Painful Truth: Housing market adding to Langley traffic jams

Development patterns are skewing which roads we use the most.

This might sound a little weird, but the price of housing is also making things worse for many drivers here in Langley.

One of the issues that has come up frequently in the past couple of years is the mess that is 208th Street.

You could argue (I would) that the Township’s policy of getting developers to widen the road piecemeal is not great. It’s why 208th is a weird patchwork that widens and shrinks and has sidewalks that appear and disappear faster than a magician’s rabbit.

But there is another problem with 208th that has nothing to do with local policies.

This is about what’s getting developed, and how it’s weighting our new neighbourhoods in strange ways.

Development in Willoughby has been fastest and most intense in a few areas. The Yorkson and Carvolth areas are perpetual construction zones.

Drive down a side street, though, and whole areas look almost exactly as they did 20 or 30 years ago.

Generally, the farther you are from major roads, the less development you see.

That’s because, following standard development wisdom, higher density housing like condos and townhouses were planned to go next to the major roads. More density, more access to (theoretical) future transit. Single family homes were to be set further back from main roads.

But the price of an average single family home in Langley cracked $1 million back in mid-2017. And well before that, when it was around $700-800,000, a lot of young families gave up on ever owning a detached house.

They bought townhouses instead, or maybe condos.

Developers adapted. Multi-family housing developments were almost four times the number of single family developments in the Township last year.

Which means areas zoned for density are booming. And areas zoned for single family housing are growing much more slowly, or not at all.

What happens in 10 or 20 years?

Will the properties farther from the main roads, flipped endlessly, continue to decay, leaving us with vacant lots and dead houses?

Maybe home prices will finally crash, and single family homes will be built again in large numbers in Langley.

If home prices stay high, will we have to rezone for even more density? Not a popular choice, but if no one can afford a $1 million house, it might happen.

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