Vancouver is a maritime city, so, isn’t it time we started incorporating the sea into our thinking when grappling with our municipal problems?
The related problems of homelessness and affordable housing immediately come to mind. In the year 3 BC ( that’s Before Covid) I blogged an elegant solution to the problem of homelessness https://gentlemansrelish.ca/2017/12/09/enough-already/#more-627. Simply buy a used cruise ship, I suggested, park it in an empty patch of ocean in the harbour, and, voila- 2,000 or 3,000 well appointed beds instantly available, together with space for all of the ancillary services you could ever need, for far less money than we are currently throwing at the problem. Well, nobody listened, and here we are five years later, no closer to a solution, but having spent the better part of a billion dollars on band-aids.
OK, so maybe the ‘hard to house’ wouldn’t be the ideal tenants for a permanently parked cruise ship, – they would probably turn the boat into a slum in short order- but I still think its a housing idea with merit- for the right clientele. What about the temporary foreign workers we so desperately need to bolster our workforce? What about the young single working stiffs who are finding it impossible to find respectable, affordable rental accommodation? Or students? Having a micro-apartment aboard a well appointed cruise ship could become an attractive lifestyle.
And lets not forget that the world of work has changed forever, courtesy of Covid. Workers no longer need to live within an endurable daily commuting distance from their office. They now have the theoretical ability to live anywhere, although still tethered to an office that requires them to make regular guest appearances. They are the new commuters, needing a small pied-a-terre in the city for a couple of nights a week for work, with their main residence in a smaller community elsewhere. A cruise ship cabin would seem an ideal solution for the new hybrid work week.
But what of families, you ask? – well the ocean could provide a solution for them as well, in the form of float homes. It is a mystery to me why, in an environment where the land supply is restricted, but water is a so abundant, we don’t make better use of our waterways to host housing of all descriptions. There are indeed small pockets across the lower mainland where float home communities thrive, but truly, the potential for floating communities has barely been scratched.
The answer to our housing problem may truly be right at our doorstep, in the hundreds of miles of protected coastline, and river bank within Metro Vancouver, a priceless resource, should we be bold enough to re-imagine Vancouver as a truly maritime environment, where people live and work and commute on the sea, as well as beside it.