Photo: Hungju Lu/Flickr

As Vancouver faces a housing shortage and the city’s population ages, international developer Grosvenor says densification is needed to increase supply for the elderly.

In 2015, seniors (65+) accounted for 13 per cent of Vancouver’s population and that number is expected to rise to 19 per cent by 2030, according to Grosvenor’s Silver Cities report, published Monday.

With a lack of available land in Vancouver, long permit timelines and public resistance, Grosvenor says more high density housing is essential to increase ownership homes and rental supply for seniors.

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“This constraint on space means densification within existing communities is required, especially as there is a strong desire among older people to remain in neighbourhoods where they have established their lives and social network,” writes James Patillo, Managing Director, Development at Grosvenor Americas.

Although there is currently demand for new residential condos in the city, Patillo says there is resistance to these types of developments, particularly in neighbourhoods that need it the most.

“The strong NIMBY (Not-In-My-BackYard) tendencies present in many municipalities means the very people who have reached or are reaching retirement are often the ones opposed to those plans,” he writes.

He adds that many municipalities are not creating specific zones or land parcels for the use of senior housing or a care facility. This in turn allows land prices to escalate, deterring developers from building less profitable seniors housing.

To bring more high density housing to the city, the government will have to find quick solutions to create more supply for downsizers without putting additional strain on existing civil and transportation infrastructure, says Patillo.

Another challenge will be accommodating the increase of seniors in the city’s rental segment — which currently has a vacancy rate below one per cent. Patillo says the government will likely have to assist by possibly rezoning areas for senior-assisted living and care homes.

“The challenge is for municipalities to encourage the construction of more accommodation for both sale and rent, marketed to older people while at the same time meeting demand from the younger generations,” he writes.

Patillo acknowledges that Vancouverites are being more open-minded about densification as the YIMBY (Yes-In-My-Back-Yard) movement is spreading among the younger generations who realize that more high density housing is needed.

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