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Upcoming event will explore ways to make Vancouver housing more affordable

How can urban planners and economists work together to create a more affordable Vancouver, especially for young people?
An upcoming event featuring urban planning expert Alain Bertaud will focus on ways of making Vancouver a more dynamic and affordable city, particularly when it comes to housing. File photo: Dan Toulgoet

Alain Bertaud has advised 50 cities around the world in his career as an Urban Planner. Now he is looking at Metro Vancouver. What he sees is troubling.

Young people are unable to afford housing; only 5 per cent of Vancouver residents can afford to purchase on 60 per cent of residential land. Agricultural land within the city lies empty or used to subsidize juice companies, belying claims of food security. The Downtown Eastside continues to deteriorate bringing death and misery to thousands ever since it was created by city actions 50 years ago.

City and provincial governments seem paralyzed and uncertain why despite their actions, things keep getting worse. Some blame foreign, casino gambling speculators for house prices. But despite years of government measures to wring out foreign money with casinos closed for over a year, house prices have soared 30 per cent. This pattern of blaming foreigners is more common in developing countries, but the result is the same. An increase in attacks on minority groups and no solution to the problem.

Alain Bertaud has seen Metro Vancouver’s problems in other cities. He began his career working for le Corbusier, the “God of Modernism” in his design of Chandigarh, Capital of Punjab. He and his wife Marie-Agnes raised their growing family in seven world cities in his role as Principal Urban Planner for the World Bank.

Bertaud gained great insights into cities when he worked for Russia and China as they were making the transition from purely planned cities to market-based cities, like Shanghai and Shenzhen. He was shocked when he worked with an urban economist and learned how much he did not know about the powerful dynamics of working on cities.

Bertaud came to believe that urban planners and urban economists needed to work closer together. He learned that he could not just make lines on a map and assume the city would do what he wanted. He needed to understand the forces that are acting on a city and work with those forces, not against them. This led him to write his internationally acclaimed book Order Without Design and become the focus of numerous conferences and podcasts.

For the last several months, Bertaud has heard from 12 Vancouver experts in Urban Lunches via Zoom attended by over 400 citizens. On September 20, on the big screen at the Vancouver Playhouse, he will engage with six important local urbanists on stage discussing opportunities for a more dynamic and affordable city at the Vancouver Playhouse. This is in advance of his visit next spring where he has an invitation to speak with the heads of planning departments of Metro Vancouver municipalities and will host workshops for students and engaged citizens.

The Vancouver Playhouse event will include Chris Lewis of the Squamish Nation, a driving force behind the remarkable explosion of indigenous-led development projects like Senakw that will house almost 10,000 people near Burrard Bridge. UBC Planning Prof Julia Harten, data visualizationist Jens von Bergmann,  researcher and historian Wendy Waters, city planner Michael Mortensen and SFU Prof Andrey Pavlov will also share the stage.

There will be 20 complimentary tickets reserved for students and 15 for community volunteers to reduce the cost for participation. To apply for these tickets contact and write a few sentences about who you are and why you would like to receive complimentary tickets. Otherwise, you can purchase tickets online here.

Alain Bertaud: Urban Planner and Author

When: Sept. 20, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Vancouver Playhouse - 600 Hamilton St