The Richmond News has been around town witnessing the big changes in some of our neighborhoods and it’s not for the better
Walking through parts of western and central Richmond, there is, with regularity, something odd.
There’s something that connects many of these quiet residential streets, but there’s also something conspicuously absent.
What connects them is the proliferation of massive houses – some relatively young – being demolished and/or rebuilt into even larger properties.
What is missing is life. People. Families. Children.
None of the construction going on, on the face of it anyway, violates any zoning or permit rules, they just maximize the area available for that particular neighborhood, with one outplaying the other trying to gain an advantage on the market .
Where have all the people gone?
The end result is that streets, avenues, roads and cul-de-sacs are devoid of human activity except for the warning of a dump truck reversing, the shrill screeching of a circular saw or the hammering of a carpenter’s hammer.
As we drive around McKay, Broadmoor, Dixon and The Monds – where a price tag of four or five million is the norm – there’s a question that comes up again and again… who are these giant houses being built for?
“It’s hard to explain how I feel,” said Kerry Starchuk, a McKay neighborhood resident of 34 years, as she looked around her once-quiet cul-de-sac, now a menagerie of water pumps, excavators and fenced properties.
“I feel out of place; I feel like I’m not supposed to be here. I walk around here and it’s so strange.
“I think, ‘how come everyone left?’ I’m still here, trying to fit in. Who are these houses built for?
Passing owners not long enough to become neighbors
Starchuk, a community advocate who has shone the spotlight on various issues in Richmond over the years, pointed out that there is “no continuity” in the rebuilding and design of all these massive single-family dwellings, including many seem to have different developers.
“You can’t make friends because it’s a rotation of houses and owners,” Starchuk added.
“In the past, we knew all our neighbours. Today we have no idea. It’s lifeless. The curtains are drawn, there are no cars in the driveway.
“Even some of the newer mansions show signs of disrepair, as no one lives there, for at least most of the year.”
No matter which road we took or which corner we turned, we found at least two houses going down or one going up.
In a single week last month, the City of Richmond issued 15 demolition permits for properties across the city, many of which were in the aforementioned neighborhoods.
In The Monds – the affluent community in western Richmond, southwest of No 1 and Francis roads – some of the homes being redeveloped appeared to be in good condition.
“Some of them should be falling,” Starchuk observed, “but some of them are fairly new, well maintained, and they’re still falling.”
“One by one, life is being sucked into these neighborhoods. The people I see are here for two or three years, maybe as an investment, and then they leave.
“The first signs of real change happened around 2010. Since the Olympics, people started looking at their ratings and selling.”
Property has grown by nearly $1 million in 10 years
Indeed, Starchuk’s own valuation of his individual property has increased by nearly $1 million in 10 years.
But she doesn’t want to leave the town where she has spent most of her life or the neighborhood where her children grew up.
“It’s my home, I’m still very attached to it and to the community,” she says.
The future of the teacher lies outside of Richmond
Many professionals, couples and families in Richmond are slowly coming to terms with the realization that they will never own property locally.
One, a teacher named Beau Tanner, a Calgary native who moved to Vancouver in 2008 and then to Richmond four years ago, noticed right away that something was wrong when he moved into rental accommodation in Broadmoor.
“I went for a walk here in the neighborhoods, I was like ‘what are all these people doing for a job?’
“Then I thought, ‘this is great, how can I participate in this?’ But I realized that these people don’t have jobs that I can get.
“These people have to bring their money from abroad and concentrate it in this community.
“From the start it was strange, not many kids playing. Not many people around. He became a lot more active in the time of COVID.
Tanner, 42, moved to Richmond in 2018 to be closer to his work, now lives in a studio apartment that is a four-way split in a subdivided house.
“I have my own space, but I know, looking out my apartment window, that I will never own anything here.
“I see mansion after mansion after mansion. I checked Google Earth and most of the houses were built within the last five years. »
The question “who they are built for” has been asked once again.
“I don’t know. Offshore wealth, I guess. It’s not for the people who work and live here,” added Tanner, who says that ultimately he will be forced to leave Richmond like so many. others before him.
“It’s not just about getting into real estate, rental situations are problematic.
“You never know when the owner is going to sell. Rental prices are volatile, on the rise.
Another community advocate, Laura Gillanders, tweeted last month that she spotted a “six-suite hotel” on a single-family lot advertised for rent on Booking.com.
“Tiny houses are more likely to be lived in by families and older people, rented to families and younger people,” Gillanders wrote.
The Olympic medalist has seen a dramatic change on training rides around Richmond
Even Richmond Olympic bronze medalist Evan Dunfee recently contacted the Richmond News to express his astonishment as he roamed the streets of his hometown.
“While on one of my regular 10 mile training walks in West Richmond, I decided to take a snapshot of all the current construction I saw,” Dunfee said.
“Right now, on those few streets, more than 40 single-family homes have been replaced with McMansions.
“These lots have now been locked up for over 30 years of being unaffordable for the overwhelming majority of Richmond residents.
“Our housing rhetoric at city hall, in the newspapers and online doesn’t say enough about it.”
Dunfee said everyone “must fight for more below-market housing and we need a massive increase in rental stock to close the chasm caused by years of inaction.
“But quietly, under our noses, is the proliferation of the most exclusive, least affordable and least sustainable form of housing.”
Dunfee, who has expressed a desire to run for city council in the fall election, said the city needs to “encourage a mix of housing types in each neighborhood. We used to.
“I live in a 45-unit, 4-storey apartment built in 1981. It’s on a quiet street next to an elementary school, a high school and a community center. I have two grocery stores within a mile. The bus stop is 300m away.
“Allowing a greater mix of housing types like infill, laneway and 4 plex doesn’t mean we stop building single family homes, it just means we only allow single family homes on the big majority of our land…”