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Avoid The Thin Street Trap

Blog by Patricia Houlihan - Personal Real Estate Corporation | July 16th, 2013

There’s been a lot of talk lately about the thin street proposal by the Metro Vancouver government. The idea is that it will subdivide lesser-used city property, such as wide boulevards and roads, to make it possible to build townhouses, row houses, and other more affordable housing in the space.


Vancouver being touted as one of the most unaffordable cities in the world has put the pressure of politicians to come up with solutions that can solve the ‘affordability crisis’. The thin streets offer a way for families to own a home, albeit a small one, in the greater Vancouver area.


This has led to opposition from neighbours, who believe that it’s an open door to riff raff, and it will reduce their property value.


Do you know what? They could right. It may, especially in the short term, adversely affect value, as places like Dunbar will lose their exclusive sheen. It also presents the issue of housing density and overcrowding, as lane ways are chopped up and made into housing units of a few hundred square feet. This has led the government to backpedal on its initiative.   


There has been an outcry from homeowners in the neighborhoods of Marpole, The West End and Grandview Woodlands as the program was first prioritized this week. After residents voiced their displeasure, the idea has since been put on hold in favour of other affordable housing options.


Whether or not the thin street proposal goes through is secondary to whether an affordable housing option is being considered in a neighbourhood you are considering buying in. It pays to have a realtor that checks all the facts before jumping in so you know what to expect. Your neighbourhood could be slated for higher density or other changes affecting property value.  


Having said that, over the longer term, the negative side of this density issue might disappear completely. One only needs to look at the prices in some other much more densely populated areas to see this. Further, a quick read of magazines such as DWELL suggests that the new generation is moving more into accepting and desiring smaller living spaces, with or without higher density.  While Vancouver is far from being a Manhattan, the core of expensive, exclusive row houses found in Manhattan suggests that its all what you are used to and over time perceptions of what is desirable do change. Even in my lifetime the change has been significant: when I was a child, no one would have thought of raising their children in a downtown condo; now there aren’t enough spaces in the schools downtown to house all of the children needing to attend!



Vancouver can be a crazy city with some strange ideas. It is important to have a Vancouver REALTOR® who knows local and international markets. As the West Coast becomes increasingly international with each passing year, these new considerations will affect long-term property values.