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Vancouver clears path for multiplexes in bid to address housing crisis

Council decision means multi-family units acceptable in virtually any residential area in the city

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim says the city has taken a “huge step” toward “housing attainability” by approving multiplex units in single-family neighbourhoods, but critics of the plan argue the step is little more than a shuffle.

Councillors unanimously endorsed a motion Thursday night that creates a single residential zone across most of the city, clearing the way for what supporters call “missing middle” housing.

The term describes a range of multi-family or townhouse-type buildings that match the scale of single-family neighbourhoods while increasing the density.

The motion passed Thursday allows for up to four units on standard city lots and as many as eight units on larger lots.

In a social media post, Sim calls the change “bold action,” but Peter Waldkirch with Abundant Housing Vancouver says the bylaw, while useful, doesn’t “meaningfully address” the city’s housing crisis.

He terms the policy “timid,” saying it will only see the construction of about 150 multiplexes annually, rather than the thousands needed to restore affordability.

“Until our politicians and planners are willing to stand up for real change and end the ban on apartments in low-density areas, the housing crisis will continue to push out our friends, family, and neighbours,” Waldkirch said in an emailed statement.

Every Vancouver neighbourhood must finally agree to grow and change, Waldkirch said, pointing to areas on the city’s west side, including Kerrisdale, Point Grey and Shaughnessy, that he argued have “fought off new neighbours for so long.”

Coun. Peter Meiszner, a member of Sims’ ABC majority at city hall, said in a social media post that increasing density in low-density neighbourhoods is “the right thing to do.”

He also said more zoning changes are on the way as the city seeks additional housing options.

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