Getting a grip on the vacant housing problem (plus: urban geology!)

David Wachsmuth

Urban geologist? What's that? Urban geologist? What’s that?

A new City of Vancouver proposal to start addressing the city’s scourge of speculation-driven housing vacancy is in the news. The municipal government wants to comprehensively identify vacant houses throughout the city, building on important work being done by the grassroots group Beautiful Empty Homes but leveraging governmental data (namely from BC Hydro) that the public doesn’t have access to.

I spoke to a number of news outlets about the proposal yesterday, starting with the Vancouver Sun, which focused on the spectre of xenophobia in discussions of Vancouver’s expensive property market. As I argued, though, the major issue here isn’t whether it’s foreigners buying houses or other Canadians, it’s that Vancouver’s housing market isn’t strongly connected to the local economy, and speculators buying properties but not living in them just makes that problem worse:

“The problem in Vancouver is that demand for housing doesn’t have that…

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Vancouver to hear from public on pot shops

Global News

VANCOUVER – Vancouver city council has decided to hold a public hearing on its proposal to regulate marijuana shops as the federal government made new demands Tuesday for the controversial plan to be dropped.

The vote was not unanimous, as Coun. Elizabeth Ball said the city has no right to regulate dispensaries for pot because it’s illegal in Canada.

“We need to work with our federal government if we want to do things right. As a lawmaker, I can’t say, ‘Oh, I pick and choose this law.’ I can’t,” Ball said outside chambers.

The city is considering new regulations to control illegal pot dispensaries. The rules would include a $30,000 licensing fee and require stores to be 300 metres from schools, community centres and each other.

Since 2012, pot dispensaries have quadrupled in Vancouver, going from fewer than 20 to 80 now. The city has blamed the rise on federal…

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In Search of the Source of the Tale: An Interview with Tuomas Holopainen of NIGHTWISH

Factory Worker Media

Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish Tuomas Holopainen of Nightwish

“You shouldn’t start telling a story if you don’t have a story to tell.” From his seat in the lunch room of Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre, Tuomas Holopainen leans forward and speaks into the digital audio recorder resting on the coffee table in front of him. “That’s always the main emphasis for me as a songwriter – I need a good story to tell: whether it’s a song about Native Americans; about the feeling of falling in love; about the departure of our [previous] vocalist; about appreciating our parents; whether it’s total fantasy, whatever – you really need to have the story first.”

As the founding member and principal songwriter of Nightwish, the longstanding Finnish symphonic metal outfit currently touring North America in support of its eight studio album, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Holopainen’s work consistently reflects his appreciation for narrative. With the exception of…

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