June 27, 2014
When Blair Reekie and his team at Great Pacific Television sat down last winter to toss around some ideas for a new reality television show, it didn’t take long to come up with something perfectly suited to Metro Vancouver.
It’s called Game of Homes, and while the title is a trendy pop culture play on words, it also reflects an underlying social, even political, message.
But that’s getting ahead of the story.
“We were noodling on what’s been done in the world of home renovations and what’s not been done,” say Reekie.
If you’re a fan of cable networks like HGTV, Bravo, TLC and W, you’ll know that’s a well-mined subject, given the dozens of shows past and present featuring home makeovers, house design and real estate tutorials and competitions.
You’ll also know that many of the shows we watch are a direct reflection of the housing culture of the day (Million Dollar Listing), of the socio-economic times (Income Property) and of modern-day decor tastes (Interior Therapy).
For Reekie’s part, he couldn’t stop thinking about two Vancouver-area housing traditions in that meeting. One is the PNE Show Home, which he loves, partly because it attracts so many people that it literally defines “house looking as a spectator sport.”
The other is what’s been going on around town lately, especially in neighbourhoods like the one he calls home: Mount Pleasant. Like so many other residential pockets throughout Vancouver, Mount Pleasant is quintessentially old Vancouver, chockablock with vintage housing stock, including charming cottages, stately Edwardians and roomy bungalows. In fact, most of the area’s homes are pre-1950s, but the harsh reality of our housing times is that with the old comes the quest for new, and that means many homes in Mount Pleasant and similar neighbourhoods are today also being lost to the wrecking ball, buyers opting for big and modern as they reimagine their pricey patches of dirt.
It is an often disheartening and controversial story that has been unfolding across the region for decades, heating up of late with the spotlight on the recent demolition of the historic Legg House in the West End.
At issue is the disposable attitude toward perfectly livable and often better-built older homes that are increasing falling victim to the market lust for monstrous and modern, and it has been troubling to watch our young city’s housing heritage being trucked away, street by street, to the landfill.
City councils, prompted by a growing contingent of vocal protesters unhappy with the physical changes in their neighbourhoods, scramble to find ways to bridge the gap between the status quo and progress — a tussle that includes foreign investors, developers, heritage preservationists and buyers who just don’t like old houses — and it often seems a insolvable conundrum.
Enter Game of Homes.
“People don’t seem to want to live in these old houses,” says Reekie, especially “the cute cottages honouring the architecture of the smaller house on a larger lot.