Vested Interests Rule, Okay? – Any Change In The Vancouver Housing Market Will Not Be Coming From Government Policy

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The interests of BC Liberal Party donors who fund Premier Christy Clark’s salary top-up appear to be determining the government’s response to the housing affordability crisis in the province, says NDP critic David Eby.
A lot of BC Liberal donations come from wealthy people in the real estate industry, and the party’s person in charge of keeping them flowing is himself a top marketer of condo developments, Bob Rennie.
A recent City of Vancouver study found that roughly 12.5 per cent of condos in the city are empty, Eby said. And yet the government has declined to take steps to discourage owners from allowing condos or other homes to sit empty.
Asked Eby, “Why would [Clark] rush to put an additional tax on international investors holding these condos empty if she’s getting major donations from luxury condo builders who want this to continue?”
Clark confirmed this week that she has personally received in total more than $300,000 from the BC Liberal Party in annual stipends since she became leader in 2011.


Elections BC’s database of political contributions shows many people and companies involved in the real estate industry gave the BC Liberals donations in the tens of thousands of dollars in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Names appearing near the top of the list, each having given at least $50,000 during the year, include the Aquilini family, Bosa Properties Inc., Concord Pacific, Developments Corp. Inc., Shape Properties, and developers Rick Ilich and Peter Redekop.
The fundraising chair for the Liberals is condo marketer Rennie, whom The Tyee recently reported gave the party $73,500 in 2015.
“Bob Rennie’s a great example,” Eby said. “Here’s a guy who is one of the most famous condominium sales agents in North America who is running the fundraising for the Premier who refuses to put a tax on speculative investors driving up the prices of condos in Metro Vancouver.”
People can’t help but ask questions about Rennie’s involvement in the party and how it might affect Clark’s policy choices, said Eby. “Why is she refusing to act? Is it because the chair of her fundraising committee is a condo salesman? That is a legitimate question in my mind and one we should all be asking.”


– from ‘Clark’s Pay from Donors Too Tied to Real Estate Moguls’, Andrew MacLeod, TheTyee.ca, 2 May 2016

“Who is going to drive our buses and make art?”

Gayle Swain shared the story of her outof-the-ordinary Vancouver-born parents while sitting at a sidewalk table with four friends at Wicked Café, at Seventh and Hemlock. One of those friends was born in B.C., in Port Alberni, while two are immigrants, from Britain and the U.S.
The foursome had mixed feelings about what is happening to this fast-changing city, where relatively few have deep roots.
Even though they valued how the world’s cultures peacefully coexist in the city, they also regretted how in-migration has been a factor in the city’s fast-rising housing prices and in the way neighbourhoods are becoming “construction zones.”
When a flashy sports car interrupted their conversation by roaring down Hemlock, the friends also commented on how traffic in the city was becoming increasingly “aggressive” and “crazy.”

Justin Fung is among the Vancouver-born who are struggling with whether they should become more mobile.
Fung has a solid career in Vancouver’s high-tech industry. But he believes he could get more out of his salary if he moved to the Seattle or San Francisco areas.
Fung, his wife (also born in Vancouver) and young daughter squeeze into a small condo in Vancouver. “There’s no space to yourself.”
He believes the family could afford to live in a larger home, even a detached one, in the U.S.’s West Coast high-tech regions.
Many of Fung’s ethnic Chinese and Caucasian friends with children have already moved to the suburbs or other cities.
“But some are already coming back to Vancouver. They miss the city and there’s a long commute,” he said. “I feel frustrated at where this city is going.”
The key reason Fung’s family is trying to stay close to the west side of Vancouver is to be near his inlaws and parents, who immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in the 1970s.
Fung attended Eric Hamber Secondary School, where he said the student population in the 1990s became 95 per cent Asian, most with roots in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“There was a kind of cultural exchange when I was attending high school in Vancouver. But I think that’s largely missing now,” he said, adding: “There’s a general negativity” about Metro’s in-migration trends.
“I’m very pro-immigrant for the right kind of people, for those with skills who will bring innovation,” Fung said.
But, echoing the findings of UBC geographers and others, Fung regrets how the federal government has welcomed many “wealthy people who drive up housing prices and treat this as a resort town.”
When Fung visits his parents on the west side of Vancouver, he notices many of the neighbouring houses are empty. It’s leading, he said, to a “hollowing out” of the city’s culture.

Lorne Korman, a psychologist, is among the 16 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s population who have arrived from other Canadian provinces or territories. He was raised in Montreal and has worked in Toronto.
He finds Metro Vancouver’s inhabitants are “less connected” than Quebeckers and more “laidback” than Torontonians. “In Montreal, we knew all our neighbours. We’d always be having a cup of coffee or glass of wine with them,” said Korman, who came to B.C. a decade ago with his Chinese-Canadian wife.
Living in Richmond and working in Vancouver, he has found residents of the growing metropolis tend to be “friendly on the outside. But you can never quite know what’s happening underneath. They’re polite, they make eye contact, but they’re harder to get to know.”
Given the city’s high mobility rate, Korman isn’t surprised a Vancouver Foundation study discovered that “loneliness” is a leading anxiety of city residents.
Even though Metro has a reputation as a “Lotus Land” of nature lovers and yoga practitioners, Korman said he’s found it surprisingly right wing.
“The B.C. Liberals aren’t really liberals.” He thinks the predominance of right-wing politicians is due to an exaggerated individualism among the relatively transient population.
The clinical psychologist says residents have allowed B.C. politicians to cut mental-health services to the marrow, unlike in Ontario. Too many people in Metro Vancouver, he says, “have a let-them-eat-cake kind of attitude. People without a voice are being neglected.”
With house prices and rents soaring in part because of wealthy newcomers, Korman wonders about the future of community and the middle and lower classes. “Who is going to drive our buses and make art?”
He finds Metro Vancouver has a “surreal” quality. As he cycles each day to his Broadway office from Richmond, he notices how many grand-looking new houses are, despite appearances, vacant.
“Their sprinklers go on in the rain.”

– from ‘In mobile Metro Vancouver, third-generation locals are hard to find’, Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun, May 1, 2016

Prominent Vancouver Architect Bing Thom: ‘The City Has Become A Hotel’ – “I have done pretty well in my business, but I made more money from sitting on my Vancouver property than I made by working an entire lifetime. That tells you something.”

“I asked Bing Thom about the changes. The property boom has, of course, been good for the architectural profession, but Thom, who is now in his early seventies, is troubled by what is happening to his home town. “By all accounts, I have done pretty well in my business, but I made more money from sitting on my Vancouver property than I made by working an entire lifetime,” he said. “That tells you something.” Thom was alarmed that consumption has effectively replaced production as Vancouver’s growth industry. “The city has become a hotel,” he said.
– from The Golden Generation, by Jiayang Fan, The New Yorker, 22 Feb 2016

“That love of speculative gains from land is something that’s part of our province’s DNA. It’s not good for us. We’re finally hitting the point where we see that it has very negative consequences for the majority of the population.”

“…a few dozen Vision Vancouver supporters and other Vancouver residents gathered at a Downtown Eastside coffee shop to hear [Vancouver city councillor] Geoff Meggs speak about “the urgent challenges” of housing affordability and skyrocketing home prices.
“Let’s be honest — for a long time we really enjoyed that ride. There wasn’t a lot of people complaining about the escalation of single-family home values until relatively recently. That love of speculative gains from land is something that’s part of — I think — our province’s DNA and it’s not good for us. We’re finally hitting the point where we see that it has very negative consequences for the majority of the population,” Meggs said.
“It’s not just a crisis for people in poverty. It’s not just a crisis for people who would like to live and work in the city of Vancouver, it’s not just a crisis for those who someday hope to buy a place,” he said, noting that the high market is harming the economy and social cohesion.”

– from ‘Vancouver’s housing market shows signs of overheating’, Vancouver Sun 29 Feb 2016

Pretty Freaking Nuts, a Ridiculous Joke – “For it to go over $4 million is remarkable. I had five offers. These were local buyers.”

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“The house at 3555 West 1st Avenue was built in 1912, is 3,400 square feet and sits on a standard 33 x 120 foot lot without a view,” Vancity Buzz notes. “The selling price of $4.23 million is about $1.6 million above the lot’s assessed property value.”
For his part, real estate agent Brandan Price is incredulous. “For it to go over $4 million is remarkable. I had five offers,” he said. “These were local buyers just looking to make a shift who wanted to move into this area.”
“They were willing to sacrifice lot size to move into this area.”
Maybe, but things seem to be getting out of hand and part of the “problem” may indeed be demand from investors attempting to find a home for capital they’ve moved out of China. As Thomas Davidoff with UBC’s Sauder School of Business told Vancity Buzz: “These prices are getting pretty freaking nuts in my opinion.”
“As a proposition for someone who’s going to live in that house and what you’re getting for four million plus – that is a ridiculous joke and that is not something that’s going to work for people who just make a living in Vancouver,” Davidoff says.

– from “This Is Pretty Freaking Nuts”: Vancouver Home Sells For $735,000 Above Asking Price; Zerohedge, 29 Feb 2016

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Vancouver Housing – Change Will Not Come From Policy

“If by cool you mean actually reduce the value of people’s major asset, their home, clearly we were not interested in taking that step,” said de Jong [BC Minister of Finance, and owner of 8 properties in Abbotsford]. …
Critics say the budget amounts to half-measures from a government that’s stuck between not wanting to intervene directly in the housing market and needing to look responsive to public frustration. …
“It [the tax break on new homes] will probably be effective to some extent but I don’t think you’re going to see a dramatic change,” added Ken Peacock, B.C. Business Council’s chief economist. It would be “very difficult” for government to change the housing market prices, he said.

– from ‘B.C. budget offers help to buyers of new homes’, Vancouver Sun, 16 Feb 2016

The announced tax break on new homes will have no effect on the market and no effect on affordability. If anything, it will juice the market further by a small amount – it will simply increase prices of said homes by the amount of said tax break, as (largely local) buyers continue to extend themselves into as much BC RE as they can afford, drunk with the certainty that riches will ensue. Only the cold hand of Mr. Market will eventually stop this trend. – vreaa

“The slums money makes are far more depressing and disgusting than the ones the absence of money creates.”

“I’ve made it a rule of life never to dislike people simply for what they have — dismissing them for being rich is as unpleasantly irrational as dismissing them for being poor. Neither wealth nor poverty have innate characters; they are both prone to their own turpitudes. But over years of travelling, I’ve discovered the contrary truth that the slums money makes are far more depressing and disgusting than the ones the absence of money creates. And Berkeley Street is a self-made money slum.
I also believe restaurants are a force for good. Nothing polices a street like a neighbourhood bistro, or evokes community and civic pride as a theatre of free assembly. They are society’s social workers, its romance, guidance and business advisers. But it is an incontrovertible truth that the tasteless stew of Berkeley Street has been created by restaurants.
There’s Novikov, with its oriental and Italian kitchens and meat-rack bar; and Nobu, which has gone from being one of the earliest fusion restaurants into an embarrassing playground of entitled youth and socially hapless sportsmen. Then there’s the newly opened Sexy Fish — packed and, as anecdotal gossip has it, with an average table spend north of £1,000. Most recently, Alan Yau has opened his long-anticipated, turgidly gestated restaurant.
As we walked down the road towards it, there was the honk of imperviously parked Mercedes, blacked-out Range Rovers and furious cabbies. The pavement is thronged with manically smiling young women who, while not actually prostitutes, have the look down pat, with smartly streamlined faces and angry mouths, sucking the life out of cigarettes, black eyes sliding over the ranks of young, stateless men dressed in awkward collections of branded expense, guarded and manoeuvred by platoons of doormen, bouncers, bodyguards and muscled maître d’s.”

– from AA Gill reviews Park Chinois, Mayfair W1, Sunday Times UK, 10 Jan 2016