Condos under construction in Maple Ridge. (The NEWS files)

Condos under construction in Maple Ridge. (The NEWS files)

IN OUR VIEW: Variety in price, type of housing is key

We have more selection in the suburbs than Vancouver does – but we can still do better

Vancouver urbanists love to complain about the “missing middle” when it comes to housing in the big city.

They have condos, sure, highrises sprouting like mushrooms after the rain! And they have single family homes, vast tracts of them!

But where are the townhouses, the duplexes, the low-rise condos? That’s what they mean when they say “missing middle.” They’re looking for density that can also accommodate families, especially those on a budget.

The answer, for years, has been that the “missing middle” does exist. You just had to drive east to find it.

Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, Langley, Surrey, Abbotsford, Mission, and other outer suburbs have been increasing their density – without building too many big concrete towers – for the past couple of decades.

This is where single-family homes sat side-by-side with townhouses, where duplexes and fourplexes got approved, where towers were rare, but five-storey condos increasingly common.

Vancouver has chipped away at the restrictive single-family zoning that strangled many of its own neighbourhoods in recent years, allowing for more mid-level density. But that has yet to make a big impact on development patterns in the region as a whole.

So it’s easy to be smug in the suburbs, about our relatively progressive approach to densification.

But even out here, as we practice our own version of “new urbanism,” we still don’t have enough variety.

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In addition to a wider variety of building types and sizes, we need a wider variety of ownership forms and affordability ranges.

That means more rental apartments and duplexes and fourplexes, in a variety of configurations, including two- and three- and even four-bedroom units, suitable for housing families with kids, even a grandparent or two.

Just south of the Fraser River, Langley Township is welcoming its second co-housing project, a type of development in which the future owner-tenants design and fund their own project. We could use a few more of those!

We also need co-ops, a housing format that provides long-term stability for thousands of Canadians, but which never really developed out in the suburbs.

With the federal government saying it will back more co-operative housing projects as part of its housing strategy, now is the time to push. Builders and municipal councils need to go and try to grab some of that funding.

Variety is the spice of life, but having variety in housing allows people to live, period.

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