No one could argue that Squamish has not been experiencing a real estate boom. However, along with that real estate boom a housing crisis is beginning to emerge in this coastal town.
Housing development and population growth have sky rocketed in Squamish over the last five to ten years, making access to home ownership increasingly elusive for those who have been living in Squamish long term, as the price for single family homes have reached and surpassed the million-dollar mark. This is the case even for Squamish residents who achieve the mean household income of $88,366 per annum, which is 26 percent higher than the provincial average (2016 Census ).
Squamish is a community that is spread over about 10 kilometers from Valleycliffe to Brackendale. The communities within that area are primarily comprised of large single-family homes that are not only expensive, but also isolated from key amenities like groceries, coffeeshops and other small businesses. This had made Squamish feel a little lacking in community cohesion as everyone drives to where they are going, not to mention the above affordability factor.
It is only in the last 5 years that there has been a large growth in the development of townhomes, however, with a few exceptions many of these townhomes are also located far away from amenities. Other housing forms, such as duplexes and fourplexes are lacking. You might be asking yourself why this even matters?
It matters because it creates a large housing gap called “The Missing Middle.”
What is the Missing Middle?
The missing middle is a term that was coined by architect Daniel Parolek to describe “a range of multi-unit or clustered housing types compatible in scale with single-family homes that help meet the growing demand for walkable urban housing.” (Abrahms) So what does all of that really mean?
It means that Squamish has fallen prey to a housing crisis that exists across North America, where zoning by laws and the desire to achieve the “American Dream,” (yes, even on the rugged coastline of British Columbia) have meant that a diverse range of housing has gone missing from our cities.
What types of Housing Comprise the Missing Middle?
The Missing Middle is primarily comprised of the following housing types:
- Row/Townhouses; and
- Cottage court
Some key characteristics of the Missing Middle are:
- Fits seamlessly in with existing neighbourhoods
- Promotes compact neighbourhoods that promote walkability and commercial amenities, such as restaurants and small businesses
- Age diverse
- Provides a spectrum of affordability; and
- Rentals or owner occupied
The housing types combined with the key characteristics of the Missing Middle really make it a great solution for Squamish, where varieties of housing, walkability and affordability are all issues facing the community at large.
In addition, the Missing Middle is an environmentally friendly option as the housing types use less land to house more people than the more traditional single-family homes, not to mention the reduced green house gas emissions related to living in a walkable community.
Opening the doors to more conscious development in Squamish, that includes projects that provide Missing Middle housing will go a long way to create a more diverse and connected community.