media release

Metro Vancouver housing under SFU microscope

February 04, 2014

Meg Holden (Vancouver resident, fluent in French), 604.839.9794,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


In cities like Vancouver, sustainability plans and policies are colliding with housing affordability, according to Simon Fraser University Urban Studies associate professor Meg Holden.

She is leading a first-in-B.C. study investigating the challenges Metro Vancouver faces in preparing for an estimated one million new residents by 2041.

“The more sustainable a city, the more expensive and exclusive its housing,” says Holden, an expert on prospects and policies for sustainable cities.

“This study will help us understand how to make cities more sustainable for all residents, rich and poor.”

The Greater Vancouver Home Builders Association (GVHBA) launched the study, Getting to Groundbreaking (G2G), seven months ago.

In laying the groundwork for G2G’s execution, Holden has discovered clues about what may be contributing to Metro Vancouver’s soaring housing prices and increasing housing exclusivity.

“For one, residential development application processes are extremely complex and vary widely between municipalities,” says Holden. “Vancouver stands out across Canada for this complexity.”

She says no one knows the housing-cost impact of fees, charges and time spent on processing development applications, design, and other land use regulations.

“Nor do we know who winds up paying those costs and their impact on the prices that homebuyers face. This project will help answer these questions.”

G2G’s building blocks are annual surveys and reports about the region’s efforts to meet 2041 housing needs. Experts from the GVHBA, the Urban Development Institute, the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, Metro Vancouver, Ryerson University and local governments are advising Holden on constructing these building blocks.

“The fact that SFU is leading this research—and not an industry/advocacy group—and the partnership approach that this permits with municipalities and the home building industry—make it unique in Canada,” says Holden.

She is engaging the research assistance of SFU Urban Studies students to evaluate how Metro Vancouver’s 22 municipalities and one treaty First Nation will accommodate one million new residents by 2041.

They are gathering feedback from municipal employees, homebuilders, developers and non-profit housing consultants on how plans, regulations, fees and processes can hinder or help efforts to meet targets for housing affordability, availability and livability.

Starting this month, Holden is using annual web-based surveys to gather feedback in Metro Vancouver’s largest 19 municipalities, including Vancouver, Surrey, Burnaby and the Tri-Cities. She is also doing face-to-face interviews.

Each year’s survey will focus on municipal efforts to meet demands for a different housing type—this year’s focuses on townhomes. A variety of stakeholders, including the public, media and municipal governments will have access to survey results and the published annual reports born out of them.

The reports will evaluate the ability of municipal 30-year homebuilding plans to address a multitude of desired benchmarks affecting housing prices: availability and density, park development, nonprofit housing development and much more.

They’ll also reveal insights into best practices, as well as each municipality’s typical approval-process timing, fees and charges related to the specific housing type.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities

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