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Philosophy of Alternative Futures: Housing

Alternative Futures is an interactive website and video resource. It is an opportunity, for the first time, for citizens to have immediate and personal access to future visions of Vancouver. It is a tool to democratize the debate around housing.

Too often, when a development is proposed for a neighbourhood, inquiring citizens feel they have only one option: complete opposition. Citizens are confused when they come into conflict over housing. They lack information, and are dimly aware of generations of bad planning which have left a legacy of doubt.

Alternative Futures is about “ground-truthing the theory”: can we take theoretical ideas of development, neighbourhood intensity, livability, and sustainability, and make them tangible for the inquiring mind? The interactive website and video resource is a hot medium, and like slipping into a warm bath, or reading the Saturday news, the user is immersed, absorbed and engaged. With this tool, citizens become part of the narrative. The website informs and levers a political will. It ends up being the voice of the people – owned by the user, about the user, for the user.

By providing a source of alternative visions from local Vancouver settings, and other cities, citizens can be empowered to work with developers, city staff and neighbours. They can learn, see the context of the city, see where it has been, see where it is going.

The tool is not a technical summary of the building code! The city has significant resources and a capable staff to provide this kind of information. Consistent with the internet/video medium, this tool’s underlying message is that citizens can think beyond the building code to understand how and why development is happening. They can participate in the development process, and resist, challenge, and influence the outcome. This tool supports democratization of the housing debate because democracy is more than a process, it requires leadership, talent and information.