Building a City that Vancouverites Deserve. Meet Jerry Rakhra – A Local Young Home Builder
July 28, 2020
People often ask what pushed me to become a home builder. My background is in science and business, but over time I felt it was stifling my creativity. I wanted to pursue an opportunity to start my own business and create homes for my fellow Vancouverites. My passion for building homes is driven by the families who will end up living there. I am involved in every stage of my projects from land acquisition, to design, to permitting, construction, and most importantly the key handoff. Whenever possible I hand over the keys to new owners myself. That is probably the most gratifying part of my job, being able to see the excitement and opportunity a new home offers British Columbians.
I think one thing the public fails to recognize, is that many community builders are in this for so much more than profit. I was born and raised in Vancouver. I am just trying to make a living, raise a family, and help others do the same. In this industry home builders take on immeasurable economic risks, construction costs, and municipal issues to bring a home to life for British Columbians. I want to create communities where people can flourish. Whenever I start a project, I always begin by envisioning who is going to live there. I gain satisfaction from imagining who the future homeowner is going to be and then designing my project to suit their needs.
Unfortunately, many barriers make it difficult for smaller community builders like me, to create diverse home options. Land in Vancouver is very expensive which places a lot of risk on smaller companies, the permitting and approvals process is arduous and there is too much ambiguity with zoning policies. Although zoning policies can be clearly defined, push back from neighborhood residents can influence the process, and muddy the playing field for those trying to build more homes in our city.
From my perspective, there seems to be a disconnect between those at the City of Vancouver’s planning department and political actors. Councillors recognize the urgency of the housing crisis in our city, yet a lack of partnership between community builders and the planning department remains. For a project with conditional approval it can take 12-15 months to get through the planning and permitting process; and 12-15 months from the start of construction until completion. That is 24-30 months to get through the entire process. In the same timeframe, approximately 120,000 new residents would have moved to the region before a single unit is complete. The missing middle cannot be built fast enough in this city.
My projects are predominantly focused on duplexes and triplex homes that are accessible to a variety of people with different budgets. This gives people the option to live closer to work and play. I specialize in character home retention juxtaposed by modern coach houses. Our city is full of incredible architects and community builders, but many of the creative and risk-taking designs are silenced by the planning department. Vancouverites deserve a city that is diverse, unique, and well designed.
Jerry Rakhra is the Principal of Vandwell Developments.
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