives of the city-wide plan is to engage Vancouverites in a process that reflects the diversity and voices of our population, we worry that this will become yet another process in which well-connected and affluent voices dominate the discussion, while low-income, racialized, and otherwise marginalized communities are once again shut out.  

We need to reimagine how to create more affordable housing in every neighbourhood, in ways that eliminate barriers to participation for underrepresented voices; that honour the needs of people who have been neglected and ignored by dominant frameworks; and that urgently respond to the housing challenges that poor, working, and racially marginalized communities in Vancouver face every day.

Renters and low-to-moderate income residents should be welcome in every neighbourhood of Vancouver — including Shaughnessy. We need a new approach to help make this so.  [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

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities


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


The Barometer

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

Take this week's poll