Vancouver Housing Affordability-A Different Solution


Blog by Arnold Shuchat | March 20th, 2017


Everyone has been disussing possible solutions to the problem of affordability in the Vancouver housing market. Most of proposed solutions have been about increasing density around main transportation corridors, removing foreign buying power and using tax policy to discourage speculation.  I would like to propose a completely different approach whose time has come.

For years every time a new technology has emerged in relation to building construction, I have always heard the same comments from either professional planning staff or architects and engineers. They usually say something like, "it won't happen in our lifetime-good luck with that".  I suggest, that the time has come to open up our real estate and construction markets to new technologies which can drastically reduce costs and delivery times of housing stock.

Here are a few examples of products that involve construction techniques that warrant discussion and adoption:

1.  A 400 sqare foot 3D house is printed in 24 hours for a cost of $10,000: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv2lEUdNaoY

2. A 59 storey skyscraper is erected in 19 days: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6f_sayw0mM

3. A modular house is built in a factory in 3 hours: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygiPeFoPWO0


It is high time that a Technology Adoption Panel be launched to explore ways to expedite the delivery of new building technologies to Canada.  This panel would include engineers, architects, builders and urban planners.  The goal would be to work on ways to expedite the collaboration of technology expertise between professionals licensed outside of our jurisdiction who could be granted work visas for projects involving new technology here.  We have to remove barriers to progress by authourizing foreign expertise to engage locally in conjunction with local professional expertise.  This would require amendments to professional practice standards across a variety of the building proffessions.

By opening the door to collaboration and technology adoption, building times and costs could be drastically reduced.  Building a skyscraper in 19 days reduces costs in major ways:  

-soft costs of carrying the vacant land through the tradtiional construction times;
-hard costs of labour and materials
-traffic disruptions and municipal traffic controls over a shorter period;
-reduced risk of market swings;
-increased product adoption by end users instead of speculators-i.e. if one only has to wait for a week, then more people would buy direct.
-reduced defects due to quality control  improvements;
-reducing wait times to product completion reduces pricing and profit margin requirements and enhances capital turnover.

It is time for our elected officials to break ground on technology adoption and to begin to facilitate deveopment in this area as a major impetus to reduce housing and building costs. By focussing on the process instead of only on the market I believe we can benefit from substantial gains in affordability.