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Choosing Our Future: Greater Vancouver Urban Futures Opinion Survey, Technical Report

Author Walter Hardwick, Raymond Torchinsky, Arthur Fallick
Year of
Subject Area Public opinion - urban issues and attitudes, including housing
Greater Vancouver Regional District
Format Report - 118 pages plus map appendix
Funding Agency/Source Greater Vancouver Regional District
The primary objective of this survey was to solicit public opinion about the attitudes of Greater Vancouver residents towards a range of economic, social, mobility and lifestyle issues and to compare the results with those of a similar survey conducted in 1973.

Two components of the study are of particular interest in the context of housing NIMBY - Community Life and Built Environment.

Methodology The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 1,053 GVRD residents, supplemented by 238 telephone interviews. The sampling strategy was chosen to obtain as representative a sample as possible at both the regional and sub-regional scale.

The questions were divided into seven separate sections:

  • attitude response (65 statements);
  • community and regional issues (54 items);
  • regional environment (seven questions);
  • transportation patterns of the respondent;
  • housing situation/history of the respondent;
  • employment status/occupational history of the respondent; and
  • household characteristics.
The GVRD was divided into 16 sub-regions in order to investigate spatial response variation. Key demographic variables were also recorded to allow the researchers to explore other significant differences in responses.

Results from 143 variables contained in the survey are presented under six sub-headings:

  • Environment;
  • Community Life;
  • Mobility;
  • Built Environment;
  • Managing Growth; and
  • Governance.
Key Findings, Conclusions The report presents the findings of the survey in a comprehensive manner. Those items most related to Housing NIMBY were:
  • seventy-five per cent of respondents agreed that a diversity of lifestyles should be encouraged in the city. Conversely, in response to the statement "attempting to mix lifestyles in any one part of the city only leads to friction", 63 per cent disagreed. However, of interest, higher than average responses to this statement were recorded by men, residents of single family homes and people in the 55 to 64 and over 65 age groups;
  • the issue of housing affordability was ranked 10th among the community and regional issues, with 80 per cent of respondents rating it as either very important or critical. Those expressing the most concern were residents of Burnaby North, households in multi-family housing and those aged 65 and over;
  • providing assistance to homeless people ranked 14th overall, with women and people living in Langley rating it significantly more important;
  • more than 65 per cent regarded housing densities as being very or critically important, and roughly the same proportion agreed with the statement that future housing should be built at higher densities on the site of current housing rather than on existing open land;
  • seventy-five per cent were prepared to have affordable housing in their own neighbourhood - a higher than average response for affordable housing "in my neighbourhood" was found in Vancouver Centre, Surrey North and Maple Ridge. In response to a question on low income housing, 50 per cent were prepared to have it located in their neighbourhood.
  • there were significant gender differences among the respondents. The top eight issues for which women expressed significantly higher ratings were: - providing assistance to the homeless
    • affordable housing - provision of welfare
    • housing for the elderly where they desire
    • air pollution from industry
    • day care protecting agricultural land
    • affordable housing for the first time buyer
  • there was enormous variation among the 16 sub-regions and no consistent patterns emerged. The authors conclude that the old dichotomies of core-periphery, east-west and city-suburb are no longer generalizations that provide unambiguous conclusions; and
  • the 1990 survey largely reaffirmed the principles of the 1973 Livable Region Strategy.
Applicability for British Columbians This survey's results related to housing will be of particular interest to social housing developers and housing providers in the Lower Mainland, although the findings may also be useful for other communities. The large size sample and rigorous research methodology used by the research team resulted in a survey which was quite representative of the various sub-regions and social groupings that make up the urban population.

Relatively strong support for affordable housing and low income housing being located in "our own neighbourhood" was indicated. Although, overall, there was a good level of support for diversity of lifestyles in the city, there was some indication of lesser support among men, people living in single family homes and older age groups.

For interested readers, reference should also be made to those portions of the survey related to Community and Family Life and, in particular, to the spatial patterns of response related to issues of crime, homelessness, and welfare.

Other Comments This is an important indicator of public opinion on a wide range of urban issues. The housing/built form sections provide a general context - and some valuable support - for groups contemplating the development of non-market housing.

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