I’m one of the lucky ones: I own a townhouse in New Westminster. How I came to be in this envious position is a story for another time, but since the very moment my partner and I bought this little gem the Brow of the Hill neighbourhood we realized our good fortune.
I’ve always felt that I had something of a nomad soul, unwilling to plant my roots deep into the soil. I resisted home ownership until I found somewhere I absolutely could not resist. Owning any sort of property in the Lower Mainland puts us in a fairly exclusive class. Having spent several years working with families who were forced into homelessness due to crisis, I can fully appreciate my own privilege. Overloaded bookshelves, a sliver of a backyard, a den off the hallway that I call my nest— these luxuries are sadly becoming less than the norm.
I participated with great interest in the Official Community Plan events over the past year. I heard many people express concern about increased density and the perceived negative community impact. I heard concerns that the younger generation is already priced out of every owning any sort of home. I heard people decry the condos in the downtown area while staunchly defending the enormous heritage homes up the hill. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle.
I grew up on Vancouver Island and my backyard edged on a ravine. I still dream about running through my backdoor, through the cedars that edged the yard and into what seemed like wild territory. I bitterly miss leaving the windows open in the springtime to hear the romantic crooning of randy frogs. This is something I will never have in New Westminster. But perhaps I have the next best thing; those frog melodies have been replaced with the war cries of my neighbours kids as they battle each other from yard to yard. I chat with their parents about my clematis that has casually draped itself over their Japanese maple. On the other side, the neighbour reminds us to cut our grass and asks if we want the bench he’s getting rid of. My tiny backyard has become a giant French potager in my imagination and I buy seeds enough to feed the entire neighbourhood—if only I had the room for them to grow!
It’s clear that New Westminster doesn’t have the land base to accommodate any more single family housing developments. Just as clear is that not everyone wants to live in a condo. I strongly support the middle road that would include townhouses, rowhouses, and fourplexes in addition to the condos that will inevitably be built. I believe some heritage homes could be converted to multi-family housing to create beautiful options for families who want to live in New Westminster while still preserving the feel of the neighbourhood. I want to initiate a discussion about co-housing as an option for families, seniors, and everyone in between. I’d also like to hear ideas about how we can make condos more community-focused, both for the people who live in these towers and for those who are dwarfed in their shadows on the sidewalk.
Let’s face it—New Westminster is a desirable place to live. As the region grows, so too will New West. We need more diverse housing options for people who want to settle here and make the community their home.