The Death and Life of the Single-family House

The Death and Life of the Single-family House

Lessons From Vancouver on Building A Livable City

Book - 2016
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Vancouver today is recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world as well as an international model for sustainability and urbanism. Single-family homes in this city are "a dying breed." Most people live in the various low-rise and high-rise urban alternatives throughout the metropolitan area.The Death and Life of the Single-Family House explains how residents in Vancouver attempt to make themselves at home without a house. Local sociologist Nathanael Lauster has painstakingly studied the city's dramatic transformation to curb sprawl. He tracks the history of housing and interviews residents about the cultural importance of the house as well as the urban problems it once appeared to solve.Although Vancouver's built environment is unique, Lauster argues that it was never predestined by geography or demography. Instead, regulatory transformations enabled the city to renovate, build over, and build around the house. Moreover, he insists, there are lessons here for the rest of North America. We can start building our cities differently, and without sacrificing their livability.
Publisher: Philadelphia : Temple University Press, [2016]
ISBN: 9781439913932
Branch Call Number: 333.338 L38d
Characteristics: xii, 246 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


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Feb 11, 2017

This book provides some good historical background on how the idea of Single Family House is entrenched in a city like Vancouver through the evolution of social mores into zoning bylaws. It also paints an interesting portrait of how Vancouver has evolved from a SFH-dense city to one which has the lowest ratio of such of any major North American city and into its current standing as a progenitor of "Vancouverism" model of urban planning.

Unfortunately the qualitative sections (i.e. interviews with residents, common with this academic genre) are likely conversations you've engaged in as Vancouver resident so it was a bit boring. As well, there wasn't any substantive solution offered in terms of planning directions though perhaps as this was not its aim. One is left with the perception that municipal democracy wields significant power to effect local government to exercise wealth redistribution through bylaws. What may be interesting in a future update would be to interview home builders and their clientele so that there is a more balanced representation of the interests on both sides of this issues, between those who own SFHs and those who don't.


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