The Vancouver Urban Forum, by The Global Civic Policy Society and Sam Sullivan

VUF (June 6th, ’12)

Few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Vancouver Urban Forum (#vuf on Twitter) facilitated by the Global Civic Policy Society, thanks to the generous sponsorship by the Real Estate Foundation of British Columbia for local industry business people including myself. The former mayor of Vancouver, Sam Sullivan, is the founder of the Global Civic Policy Society, aimed at urban reform policies that make sense economically, sociologically, and environmentally.

Great Speakers, Great Ideas

The array of speakers were diverse, entertaining and engaging. From economists to city planners, from scientists to sociologists, the highly experienced and qualified speakers were absolutely brilliant in their approach to finding a solution to some of the problems Vancouver (and other cities in our modern era) faces, and will face in the future, related to population growth, city infrastructure, construction and city planning policies, and affordability.

Meet Edward Glaeser (Ph.D Economics)

One of the most notable speakers was a New York Times Best Seller and a current Harvard University Professor of Economics, Edward Glaeser. Not only did he have a spectacular set of credentials as mentioned above, but his studies and viewpoints on urban densification and real estate prices across many North American cities were real eye openers, and he challenges the conventional and popular views on how to best control real estate building supply and purchase demand to make cities affordable – and it also shuts down some of the most common pessimistic scapegoats of real estate affordability in Vancouver.

Here are two videos of Mr. Glaeser’s presentation at the VUF:

Meet Dan Zack from California

Another very insightful presenter was Dan Zack, a city planner from Redwood California. He talked about achieving high density and affordability without necessarily cramming high-rise steel towers in blanket form. “Delightful Density” was the title of his presentation, a neat alliteration!

To watch more videos from the event, you can visit the Videos page on the Vancouver Urban Forum website. There were dozens of great presentations, with different points of focus (environmental issues, traffic issues, infrastructure issues, global issues etc. all revolving around urbanization and density).

So then the question that hits us all is, how do these facts affect the livability in your city or neighbourhood? In case of Vancouver, the suffering is the same; to develop new condos is like pulling teeth, especially outside the downtown peninsula. Once you get into the West-side of Vancouver, new developments are almost always met with a harsh tirade of angry residents who are concerned about increase in traffic and decrease in sunlight around their neighbourhoods, while the macroeconomic realities of increasing population & demand met with insufficient real estate leading to price spikes in Vancouver (and of course excessively easy credit was a factor in this unnatural increase in demand – which is why we recently saw drastic tightening in the mortgage regulations).

What Do You Think?

What is your opinion on the Vancouver Urban Forum and some of the speakers? What is the direction you would wish your city councillors took when it comes to city planning for the next two decades? What is the most realistic solution to a livable, walkable, affordable, reachable lifestyle for all?