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Who are we building these giant homes for in Richmond?

The Richmond News took a tour around the city to witness the big changes in some of our neighbourhoods and it's not all for the better

Driving around some neighbourhoods in west and central Richmond, there is, with regularity, something odd.

There is something connecting many of these quiet, residential streets, yet there is also something conspicuous by its absence.

What connects them is the proliferation of massive homes – some relatively young in age - being torn down and/or rebuilt into even larger properties.

What’s missing is life. People. Families. Children.

None of the construction taking place, on the face of it anyway, is breaking any zoning or permit rules, they’re just maxing out on the available square footage for that particular neighbourhood, one outdoing the other trying to get an edge in the market.

Where have all the people gone?

The end result is streets, avenues, roads and cul de sacs being devoid of human activity, save for the reversing warning from a dump truck, the jarring screech of a circular saw or the pounding of a carpenter’s hammer.

As we drive around the likes of McKay, Broadmoor, Dixon and The Monds – where a price tag of four or five million is the norm - there is one question that comes up, time and time again…just who are these giant homes being built for?

“It’s hard to explain how I feel,” said Kerry Starchuk, a McKay neighbourhood resident of 34 years, when looking around her formerly quiet cul de sac, now a menagerie of water pumps, excavators and fenced-off properties.

“I feel displaced; I feel like I’m not supposed to be here. I walk around here and it’s so strange.

“I think, ‘how come everybody’s left?’ I’m still here, trying to adjust. Who are these houses being built for?”


Transient homeowners not around long enough to become neighbours

Starchuk, a community advocate who has shone the spotlight on various issues in Richmond over the years, pointed out that there’s “no continuity” in the rebuilding and design of all these massive, single-family dwellings, many of which appear to have different developers.

“You can’t make friends, because it’s a rotation of houses and homeowners,” added Starchuk.

“In the past, we all knew our neighbours. Today, we have no clue. It’s lifeless. The curtains are drawn, there are no cars in the driveway.

“Even some of the newer mansions show sign of decay, because no one is living in them, for at least most of the year.”

It didn’t matter which road we drove down or which corner we turned, we found at least a couple of homes coming down or one going up.

In one week alone last month, the City of Richmond issued 15 demolition permits for properties across the city, many of which were in the aforementioned neighbourhoods.

In The Monds – the affluent community in west Richmond, south-west of No. 1 and Francis roads – some of the homes being redeveloped appeared to be in decent shape.

“Some of them should come down,” Starchuk observed, “but some of them are pretty new, well maintained and they’re still coming down.”

“One by one, the life is being sucked out of these neighbourhoods. The people that I do see are here for two or three years, perhaps as an investment, then they’re gone.

“The first signs of real change happened about 2010. Since the Olympics people started to look at their assessments and sold.”


Property increased by almost $1 million in 10 years

Indeed, Starchuk’s own assessment of her detached property has gone up almost $1 million in 10 years.

But she doesn’t want to leave the city she’s spent most of her life in or the neighbourhood where her kids grew up.

“This is my home, I’m still very attached to it and the community,” she said.


Teacher's future lies outside of Richmond

Many professional individuals, couples and families in Richmond are slowly coming to terms with the realization they will never own a property locally.

One of them, a teacher called Beau Tanner – a native of Calgary who moved to Vancouver in 2008 and then to Richmond four years ago - noticed straight away something wasn’t quite right when he moved into rented accommodation in Broadmoor.

“I went for a walk here around the neighbourhoods, I thought ‘what do all these people do for a job?’

“Then I thought, ‘this is great, how can I get in on this?’  But I came to realize, these people don’t have jobs that I can get.

“These people must be bringing their money from offshore and concentrating it into this community.

“From the start it felt eerie, few kids were out playing. Few people around. It got much more active right around the time of COVID.”

Tanner, 42, moved to Richmond in 2018 to be closer to work, now lives in a studio apartment that makes up a four-way split inside a sub-divided house.

“I have my own space, but I know, as I look out the window of my apartment, that I’m never going to own anything around here.

“I see mansion after mansion after mansion. I looked up Google Earth and most of the houses have gone up in the last five years.”

The “who they getting built for” question was proffered once more.

“I don’t know. Offshore wealth I guess. It’s not for people working and living around here,” added Tanner, who says, ultimately, he will be forced to leave Richmond like so many before him.

“It’s not just getting onto the property ladder, the rental situations are problematic.

“You never know when the landlord is going to sell. The prices of rent are volatile, upwards.”

Another community advocate, Laura Gillanders, Tweeted last month about spotting a “six-suite hotel” on a single-family lot being advertised for rent on

“Smaller homes are more likely to be lived in by families and seniors, rented to families and young people,” wrote Gillanders.


Olympic medalist observed dramatic change during training walks around Richmond

Even Richmond’s own Olympic bronze medalist, Evan Dunfee, contacted the Richmond News recently to express his astonishment as he race-walked around the streets of his native city.

“On one of my regular 16km training walks around west Richmond I decided to take a snapshot in time of all the current construction I saw,” said Dunfee.

“In this one moment, on these few streets, there were over 40 single-family homes being replaced with McMansions.

“These lots are now locked away for 30+ years of unaffordability to the overwhelming majority of Richmond residents.

“Our housing discourse at City Hall, in the paper and online does not talk about this enough.”

Dunfee said everyone “must fight for more below market housing and we need a massive increase of rental stock to bridge the chasm years of inaction has caused.

“But quietly, under our noses, is the proliferation of the most exclusionary, least affordable and least sustainable form of housing.”

Dunfee, who has expressed a desire to run for city council in the fall election, said the city needs to be “incentivizing a mix of housing types in every neighbourhood. We used to.

“I live in a 4-storey, 45-unit apartment built in 1981. It’s on a quiet street next to an elementary school, a high school and a community centre. I have two grocery stores within a mile. The bus stop is 300m away.

“Allowing a greater mix of housing types like infill apartments, laneway homes, and 4-plexes doesn’t mean we stop building single-family homes, it just means that we stop allowing nothing but single-family homes on the vast majority of our land…”