The Death and Life of the Single-Family House

Lessons from Vancouver on Building a Livable City

Nathanael Lauster
Canadian Sociological Association's John Porter Tradition of Excellence Book Award, 2017
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1394-9
Publication: Oct 16

HC: $94.50
EAN: 978-1-4399-1393-2
Publication: Oct 16

Ebook: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-1395-6
Publication: Oct 16

262 pages
6 x 9
7 tables, 11 figs., 4 halftones, 6 maps

A detailed study of how Vancouver moved away from the single-family house and the effects of this transformation, detailed by interviews with residents

Read the Introduction (pdf).


Vancouver today is recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world as well as an international model for sustainability and urbanism. Single-family homes in this city are “a dying breed.” Most people live in the various low-rise and high-rise urban alternatives throughout the metropolitan area.

The Death and Life of the Single-Family House explains how residents in Vancouver attempt to make themselves at home without a house. Local sociologist Nathanael Lauster has painstakingly studied the city’s dramatic transformation to curb sprawl. He tracks the history of housing and interviews residents about the cultural importance of the house as well as the urban problems it once appeared to solve.

Although Vancouver’s built environment is unique, Lauster argues that it was never predestined by geography or demography. Instead, regulatory transformations enabled the city to renovate, build over, and build around the house. Moreover, he insists, there are lessons here for the rest of North America. We can start building our cities differently, and without sacrificing their livability.

Table of Contents

List of Figures and Tables

1. What's a House?
2. What's the Problem?
3. Bringing the House to Life in Vancouver
4. The Death of the House in Vancouver?
5. Inhabiting the Greenest City
6. What Do Houses Do Best?
7. At Home in the City
8. Habitat for Diversity

Appendix: Data and Methods

About the Author(s)

Nathanael Lauster is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of British Columbia. He is the co-editor (with Graham Allan) of The End of Children?: Changing Trends in Childbearing and Childhood.


In the Series

  • Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin

    The Urban Life, Landscape, and Policy Series, edited by David Stradling, Larry Bennett, and Davarian Baldwin, was founded by the late Zane L. Miller to publish books that examine past and contemporary cities, focusing on cultural and social issues. The editors seek proposals that analyze processes of urban change relevant to the future of cities and their metropolitan regions, and that examine urban and regional planning, environmental issues, and urban policy studies, thus contributing to ongoing debates.