Mountain Doodles

spare time data, analysis, visualization

More on Teardowns

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A little over a year ago we ran some analysis on teardowns of single family homes in the City of Vancouver. We used the City of Vancouver open data to understand why some single family homes got torn down and other’s don’t.

Relying entirely on open data, there were some important questions that could not be answered. So together with Joe Dahmen at UBC’s School Of Architecture And Landscape Architecture we came back to the question and folded in transaction data from BC Assessment to add some more details and rigor.

The result turned out quite similar to what our initial cruder methods came up with, but it lead to some important refinements.

We won’t go into the details of the findings here, you can read the online data story if you are interested. Instead we will go into a little more details how the analysis was done and what is still missing.

2016 Census Data - Part 1

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Finally the first batch of 2016 census data has arrived on Tuesday AM and CensusMapper was updated with the new census numbers by mid-morning.

Dissemination Block data was a little harder to find, but with the help of some friendly StatCan people I finally managed to locate the data and add that too this afternoon.

Time for writing up some observations. I am hoping to find time to do this regularly as more data gets released.

Jane Jacobs’ Vancouver

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Some time ago I saw Geoff Boeing’s excellent package to generate Jane Jacobs style street grid images. It’s lots of fun to compare different cities that way.

It can be hard to represent one city by one square mile, so I thought it would be neat to use this to compare different parts of Vancouver. Some common themes emerge for the central parts, the more outlying areas display very differnet patterns.

Bumper Year for Thumb Twiddlers

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Almost a year has passed since we first noticed how sitting on single family homes and twiddling thumbs generates more income than working. And not just at the level of individual single family households. In the City of Vancouver, the cumulative land value gains of just the single family homes eclipsed the cumulative taxable earnings reported to the CRA for the entire population.

With the new assessment data available now, it is time to run the numbers and see how our thumb-twiddlers fared vs workers this year. If you thought last year’s twiddling thumbs returns were crazy high, you better hold onto your hats!

The Coveted $1.2m - $1.6m Vote

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Earlier this month the province increased the threshold for the homeowner grant from $1.2 million to $1.6 million dollars. It’s an election year, and with the BC Assessment data for the City of Vancouver now being available via their open data catalogue we can ask who exactly this move was targeting.

Restricted to the City of Vancouver, the answer is quite simple. There are about 24,000 single family homes, 1,200 duplex units and 4,000 condo units in that bracket.

Let’s take a closer look.

Updated Property Tax Data

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The property tax data for the City of Vancouver has been available for a while now, and with new assessment data becoming available soon everyone’s worried about what their property taxes will look like. The City just passed a 3.9% increase in their budget, so on average everyone will pay 3.9% more taxes than they did last year.

The exact change in property taxes varies from property to property. There is a nice overview on how this works in general, for the City of Vancouver there is an added complication of land value averaging meant to soften sudden land value increases, that effectively serves to lower taxes for single family homeowners in a rising market.

If that’s all to abstract for you, keep reading.

Character Retention

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Today I went to the City of Vancouver Character Retention open house. It was quite informative, city staff were helpful and knowledgeable, and the display board and feedback form asked many good questions. But I came away with a couple of points that I think need to be addressed further:

  • Faux character retention vs character design guidelines.

  • Understanding economic drivers of teardown decisions.
  • Evaluation of RT character retention policies.
  • Need to separate character retention from gentle ground-oriented density.

  • New Carrots


It gets a little wonky, so here the very short version:

  • Current and proposed “character retention” is hollow, just retains shell. Should be handled in design guidelines.
  • Real character (or heritage) retention should take closer look at underlying economic drivers to become more effective.
  • Gentle, ground-oriented density like 4-plexes is desperately needed in RS and RT, should be decoupled from “character retention”.

Trick-or-Treat 2016

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A year ago, as were were just getting CensusMapper up and running, we put out three Halloween-themed census maps. Those maps almost broke our servers when they went viral. At least as viral as census data goes. They were viewed by over 150,000 Canadians over the course of three days. And many of those came back to view the maps more than once.

Lots of things have happened at CensusMapper since last year, and we heeded the call and put some of CensusMapper’s prowess to use to make some important improvements for this Halloween.