Vancouver’s most famous quality might be its scenic backdrop of dazzling coastal mountains.

But city councilors have now voted in favor of cutting off the iconic vistas for some residents. The plan is to liberalize planning guidelines to make it easier for homebuilders to erect extra, higher towers — at the cost of cutting off views.

The proposal to eliminate and narrow a series of so-called “view cones” that restricted development is part of an effort by Mayor Ken Sim to deal with the downside of the city’s desirability — it doesn’t have nearly enough houses, and home prices and rents have surged.

The proposal was attacked by opponents as a reckless and irreversible step, “privatizing views for downtown developers’ profit.” The debate encapsulates the dilemmas and compromises being faced by the public, lawmakers and developers as increasing numbers of people struggle to find affordable, quality housing.

In an emailed statement, Sim said: “Vancouver doesn’t have a view cone crisis. Vancouver has a housing crisis. That’s why our council is committed to taking bold action to get more homes built faster.”

The prize is as much as 215 million square feet of extra space for development, according to a report by the city’s general manager of planning and urban design. City planners estimate the changes could lead to as many as 75,000 additional housing units over 30 years, and as many as 300,000 over the next century.

Vancouver is among the most expensive places in North America for housing. The benchmark price of a home in greater Vancouver, including the city and its suburbs, has risen 76% over the past decade to C$1.2 million ($881,000), according to June data from the city’s real estate board. Single-family detached homes go for more than C$2 million.

Some protected views, with their origins in the 1980s, are being scrapped altogether, and several others narrowed or otherwise altered. Some leave summits unobstructed but give developers freedom to obscure surrounding slopes.

While Vancouver’s small downtown core is already one of Canada’s densest districts, it’s surrounded by miles of low, sprawling single family homes. The change in regulations around view cones is one of many efforts to increase the city’s density.

Provincial and city lawmakers are pushing a range of other measures to accelerate housebuilding in the region, from state-backed loans to expanding the use of mass timber in taller buildings. It’s “hard to keep up with” with demand for infrastructure and services, according to British Columbia Premier David Eby.

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