So far, only “Q(estions)”, no “A(nswer)” yet.
VANCOUVER — In this city of million-dollar fixer-uppers and $1.6 million west side building lots, real estate is a religious pursuit, a hunt for the minimally affordable.
So, a two-day conference bringing together about 2,500 real estate executives from across Canada, is bound to be of interest.
The Vancouver Real Estate Forum, which begins Thursday at the Vancouver Convention Centre, promises to focus on “Practical Issues and Strategies.”
Among a list of confirmed discussion topics that relate specifically to this province:
• Is B.C. “open for business? How does B.C.’s resource sector affect the real estate market?”
• The changing Vancouver office market.
• “A global perspective on Vancouver real estate.”
Perhaps that latter topic will prompt discussion of the fact Vancouver is among the world’s least affordable cities for residential real estate.
That is, prices make no sense when put against local wages; annual median family incomes are below $70,000 while a modest home in certain parts of the city sells for $1 million or more.
That situation surely is discouraging many talented Canadians from relocating to the area.
It also may be contributing to net out-migration to other provinces that B.C. lately has experienced.
Studies by banking institutions reveal the high prices are forcing individuals, absurdly, to contribute up to 84 per cent of their monthly incomes to housing.
(If you want affordable, you can downsize yourself into The Balance, a new development in Surrey boasting Canada’s smallest suites, at 365 square feet for $126,900 a pop.)
The conference could boost its relevance for folks here by tackling the difficult questions Vancouverites themselves are starting to ask.
- To what extent are foreign buyers driving up local prices?
- Is this influence sufficiently offset by the positive economic boost the offshore buyers give the region?
- How have other urban jurisdictions restricted foreign buyers, and have such measures proven useful?
- Do other jurisdictions impose controls or financial penalties on absentee owners who leave properties vacant, creating zombie neighbourhoods?
- Should realtors, as Vancouver’s extremely high housing prices grow ever higher over time, concomitantly be reducing percentages they charge in sales commissions?
- Should the B.C. government do likewise with its Property Transfer Tax, which similarly is based on a percentage of the sale price?
- For that matter, is the Property Transfer Tax even defensible? What service or tangible benefit from the province does the homebuyer receive in exchange?
- What innovations in building design are being developed elsewhere to make housing more affordable, aside from tiny suites?
- Does densification have its limits? Is there a point at which neighbours begin feeling over-crowded and inconvenienced?
- What has been done elsewhere to address problems regarding strata council governance and disputes, a growing issue given the proliferation of condo buildings.
- Should strata council members be required to take training and exhibit minimum qualifications?
- Are there examples of cities which, in the name of heritage preservation, renew older housing stock in well-established neighbourhoods instead of hauling out the wrecking ball, as Vancouver is wont to do?
There’s no denying, this city is a great place to live. This winter is reminding us just how great. But its housing situation is headed in an unsustainable direction.
It is possible that, in future, a growing number of Vancouverites will be forced to rent rather than buy. Or perhaps the area gradually will become an enclave for wealthy foreign buyers.
Most politicians avoid discussing the housing affordability crisis because there are no ready answers.
Perhaps the realtors gathering here this week can shed some much-needed light.
Barbara Yaffe: Vancouver housing affordability poses puzzle for real estate honchos
Conference brings together 2,500 real estate executives from across Canada