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Newsmaker of the Year: Housing, housing, and more housing

Call them the ‘missing middle’ or just call them frustrated home seekers, but they were top of mind in 2016
for sale sadness
SQUEEZED: Young families are getting priced out of the detached, single-family home market in New Westminster. The city is trying to find ways to create a diverse housing registry – but can it carve out a space for young families as the Lower Mainland faces record high home prices?

Skyrocketing housing prices and changing housing needs may be forcing some folks to move out of New West.

In a city where 95 per cent of the housing stock is in single-detached dwellings and apartments/condos, home ownership is becoming more and more unattainable for many families. The debate about “the missing middle” heated up in New West this year during discussions about the official community plan – a discussion that’s earned “The Frustrated Home Seekers” the Record’sNewsmaker of the Year.

Many people may stifle a yawn when the subject of official community plans comes up, but New West residents turned out in droves for sessions related to the plan, which will be finalized in 2017. Already two years in the making, the plan attempts to address how the city is going to handle growth in the coming years (the population is expected to grow to 104,000 residents by 2041, meaning about 16,500 new homes will be required in New Westminster) and to provide more housing choice for residents.

With single-family homes out of reach for many families, more and more folks are recognizing a need to provide housing alternatives such as ground-oriented housing like townhouses, row houses, and laneway and carriage houses.

Families change. People have babies, children grow up and move out on their own, aging parents can’t always live on their own and need homes closer to their adult children.

As people’s lives and families change, they may want – or need – housing options beyond single-family homes or apartments. In New West, that’s pretty darn hard to find.

Discussions about infill housing and increasing density in residential neighbourhoods isn’t always an easy discussion to have, as it raises fears among some citizens about loss of heritage homes and a neighbourhood’s character.

As 2016 draws to a close, the city’s planning staff have no easy feat ahead of them as they’ll now try to incorporate feedback from the council and the community, where there is consensus on some issues and mixed views on several fronts, into a draft official community plan. The plan will provide a roadmap of the places where different housing forms will be considered in the decades ahead as city hall tries to meet the needs of a diverse community.

And if we’re lucky, the plan will find a way of balancing the desires of residents who value the character of New Westminster’s great neighbourhoods and the need for more housing so families have housing options in the years ahead – and are endangered no more.