Thursday, March 4, 2021

Moving beyond lip service to protect our region’s shrinking industrial land base

For about five years now, Metro Vancouver Regional District staff and the business community have been raising the alarm about our region’s shrinking industrial land base. Industrial lands support 26% of the jobs in our region.

Industrial land in Metro Vancouver. Total Inventory by Detailed Type of Land Use (2015). Source: Metro Vancouver Regional District

The industrial land base is shrinking due to other land-uses such as residential, retail, and office.

To convert industrial land to other uses today, a majority vote of the municipality in which the land resides plus a majority vote of the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board is required. As I posted recently, regional district staff proposed that the regional voting threshold increase to a two-thirds majority vote.

Unfortunately, the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board recently voted against this proposal. The Board includes mayors and councillors appointed by their respective municipalities. Votes are weighted based on the population each Board Director represents.

I was extremely disappointed that most Directors voted against increasing the protection of our industrial land base.

Another challenge in our region is that industrial land is defined differently within each municipality. These differences cause non-industrial uses to crop up in industrially zoned land such as retail, showrooms, and offices.

Metro Vancouver Regional District staff propose updating the regional definition of industrial land to:

Industrial areas are primarily intended for heavy and light industrial activities including: distribution, warehousing, repair, construction yards, infrastructure, outdoor storage, wholesale, trade, e-commerce, emerging technology-driven forms of industry, and appropriately-related and scaled accessory uses.
The intensification and densification of industrial activities and forms are encouraged, which are contextually appropriate to the surrounding community. Limited industrial-serving commercial uses that support the primary industrial functions are appropriate. Residential uses are not intended.

Langley City permits building supply stores, indoor recreation facilities, call centres, and some office uses within industrial zones. Langley City will have to update its permitted uses within industrially zoned land if the Metro Vancouver Regional District Board updates the definition of industrial uses. Current businesses would be grandfathered.

Since being elected to Langley City council, I’ve heard many elected representatives talk about the importance of protecting our industrial land base. I hope we can turn that talk into action.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Langley City’s draft Official Community Plan key to getting SkyTrain

When building SkyTrain extensions, TransLink requires municipalities to sign Supportive Policies Agreements. Because of the significant federal, provincial, and regional dollars that go into extending SkyTrain, TransLink wants to ensure that these extensions provide the most benefit for people and businesses in our region.

TransLink wants to avoid the situation along the Millennium Line between Brentwood Town Centre and Production Way. These stations service low-density areas, and as a result, have low boardings from those stations.

Langley City will be required to sign a Supportive Policies Agreement to get SkyTrain.

Surrey’s Supportive Policies Agreement was a topic at the latest TransLink’s Mayors’ Council meeting. This agreement links Surrey’s policies with TransLink’s “6 Ds.”

We are in the process of updating our Official Community Plan (OCP) in Langley City. Langley’s draft new plan also addresses TransLink’s “6 Ds.”

Destinations: Coordinate land use and transportation
Langley City’s draft OCP enables building the highest density around the two SkyTrain stations at 196th Street and 203rd Street.

Distance: Create a Well-Connected Street Network
Langley City’s draft OCP will create “an environment that is safe and welcoming for the most vulnerable users first, and encourage people to walk, cycle, roll, and take transit, rather than prioritizing faster vehicle traffic.” Also, it will “reduce travel distances by creating more direct connections to destinations. This includes building connections by providing multiple direct route options, reducing block sizes, and adding mid-block crossings where necessary.”

Design: Create Places for People
Langley City’s draft OCP is based on our Nexus of Community vision. Its four themes are community, connected, experiences and integration. Langley City proposes to build a performing art centre Downtown. High-quality public plazas will be integrated into areas immediately adjacent to SkyTrain stations.

Diversity: Concentrate and Intensify Activities Near Frequent Transit
Beyond building the highest densities near SkyTrain, Langley City is also proposing to allow duplexes, triplexes, townhomes, and walkable neighbourhood commercial nodes along 200th Street and 208th Street. These mixes of housing types and commercial nodes will support the frequent bus network, which feeds into SkyTrain.

Diversity: Encourage a Mix of Uses
The draft OCP includes new mixed-use areas with ground-level retail and offices/housing above, between 200th Street and 208th Street along Fraser Highway.

Demand Management: Discourage Unnecessary Driving
Langley City’s draft OCP will prioritize walking, cycling, and taking transit. Its draft policies include managing public parking to reduce demand and reducing minimum on-site parking requirements for areas near SkyTrain stations and frequent bus routes.

Langley City’s draft Official Community Plan ensures that we can sign a Supportive Policies Agreement with TransLink or the province.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Langley City Internet Safety & Crime Prevention Video

Langley City Crime Prevention Task Group member Lida put together the following educational and entertaining short video on keeping yourself safe while using the Internet and protecting yourself from online fraud.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Langley City’s Housing Needs Report: More affordable rental units and townhouses are needed

Recently, the provincial government started requiring local governments to produce Housing Needs Reports. These reports must be updated every five years and identify current and future housing needs in a community. Local governments should use the information in these reports to update Official Community Plans and Regional Growth Strategies.

Langley City Council received its first Housing Needs Report last Monday.

The report identifies several challenges and gaps in housing within Langley City. Affordability across the housing continuum from supportive housing and below-market rental to market rental and ownership remains a concern.

There is not enough supportive housing and other forms of subsidized housing available in Langley City to meet the demand now and into the future. In the next five years, about one-third of Langley City households will not have affordable housing options. Affordability means that a household must not spend more than 30% of their income on housing.

Projected Affordability by Income Segment, Housing Type, and Housing Tenure in 2024. Select table to enlarge.

You would need to make $182,000 to buy a single-family home in Langley City in 2024. This income requirement restricts single-family homeownership to about 10% of the population of Langley City.

More encouraging is that you would need to have a household income of $92,460 to own a townhome or rowhouse in Langley City by 2024. About 41% of the population of Langley City can afford to own a townhome or rowhouse.

The affordable housing crisis is why Langley City’s draft new Official Community Plan proposes introducing townhomes and rowhouses along the 200th Street and 208th Street corridors. We need to ensure that our community remains an affordable place for people to raise a family.

Langley City also needs to encourage more affordable market rental options in our community, including allowing people to age-in-place. The number of adaptable and accessible housing units must increase.

Langley City’s draft new Official Community Plan encourages more purpose-built rental. It also includes a one-for-one rental unit replacement policy to ensure that we do not reduce the number of rental units in a neighbourhood. It also contains a robust tenant relocation policy to ensure that a developer must treat people fairly during a permanent relocation process.

Overall, the Housing Needs Report identified that more 1-bedroom and 3+ bedroom units are needed in Langley City over the next five years.

For more information, please read the full House Needs Report.