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Editorial: We can’t live in Pleasantville, Squamish

New legislation aims to address housing needs for growing families and first-time buyers.
Family holding hands, looking at a house for sale (1950).

We can’t always be trusted to do the right thing. 

Case in point, who among us would volunteer to have a low-rise affordable housing complex go up next door rather than a single home?

Let’s face it, left to our own devices, most of us would rather live in a 1950s Pleasantville-type community with cars in every rancher’s driveway, dad mowing the lawn and kids playing in a sprinkler. 

But the problem with that vision is that it leaves out too many who can’t afford it—and isn’t so great for the planet.

This isn’t to say people are bad. We mean well and understand that there is a housing crisis, but jeepers, does it have to mean our neighbourhood changes? 

It does.

That is why we need policy to force the social good that benefits the whole rather than the few.

Thus, it is necessary that the provincial government is taking some housing decisions out of municipalities’ hands and imposing ‘gentle’ density. 

Provincial legislation is coming into play that will eventually see sweeping housing changes in communities that boast over 5,000 people.

For example, three to four units will be allowed on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use. 

Six units will be permitted on larger lots  that are close to transit stops, thus ideally getting more folks out of their cars and onto public transit.

The government says that historic planning has meant there’s not enough middle-type housing—between single family and condo towers.

And planners and councils in community after community are shouted down by those of us who can’t see the social good past our own yards. 

It is hard for members of councils and muni staff to stand their ground in the face of a small but angry group of citizens. And it’s hard to convince those who see development on the horizon that some of these big changes will be slow, but need to be started now if we are going to meet future housing needs.

“The housing crisis has made it harder for growing families looking for more space, seniors looking to downsize, and first-time home buyers who can’t find a home that meets their needs and budget,” said Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon, in a news release. “This legislation strengthens the vibrancy of our communities, while building the type of housing that will help us address the housing crisis.”

Not to say residents should be or will be totally ignored. Residents have concerns that should be addressed—like the need for more amenities.

We will still have a say, but not in one-off meetings about individual builds. 

“There will be more frequent opportunities for people to be involved in shaping their communities earlier in the process when official community plans are updated,” the gov says.

Ultimately, as in the Pleasantville movie, we may find that change, though unwelcome, can be positive.

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