What is it about prefabricated homes that turns otherwise friendly neighbourhood folks in Metro Vancouver into frothing-at-the-mouth Nimbys? Is it an irrational fear of the Trailer Park Boys moving in next door?

 

Earlier this month, some residents in the District of North Vancouver were so infuriated by the arrival of four of these housing units to their cherished cul-de-sac that they used their cars to barricade the lots these homes were set to move onto. In the process, they claimed the ready-made architecture would turn their block into -- horror of horrors -- a trailer park.

 

But the decent-looking homes will stay, at least for now. That's because the site's owner has followed every zoning bylaw and building code requirement in the North Van rulebook. Despite the local backlash, the city bureaucrats' hands are tied.

 

"I think what we have here is an esthetic issue," is what North Vancouver Mayor Richard Walton told the North Shore News recently when asked about the controversy.

 

We have an esthetics issue, all right, but it's not about prefab housing units mucking up the view for some self-interested homeowners.

The real ugliness relates to housing affordability in our region -- where zoning bylaws uphold the sky-high prices of housing. In the District of North Vancouver, like Vancouver's west side, it's not uncommon to see even modest homes selling for more than $1 million.

With prices like that, how can working families ever expect to have a decent roof over their heads? No wonder the North Shore is facing a demographics bust, with fewer younger families choosing to live there.

Which is why prefab housing makes sense. Like laneway housing, it's a creative way of delivering density and growth to neighbourhoods where too few residents occupy far too great a portion of this region's land.

The movement toward modular housing is taking hold with North American architects, who have designed some sleek prefab units that would shame some of the mundane single-family home designs that are prevalent locally.

To his credit, the level-headed Walton has publicly noted that more prefab housing is being built across Metro Vancouver. But the barricade protest he dealt with represents a critical crossroads for this region.

We can acquiesce to the wishes of established homeowners -- or we can start thinking outside of the single-family box, to deliver more flexibility and affordability to everybody else.