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Letter to Vancouver School Board trustees: What if the forecast for declining enrolment is wrong?
Seems like a bad idea to make irreversible decisions about selling or leasing land
[Update: at tonight’s board meeting, the board announced that they’d already decided earlier in the day to ask staff for an update to the long-range enrolment forecast, and suspend the process for closing schools and selling or leasing surplus land. Video clip by Vik Khanna.]
There’s some controversy over the VSB’s long-term forecast of declining enrolment. ABC has a majority on the nine-member board, and the board appears to be moving forward with plans to close schools and sell or lease surplus land, based on that forecast. Vancouver Sun, June 2023: The Vancouver school board projects declining enrolment. B.C. Stats suggest otherwise. Who's right?
“They’ve defined this model in an utterly unique way that is completely at odds with any planning norm,” [Michael] Hooper said. “They preclude virtually all future development from their model.
“They don’t include all approved development that (hasn’t yet moved) to construction,” he said. “So Jericho lands, Heather lands, Senakw, the entire Broadway corridor … are not included in this model.”
The Senakw development alone is projected to add as much as 11,000 residents, Hooper said.
There's a Vancouver School Board meeting tonight. One of the motions they’ll consider will be to direct staff to study the impact of Vancouver's recently passed multiplex program. I sent an email to the ABC trustees yesterday.
Thank you for serving on the school board! My name is Russil Wvong. I’m with an informal pro-housing group called VANA, the Vancouver Area Neighbours Association (vaneighbours.ca), which includes a lot of younger people and renters. We’re very concerned about housing being so scarce and expensive in Vancouver, and we’ve been speaking at public hearings to support more housing. Right now, the lack of housing results in prices and asking rents rising to unbearable levels, to keep people out.
I understand that since 2018, the long-range forecast from Baragar Infosystems has been that VSB enrolment will gradually decline. (The 2011 forecast was for increasing enrolment.)
I’m writing to request that you consider a range of long-term enrolment scenarios, including increasing enrolment, rather than just assuming that Baragar's current forecast of declining enrolment will be 100% accurate and making irreversible plans based on this, such as selling or leasing surplus land. (“Predictions are hard, especially about the future.” In 2022, enrolment was back up to 2017 levels.)
Vancouver city council, the provincial government, and the federal government are all pushing for more housing. The municipal government just passed a policy change allowing four-plexes and six-plexes on a single lot; the provincial government is planning province-wide changes, including transit-oriented development; and the new federal housing minister just wrote a letter to Halifax stating that in order for the city to receive Housing Accelerator funding, it would need to allow four storeys by right everywhere in the city. Vancouver has also applied for Housing Accelerator funding, and can anticipate similar requirements.
If these efforts are successful in producing significantly more housing, the people who would move here are people who can’t afford to live here now, but who would be able to afford prices and asking rents which are somewhat lower. We’ve seen this happen in Auckland after its 2016 land use reform.
In particular, the multiplex program will support family-sized homes. City staff reported that a four-plex isn’t economically viable on a 33-foot lot, but the program also includes a significant floor space bonus for energy-efficient (“Passivhaus”) construction. It’s quite possible that we’ll see a lot more family-sized 1200-square-foot homes built over the next few years, all over the city.
Agenda for tonight’s meeting. The motion (from COPE’s Suzie Mah) is on the last two pages
Current Long Range Facilities Plan - approved January 2021
2022 enrolment was back up to 2017 levels: 2022-2023 enrolment update, January 2023
The graph is from this presentation: Enrolment Validation, November 2019