Aug 2017 24

Nothing is guaranteed in Vancouver

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There's so much turmoil in the news today and so many extreme opinions on every subject that it does seem like a good time to be nice to those around you. The biggest issue in Canada at the moment is that of illegal immigration including refugees streaming into Quebec from the US.

Some legal immigrants who jump through all the hoops to get here are saying of Canada that it's one of the most difficult countries to get into legally and the easiest to get into illegally. The Prime Minister has reassured us that all Canadian laws will be applied to refugee claimants. Fairness is so engrained in the Canadian psyche that this issue and real estate affordability are probably the hot buttons in a discussion anywhere in the country.

Immigration ideas turned upside down

Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun who writes regularly on immigration issues interviewed Sanjay Jeram a political science professor at Simon Fraser University. Jeram states that immigration discussion in Canada is a taboo subject. He thinks that immigration to Canada should be examined from an economic not racist point of view. The discussion should be around the impact on overcrowding, housing, opportunities for domestic workers or the welfare state.

He talks about how federal immigration policy has brought in two financially opposite groups of newcomers. The rich and those with low incomes. There is competition between the low-income groups including international students for all rental spaces in both Toronto and Vancouver. The influx of wealthy foreign buyers has moved middle-income housing to the high-end. This means the local millennial buyers cannot afford to purchase or rent in the cities.

Jeram's point is that foreign investment should not be in housing but in activities that benefit the economy. There should be limits on purchasing by foreign buyers as there is in Europe since so much of the money they bring into the country is invested in real estate and homes are left empty and unused.

Jeram’s thesis is that corporations should be required to train local workers before bringing in skilled workers from abroad to fill available jobs. He is concerned that Canadian society will run out of tolerance due to the pressures on the social safety net.

Spyglass Dock on Granville Island at the east end near the Cambie Bridge, looking across False Creek to Marinaside Crescent in Yaletown. Photo by Viv Lynch

The search for affordable housing continues

A recent survey of millennial thoughts on real estate discovered that financially mature millennial buyers say they can afford $350,000 to buy a home. A different article projected that there won’t be enough homes available to buy at an affordable price until the bulge of the Baby Boomers reach their mid-80s.

Real estate activity in Metro Vancouver is stronger than in parts of the Greater Toronto area. In both cities, the investment surge is into the new condominium development. Partly because foreign buyer taxes can more easily be evaded, there is an upside to the price as the development gets built and there is a rental component that will return value to the buyer.

It is noticeable in many real estate offices in Vancouver that the large increase in listings of resale properties is heavily in the condominium sector. In Vancouver Westside new listings for modern livable houses that are not grand mansions come on the market for $4 million and more. Not affordable housing by anyone’s standards.

We are waiting to see if the new NDP government has time and energy to address housing when there are so many urgent decisions to be made. At the moment there are discussions in the financial sector as to whether there is inflation that requires rate increases actually happening. Anything that raises mortgage rates is like a rock thrown into a pond---the ripples go out forever.

Nothing is guaranteed in Vancouver

Last month we discussed how the Bing Thom Architects designed 57-storey redevelopment of the First Baptist Church property at Burrard and Nelson. Since then the application by Westbank Properties and First Baptist Church to develop the church property has been approved by City Council.

It's another lesson learned by those who opposed the application based on the obstruction of the view they paid a premium for when they purchased their nearby upscale condos. Having your water view dependant on overlooking empty space like the church parking lot is a recipe for investment loss.

Nothing is guaranteed in any way in Vancouver. Every piece of land is open to development. And every view can be compromised, even the street corridor views to the harbour which are getting narrower by the year.

True waterfront locations are at a premium in Vancouver. There are many buyers both local and offshore willing to pay top price for a larger unit with a guaranteed unobstructed outlook. If money is no object, search for a place in the very front row of condos right at the waterfront, where it's absolutely impossible to build in front of you. Another good option is to buy on a hillside so that anything that's built further down will not obstruct your view.

When buying a pre-construction condo, make sure to check out what will be going on around the building before signing a pre-sale contract, and be careful with parks in front of the view as parks can be rezoned.


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