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Condominium and the City: The Rise of Property in Vancouver


Douglas C. Harris is the Nathan T. Nemetz Chair in Legal History and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies & Research in the Faculty of Law at the University of British Columbia ( I thank Peter Millerd for research assistance; Michael Mangan for advice on using the records at the Land Titles Office (LTO); Ian MacDonald, Deputy Registrar, New Westminster LTO, for facilitating access to its records; Sally Hermansen for her extensive advice on mapping; and Paul Raynor of Vancouver City's Housing Policy group for access to its spatial data. Jose Aparicio did the GIS work and UBC cartographer Eric Leinberger drew the maps. A number of people read and provided comments, prompting me to improve this article, including Michael Begg, Nicholas Blomley, Christina Cook, Margaret Davies, Cole Harris, Antonia Layard, David Ley, Jim Phillips, Ellen Pond, several anonymous reviewers, and my colleagues who teach property law and related subjects at UBC, Natasha Affolder, Ben Goold, Shi-Ling Hsu, June McCue, Karin Mickelson, Dennis Pavlich, and Peter Ramsay. Finally, I thank the students in my property law classes for indulging the field trips and my efforts to have them read the landscape of the city as a property law text. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) funded this research.


Condominium is a form of land ownership that combines private ownership of an individual unit in a multi-unit building with an undivided share of the common property in the building and a right to participate in the collective governance of the private and common property. Introduced by statute across North America in the 1960s, condominium facilitated the vertical subdivision of land and enabled a massive increase in the density of private interests. This article describes condominium and considers the justifications that were offered for this rearrangement of property. It then chronicles the introduction of condominium to the city of Vancouver and maps its spread across the city from 1970 to 2010. In doing so, the article reveals that condominium, a legal innovation without peer in its capacity to increase the density of private ownership in land, has provided the legal architecture of ownership for the remaking of Vancouver.