British Columbia

Shaughnessy homeowner compares density to 'stacking of human cargo' on slave ships

The comment appeared in an article that was part of the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners' Association newsletter.

Comment appeared in Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners' Association newsletter

An aerial view of Vancouver's Shaughnessy neighbourhood reveals lush trees and large, detached houses bordered by much denser homes. (Google Maps)

A homeowner in one of Vancouver's wealthiest neighbourhoods has compared the city's desire to increase housing density with the "stacking of human cargo" aboard slave ships.

Mik Ball, a board member from the Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners' Association, wrote the article as part of the group's spring newsletter.

He claims Vancouver's mayor and city council are clinging to the "myth" that living in Vancouver is a right, thereby increasing density with no regard to livability.

"The result puts one in mind of the 'dense pack' strategy of early 18th century slavers, wherein they struck upon the idea of stacking their human cargo like cordwood in the hopes of increasing profits," wrote Ball.

"The result was an increase in mortality that did exactly the opposite of what was intended."

In the piece, Ball also takes issue with the notion that anyone who lives in Vancouver should be able to, regardless of "their ability to compete in the market."

He says it's a departure from past decades, when those who weren't able to afford a home moved to the suburbs.

But that changed after Expo 86, he claims, when visitors flooded the city and chose to immigrate here.

It increased housing prices to the point children of "Vancouver's professional class" could not buy a home.

"Unlike the blue collar class that moved to 'affordable' suburban housing, these young people demand to be accommodated in the city as part of their birthright," he continued.

He says city council's attempts to increase density by offering incentives for laneway homes and secondary suites are in vain.

Instead, he argues it will only increase unaffordability as land becomes more limited and the demand for development "continues unabated."

'Sense of entitlement'

Ball's article was shared on Facebook by Julie Colero who pointed to the homeowner's "sense of entitlement."

"If any friends need a rage-inducing glimpse into how the other half thinks, I'd be happy to lend you this great Shaughnessy Property Owners newsletter that was dropped off today," she wrote.

The piece generated waves of criticism.

Former Vancouver city planner Sandra James says Ball's views show a "profound lack of understanding" of gentle density, which means adding housing through unobtrusive means like laneway homes and secondary suites.

She says Ball should look to other west side neighbourhoods like Point Grey and Dunbar that have adopted those measures successfully.

It's a lesson for the City of Vancouver to better educate residents, she says.

As for the reference to slavery, she called it a "very unfortunate reference."

"It's a matter of demonstrating by good examples, instead of being upset about protectionism, because that's basically what humans always resort to, if we feel we're being threatened by something we don't understand," she said.

Homeowners' association responds

Angus Wilson, the association's treasurer, said he could not speak on behalf of the group but claims his neighbours have varying views on density and affordability.

His personal belief is that increasing density should reduce the price of housing but he doesn't think it will change much.

"It's very unlikely that Vancouver's ever going to be an inexpensive city again — any more than Manhattan is going to get inexpensive or central Paris or London."

He says when it comes to gentle density, he believes most homes in his neighbourhood have basement suites but acknowledges it was unlikely they were rentals but instead used as nanny suites, a place for relatives to stay or turned into recreation rooms or "man caves."

As for the newsletter, he says volunteer members typically sign off on submissions but writers are rarely censored.


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