The Connections Between Housing, Transit & the Business Community
You may be wondering why the Delta Chamber of Commerce, as a business advocacy organization, is speaking to you about topics like housing and transportation, which may seem unrelated to commerce. The reality is that businesses in Delta – like those across the province and in places across North America – need employees. The talent crunch was an issue in Delta before the pandemic hit and has only been highlighted and exacerbated by its effects. Businesses need workers and those workers need homes and access to transportation and public transit options. They need the opportunity to live, work, and play in their community.
Ingrained into the Delta Chamber of Commerce’s Constitution is the objective that we “promote and improve trade and commerce and the economic, civic, and social welfare within the community of Delta.” Founded in 1910 as the Delta Board of Trade, the Delta Chamber of Commerce has a long history within our community, and after more than 100 years here, we are actively learning from the past, living and working mindfully in the present, and planning wisely and strategically for the future; with economic, civic, and social welfare in mind as all three of these components are integral to business success.
According to results from a recent province-wide survey, business owners across B.C. – including the majority of businesses here in Delta – are very interested in seeing measures implemented that will “create housing choices that are accessible to young people.” Currently the City of Delta has an opportunity to set an example of what it looks like to be a community that values providing a diversity of affordable, market rate, and attainable housing options for its residents, and which prioritizes bringing more public transit access into the community. The City does this by planning for the option of future mid-density growth by approving with Ladner Village Official Community Plan (OCP) amendments that are coming forward to Council for review. We know from City of Delta’s Housing Action Plan (pg. 26) that “economic analysis showed that low density housing forms [four-storeys or less] are unlikely to achieve significant affordability” and therefore if we as a community want more attainable options for housing, medium and high-density choices are necessary to meet this goal.
What was once a common form of smaller house from the past - the “starter home” that a first-time home buyer would have purchased - is now nearly non-existent across most of North America due to property costs and connected exclusionary zoning restrictions. The modern version of a “starter home” is a condominium. At the time of writing this letter, the least expensive property for sale in Ladner is a condo listed at $399,900 and there are no townhouses are sale. Demand for housing has outstripped supply and this has driven the cost of housing so high that it has become inaccessible to many. Without approving more “starter home” housing options, like condos, in our communities we will limit those whose participation in our community and economy we most want to encourage and maintain.
Some community members have expressed concerns that six-storey buildings would “ruin” the heritage of Ladner Village. For those who may not be aware, one of the memorable sights in Ladner Village for many decades was the Surrey Co-op building, which was located on the current Dunbar Lumber site; one of the properties which would be considered for future re-development of up to six-storeys with the Ladner Village OCP amendments. The Surrey Co-op building was itself at least six storeys tall. This building is easily viewable in Delta Archives photos from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. Those who are concerned that a six-storey building would not fit in with the heritage of the Ladner Village area can be reassured that such buildings are very much reflective of the history and heritage of buildings that existed in the heart of Ladner Village. Four to six-storey residential and mixed-use buildings are an example of low-rise, gentle densification in a commercial district, and they reflect the “missing middle” of housing necessary in our community and many others in Metro Vancouver.
In moving forward and planning for the future, we also know that to justify service improvements from Translink, a community must show a greater density of housing and a plan to develop “Frequent Transit Development Areas.” Without enough residents in an area, Translink cannot warrant providing more frequent or extended service. Looking both at the present, our near future with the reality of traffic jams and accidents in the George Massey Tunnel, and with at least nine years until a replacement is complete and ready for use, public transit and active transportation are not only the right choice for environmental sustainability but also a practical necessity for businesses and residents alike.
The unique strengths and assets of our community lie not only in where we’ve come from in our heritage, but also in where we choose to go together in the future. By investing in a greater variety of housing options and embracing the diversity of those who live, work, and play in our communities, Delta can live out its Foundations for the Future Social Pursuit goals and “work towards a better future for everyone” and its Community Economic Sustainability goals by helping “Delta businesses thrive.”