Friday, July 1, 2016

What makes a neighbourhood

This little house, soon to be demolished, made me think about how house styles affect the livability of neighbourhoods. 

With its plantings, bay window, brick chimney, and small extension for a garage, this house seemed like a friendly neighbour.

Directly across the street, this house is under construction. Its size and shape is typical of the multimillion-dollar houses being built in Vancouver today. I wonder what it will add to the livability of the area? 

Something about a little white house I passed on Friday made me stop, go back and have a second look. It was a modest one-storey sitting there in the sunshine, surrounded by the kind of garden that plant-loving homeowners build year by year. Through a multi-paned bay window in front, I could see into a light-filled room at the back of the house, where old-fashioned French doors opened out into the garden. A small extension, with another door open to the sunny back yard, served as a one-car garage.

It was a place where kids could grow up, neighbours could be welcomed, and parents could grow old without having to worry about falling down stairs. And, judging from the orange demolition fences around it, it will soon be gone. Chances are, it will end up looking just like the new house being built directly across the street from it -- three times as big, with lots of stairs and not much garden space.

The little house is just one of tens of thousands being demolished and replaced by multimillion-dollar bigger ones in the real-estate frenzy that is Vancouver today. But I noticed it because it brought to mind a conversation I had just had with my friend Georgeann. When politicians talk about real estate, she said, they always talk about affordability, not community. That shifts the conversation toward money, economics, finances, and away from livability -- which is what a community is all about.

When I looked at that little house, I thought of the friendly, relaxed feeling it added to the neighbourhood. When I looked at the big one across the street, I wondered what its contribution will be.

1 comment:

  1. If our politicians ever get their act together and tax appropriately, Vancouver's real estate market could be seen as an amazing windfall that could be put into affordable housing. And certainly the whole idea of community needs to be explored. We may no longer have traditional communities just as we no longer have traditional marriage but that could be a good thing. Certainly, communities are being formed to deal with this crisis. I wish Britain success in creating a community more to their liking and perhaps the EU will create a better community for the members who are left. And then of course it all may go tremendously sideways and all be a complete disaster....but I usually look at the glass half full.