25 February 2009

Development vs. "Development"

Oh joy, oh joy! "Development" is coming to a neighbourhood near you!

Of the 54,000 hectares of Vancouver Island TimberWest Forest Corp plans to sell, the company is eyeing ten parcels of land in the Cowichan Valley - that very same valley in which Daphne and I reside.

These parcels include Mount Prevost, Honeymoon Bay, Renfrew Road, Shawnigan Lake, the Malahat, Skutz Falls and an area described by the company as Paldi South.

Real estate whiz Bob Rennie, who made tons of cash when he brought the derelict Woodward's store in east Vancouver to a sellout conclusion during the great condo boom [can you tell this paper is pro-"development"?], is the man at the front of TimberWest’s ambitious plan to develop about 15,000 of the 55,000 hectares it plans to take out of island forest lands. TimberWest said the rest of the 55,000 hectares would be used as a green buffer to keep the new developments sustainable.

But Rennie said the island property will not lend itself to more condos.

"It's not about creating urban centres," he said. "It's about creating real land and real uses for homeowners, whether that's manufactured home parks or homesteading on one-acre or five-acre developments, farming; we're going to look at real needs."

First, you don't go about "creating" land or making it anymore "real" than it was before. You claim ownership of land which already exists sans human activity. Then you impute to it a monetary value.

As for TimberWest-claimed land being for "homeowners," what about the dearth of affordable housing in this Valley - not just to buy, but to rent? Our vacancy rate is below one percent and a disproportionate number of households fall within the lowest income level.

So yes, if you're going to talk about looking at "real" needs, then affordable housing must top the list. Perhaps that's what "manufactured home parks or homesteading" means. However, manufactured or mobile homes shot up in price just as regular housing did. Nothing suggests that prices will come down all the way to pre-boom times.

As for "homesteading," that sounds good, back when the term meant someone plonking themselves onto land and claiming it for their own without having to pay anyone for doing so. But I doubt that's the definition of 'homesteading' which TimberWest has in mind.

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