RE-Blog : When an Urban Planner is becoming a fortune teller

Temps de lecture 10 minutes

panorama de vancouver, source : ville der Vancouver

Les urbanistes sont des politicien(ne)s qui n’ont pas le courage de la faire de la politique. C’est en tout cas mon point de vue… C’est peut-être également pour cette raison qu’on les écoute si peu ? Toutefois, ce n’est pas pour autant qu’ils n’ont pas raison dans leurs analyses souvent justes et clairvoyantes pour les années à venir.

Je vous propose ici un petit jeu offert par un urbaniste de Vancouver, Andy Yan, directeur du City Program de la SFU (Simon Fraser University) et regroupant des cours traditionnels mais également des conférences et des réunions citoyennes. Ce jeu consiste à compiler ses propos, souvent décapants, au travers de ses publications journalistiques. C. Cheung s’en est chargé dans un article de the Tyee ce 2 avril 2019.

Je vous le retranscris in extenso et en anglais, car la langue de Shakespeare est tout en nuance. Mais ce qui est frappant ici est la perspicacité des remarques et avis… qui pourraient tout aussi bien correspondre à un article bruxellois, ces deux villes étant très similaires dans leurs positions respectives dans le monde :

  • Une immigration importante de plus de 30% (Asiatiques à Vancouver, Maghrébins à Bruxelles)
  • Deux villes en position importante dans le monde mais secondaire dans la compétition des villes mondiales.
  • Une problématique de positionnement qui génère à la fois gentrification et pauvreté
  • Un carcan urbain limité alors que la ville est plus grande que ses limites administratives.
  • Etc.

Alors, intéressé(e)s ? Lisez ce que qu’ A. Yan en pense… de Bruxelles ? Non de Vancouver ! 😉

panorama de Bruxelles. source : wiki

Here’s a collection of Andy Yan’s greatest hits from over the years, with prompts from an imaginary Vancouverite.

Tell me, Andy Yan, is there anything I can do to buy a house in Vancouver?

“It seems that being able to choose the right parents is the shortest path to home ownership in the city of Vancouver.” The Globe and Mail, Nov. 20, 2018.

Tell me something better than that, Andy Yan.

“We have plenty of jobs, but you might need two or three of them to be able to afford a place to live.” New York Times, June 2, 2018

This sounds hopeless, Andy Yan. Isn’t living in Vancouver supposed to be paradise?

“You are living in paradise, but your wages are in purgatory.” Vancouver Sun, Sept. 18, 2017.

Andy Yan, what do we do about foreign buyers affecting local housing affordability?

“The valuations are higher here because of Vancouver’s role as a ‘hedge city’ for global investors looking for a clean, livable, safe and climate-protected place to park their money. So let’s raise the parking fees.” The New Yorker, May 26, 2014.

Tell me Andy Yan, could micro-suites less than 300 square feet like the ones in Hong Kong be a housing solution here?

“Even a chimpanzee has a minimum requirement of 500 square feet plus a pool and some sort of tire swing.” “Missing middle” housing panel at the Museum of Vancouver, Oct. 11, 2018.

What about sprawl, Andy Yan? There are many cheap detached houses further afield.

“Transportation costs can be an iceberg to the dream of homeownership.” Richmond News, Dec. 21, 2016.

What about supply, Andy Yan? Is that the answer?

“You can’t just spray density around and pray that affordability will follow.” Vancouver Sun, Feb. 1, 2018.

You may have a point, Andy Yan. I see development everywhere in the city. Why exactly isn’t this helping?

“I enter a car dealership and there are 10 Ferraris, and I have a Honda budget. We aren’t producing enough Hondas.” Globe and Mail, Sept. 9, 2016.

Then tell me, Andy Yan, what’s the magic bullet to curing housing unaffordability?

“There’s no magic bullet, but what’s needed is a thoughtful tool kit with two trays. One is affordable housing, which is about both supply and demand measures. And the other is economic activity, the fishing and hunting for companies and attracting them, and growing them here.” Vancouver Sun, July 13, 2018,

But Andy Yan, could it also be the Russians flipping Vancouver real estate? I heard one family speaking Russian in Kerrisdale yesterday and another one today.

“The plural of anecdote is not ‘data.’” Vancouver Sun, March 23, 2013.

I’ve heard you say that people who claim raising the issue of foreign property buyers and affordability is racist are using a “social hack.” What do you mean, Andy Yan?

“You had these whispers about racism being used to shut down a dialogue about affordability and the kind of city we want to build here. It’s a kind of moral signalling to camouflage immoral actions. It’s opportunism… It’s a weird Vancouver thing. It’s very annoying. It’s kale in the smoothies or something.” Macleans, Feb. 14, 2018.

Andy Yan, you sound the alarm about massive capital from China at play in Vancouver, but you’re a Canadian of Chinese heritage. I don’t understand.

“People assume that the Chinese community is ‘vaccinated’ from the effects, but they’re just as exposed.” BC Business, Aug 9, 2018.

Andy Yan, we’ve been talking about foreign ownership for decades. Do you think our conversations have helped us better understand our housing market?

“It’s generated more heat than light.” Vancouver Sun, Jan. 12, 2018.

In spite of all this, Andy Yan, what do you think about how popular the movie Crazy Rich Asians was with Vancouverites?

“It’s talking about the dreams of class mobility, of wealth beyond dreams… in the face of a housing market where it is more like a Stephen King horror novel.” The Star, Sept. 5, 2019.

Andy Yan, we just had our civic elections last fall. I think the new councils elected are well suited to their cities.

“But how will they form a choir? And does it end up Handel’s ‘Messiah’ or the ‘Highway to Hell’?” Vancouver Sun, Oct. 17, 2018.

What do you think about amalgamating the municipalities of Metro Vancouver, Andy Yan? After all, bigger is better.

“You’ve got to balance out ‘bigger is better’ with ‘small is beautiful.’” Vancouver Sun, Dec. 27, 2018.

Andy Yan, how do we get people to accept gentle density?

“Planning and engagement in Vancouver needs to move away from being the sell job to the teaching moment.” Metro News, March 3, 2018.

Andy Yan, what will happen as our boomers age?

“We are a province headed into uncharted demographic territory, with an aging tsunami barrelling toward infrastructure and housing ill-prepared for it.” Vancouver Sun, Dec. 7, 2018.

Andy Yan, what do you think of how property values have risen?

“[What used to be] the top crust of residential real estate in Metropolitan Vancouver has now become the whole loaf.” Vancouver Sun, Jan. 9, 2018.

Andy Yan, can we officially say that the property market has cooled?

“We’ll only know moving forward, is this a break in the weather or is this climate change?” Vancouver Sun, Jan. 3, 2019.

Andy Yan, what do you think of B.C.’s move to collect PST on Airbnb rentals?

“In the housing realm of sub-one-per-cent vacancy rates, this tax is kind of like using cigarette taxes to pay for lung cancer treatments.” Vancouver Sun, Feb. 8, 2018

Tell me, Andy Yan, can we and other cities duplicate the economic development of a place like Seattle?

“The same culture that came up with Amazon also came up with grunge. How much of Amazon is actually the ‘child’ of Nordstrom and Nirvana? And how much of that ‘alchemy’ will transfer to another town?” Politico, Oct. 19, 2017. (Minor edits.)

Tell me something positive, Andy Yan. Your work on capital and inequality is depressing.

“Data points to a direction. It isn’t necessarily destiny.”  [Tyee]

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