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Vancouver's Real Estate

Affordability fears go back a long TIME...

Vancouver 1900 Black and white


On Sept. 30, after months of research, the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability released its final report, outlining the challenges facing renters and owners in Metro Vancouver's housing market.


"We know that many people across a wide range of incomes face affordability challenges in our city," it states, "from those with little income and no housing to those with a higher income but who struggle to find affordable, suitable and adequate housing...


How Vancouverites decide to address these challenges is fundamental to the future of our city. Should we simply let the market decide what kind of city we want and who gets to live here? Or should we take the actions needed to increase the diversity of affordable housing options, and maintain the vibrancy, diversity and economic competitiveness of our city?


"We believe that this report provides a blueprint for both short and long-term policy directions to significantly increase affordable housing options in Vancouver, and encourage City Council to embrace the recommendations and take action on the most pressing policy issue in Vancouver today -- the lack of affordable housing."

The report goes on to cite high costs and substandard facilities as particular problems -- echoing media rumblings about a city-wide "housing crisis" -- and concludes that housing affordability is perhaps the most significant issue affecting Vancouverites at the dawn of this century. As it turns out, a look through the city archives reveals that it was also the most significant issue affecting Vancouverites at the dawn of the LAST century. And quite often ever since then. Hm.





"There are more speculators about New Westminster and Victoria than there were in Winnipeg during the boom and they are a much sharper lot. Nearly every person is more or less interested and you will have to be on your guard against all of them."

-- William Cornelius Van Horne, in a letter to Major A.B. Rogers of the C.P.R, 1884.

"[The government] believes that all people have the right to expect decent living accommodation. It believes that appropriate steps must be taken to assure an adequate supply of housing... not just to meet present needs, but to meet the needs of the future as well. A great deal of time has been spent, by both public and private authorities, on analysing the housing problem. We must now concentrate our efforts on finding the solution."

-- "Housing: Everyone's Responsibility." Dept. of Municipal Affairs. Victoria, 1969.

"Vancouver's housing problems focus on the issue of cost of housing services. Inadequate income, or alternatively, the high cost of shelter, is seen to be the major factor constraining choices... An estimated 23% of the City's families pay in excess of 30% of their income for shelter."


-- "Understanding Vancouver's Housing," Planning Dept. City of Vancouver, 1979.

"What sort of economy and society will there be if only the very rich can afford to live here? Current high housing prices have definite economic growth and job creation implications for the province. If high-priced executives can't afford to move here, how can lesser-paid people afford to stay?"

-- The Vancouver Province, 1981.

"Land prices are high, it is said, higher than anything would warrant. 'Why, the workingmen cannot afford to pay at the rate demanded for these tiny outside lots,' asserted one man recently. The same thing was said here 20 years ago, answer the pioneers; others of us know that it was repeated 10 years ago and five years ago, and our children and our children's children will hear the same tale of woe decades hence."

-- B.C. Magazine, 1911.

"Housing costs are high, but we can't afford to throw up our hands and say we can't afford to build many more houses until costs come down again. In a city growing as fast as ours this would be the counsel of stupidity and despair. We must have more homes and we must have them at prices people can afford to pay."

-- The Vancouver Sun, 1958.

"Vancouver is facing a housing crisis. Real Estate agents have difficulty in finding apartments and houses to accommodate hundreds of people seeking quarters every day -- soldiers' families, war workers, and people who are swelling the city's population. Then there is also the slum question."

-- Vancouver News-Herald, 1941.

"Apart from overcrowding, a very unfortunate condition is being perpetuated in connection with dilapidated and, in some cases, condemned dwellings. Under ordinary circumstances, these buildings would stand vacant, or be demolished, but the great lack of suitable accommodation has forced people to occupy these premises to the detriment of their health and wellbeing. The rentals obtained are small and, therefore, the landlords will carry out no repairs, nor make any improvements; thus, damp and cold add their toll to the misery of the occupants."

-- Interim Report of the Special Housing Committee, 1937.

"The inability of younger households to afford 'family type' accommodation in the City has been one of the spin-offs of rising house prices... Households in the lowest income category, 18% of all households, have about 4% of the total income, while those in the highest category, 23% of all households, have 47% of the total income. The obvious implication is that much of the purchasing power in the City, including the ability to pay for housing, is concentrated in a relatively small proportion of households."

-- "Understanding Vancouver's Housing," Planning Dept. City of Vancouver, 1979.

"Look no further than the Trafalgar area, perhaps the most striking example of investor decay in the city. It's no longer a community, it's a commodity. A pocket of land bought and tilled by speculators... It didn't used to be this way."

-- Vancouver Courier, 2012.

"The association suggests that land speculators, in their greed for quick capital gains and profits in bidding for land offered for tender by Cities and Municipalities, have raised the cost of serviced lots beyond all reason, far beyond the limits of scarcity."

-- "A Brief On Housing." Vancouver Civic Action Committee. Jan, 1967.

"I look on it (such activity) as I look on land speculation where nothing is done but turning property over for profit. They add nothing to the city. I despise it. […] We have to retain occupier ownership in the city or our neighbourhoods are going to go down the drain."

-- Ald. Mike Harcourt, quoted in The Vancouver Sun, 1974.

"Given the negative impacts that expensive housing has on our city -- whether it is forcing people into longer commutes, living in substandard housing, or limiting economic opportunity -- we urge City Council to be bold and embrace the recommendations we have laid out, with a determination to see them through. The health, prosperity, and future success of our city depends on it."


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Vancouver City


A cooling in Vancouver’s real estate market that includes falling house prices might not be all bad news for the economy, a CIBC report says.


The CIBC World Markets report says the slowing of Canadian home sales will “take a bite” out of economic growth but adds there could be “winners as well as losers across the economy.”

Housing affordability issues have been a drag on B.C. growth, CIBC chief economist Avery Shenfeld says in the report.


“(T)he rapid run-up in prices was one factor turning the province from a beneficiary of in-migration to a net source of emigration,” Shenfeld writes. “Dreams of retiring in B.C., and taking one’s spending money to that province, might be back in vogue if relative prices of housing are better in line with other provinces.”

He says if prices in Vancouver fall further than prices in the rest of the country, there would be a longer-term benefit, including that it would make it easier for companies to find employees because people would be more willing to move here.


“Having your house prices so much higher than houses in the rest of the country makes it difficult for people to make the decision to move there,” Shenfeld says.

Further, he says lower prices could free up money for other spending.

“What of the young newlyweds scraping by on mac-and-cheese in order to save for their first home? A slip in prices could ease that task, freeing up spending power in the process,” Shenfeld writes.

First-time home buyers would not have to save as aggressively for a down payment if prices in Vancouver were lower, Shenfeld says. “It hasn’t happened much yet because house prices have not come down much yet, but if house prices do come down, that will make the down payment easier to save for,” he says.

In October, the dollar volume of homes sold in B.C. dropped 14.6 per cent from a year ago, the number of sales dropped 10 per cent and the average price — $508,292 — was down 5.1 per cent, the B.C. Real Estate Association reported earlier this month.

“(A) retreat today could be the preferred alternative to a harder landing from even higher prices down the road,” Shenfeld says. “House prices seem to be falling, and it’s unlikely that we’ve seen the bottom of that yet.”

Shenfeld recognizes that an older homeowner may have to lower retirement spending if their property brings in less money when it’s sold. “That is a negative for spending, but there are others in the economy for whom the weaker house price is a positive. It may still on balance be a negative, but not as big a negative as some surmise.”


He also writes that the slowing market could “chop nearly a percentage point from growth,” because there will be fewer houses built and fewer sales of furniture and appliances as a result.

This report is the latest in a series of CIBC reports that play down some of the concerns about the potential for a devastating U.S.-style crash in residential real estate.


More pessimistic analysts have warned some types of Canadian real-estate in some markets are overpriced and at risk of tipping into a rapid decline.


While deflation in housing prices has widely been cited as the cause of the economic woes in jurisdictions such as the U.S. and Ireland, Mr. Shenfeld argues that it wasn’t the falling prices that caused the core problems in these economies but rather the accompanying wave of defaults that devastated their financial systems.

“Canada hasn’t lent as aggressively to its lower-income home buyers, and a correction in house prices caused by a tighter regulatory environment and earlier price overshooting, rather than by defaults, would not on its own generate that same banking system shock,” Shenfeld writes in the report. “Most historic wealth declines coincided with other sources of economic weakness, including rising unemployment or high interest rates that depress consumption.”

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MC2 Development almost a sell out

Aside from the words “sold for $100,000 over asking”, nothing makes the real estate junky salivate quite like the term “one day sell-out” – a term that’s thrown around when pre-sale marketing leads to people lining up around the block like West Side families trying to get their kids into French immersion. (Urban legend has it that many of these people risking nerve damage from standing on their feet for hours on end are not, in fact, actual condo purchasers, but are paid by investors who then take their place in line when it’s time to enter the building and sign the contract to purchase).

Well, Intracorp’s pre-sale of their new property at Cambie and Marine didn’t quite sell out; but it far exceeded expectations according to real estate marketer Bob Rennie.


347 out of a total of 443 homes sold on opening weekend, which is certainly respectable given the high amount of inventory on the resale market. Similar to projects around transit nodes like Brentwood and Metrotown, Intracorp MC² project seeks to capitalize on its location close to the Canada Line SkyTrain station.

 “We hoped to sell 60 per cent in our opening weekend of sales and exceeded that goal already, with nearly 80 per cent sold and just 96 homes left,” said Rennie, principal of Rennie Marketing Systems. “This weekend’s strong sales are a clear sign that when developers build for and identify today’s consumers’ needs and purchasing ability – close to amenities, transit and bike routes – the Metro Vancouver homebuyer is very strong.”

One and two bedrooms are still available at MC² starting at $259,000, with 40 homes under $299,000. “Over half of the 443 homes are affordable to buyers with an income of $60,000 a year," said Rennie. "It has to be convenient for commuters, and it has to be affordable. And MC² has both."

The presentation centre at MC² is located at 8160 Cambie Street (at Marine Drive) in Vancouver, and is open daily from 12 noon to 5 pm (closed Friday or by appointment only).


For more information, visit

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About Vancouver Realtor Adan Sprauer

Vancouver Realtor Adan Sprauer


Adan Sprauer Vancouver Realtor and Real Estate Specialist 



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Adan Sprauer

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