Opinion: Renters Shouldn't Be a 'Buffer' for Single-Family Homes

Despite the well-documented impacts of traffic noise and pollution, Vancouver's housing policy effectively relegates multi-family apartment buildings to busy arterial roads.

Read Time: 2 minutes

October 28, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

British Columbia residential Neighborhoods

EB Adventure Photography / Shutterstock

"Instead of planning for housing options in locations that maximize the health and well-being of residents, policymakers are mandating that people who prefer more compact, energy-efficient, and lower-cost homes can only live on traffic-choked arterial streets—and must suffer all the bad health consequences," writes Daniel Oleksiuk of Vancouver's housing policy that recommends the construction of new multi-family apartment buildings on arterial roads as a "buffer" for noise and pollution. Yet research increasingly shows the detrimental impacts of exposure to traffic pollution, such as respiratory disease, cancer, and mental health impacts.

"This November, Vancouver City Council will vote on the Secured Rental Policy, a proposal to legalize six-story rental apartments on busy arterial roads and four-story rentals on the adjacent side streets." According to Oleksiuk, "[u]nless the draft Secured Rental Policy is amended to open up more of the city to multi-dwelling homes, Vancouver’s official position will remain clear: renters are fodder for protecting those fortunate enough to own detached houses on big lots."

Although some families might prefer to live on arterial streets close to public transit, Oleksiuk argues that "[t]he issue at play is one of choice: arterial streets should not be the only places where families living on lower incomes should be able to afford." With most Vancouver renters priced out of the single-family and condo markets, apartment dwellers are unfairly exposed "to the increased health risks that come from living on busy, arterial roads."

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