“The house and lane house were empty and converted into 7 or 8 suites between the two. The owner couldn’t meet me on time as he was showing one of his other six properties.”

“I’ve been helping a friend who is relocating from elsewhere back to Vancouver find a rental property. I went to view a house around 14th & Cypress which had a lane house. Both the house and lane house were empty and converted into most likely 7 or 8 suites between the two. The owner couldn’t meet me on time as he was showing one of his other six properties “like this”.
May I note, the renos looked shoddy, window surrounds without a straight line, plus, really, would you like to pay $1600/mo for a 1+loft on a property where 8-18 people will be living, coming and going on a boxed in lot? I viewed this place within the last three weeks.”

Aldus Huxtable at VREAA 9 Feb 2012 3:07pm

Densification, unplanned.
– vreaa

48 responses to ““The house and lane house were empty and converted into 7 or 8 suites between the two. The owner couldn’t meet me on time as he was showing one of his other six properties.”

  1. A call to the city gets these closed down.

    • The new landlords are organized comrades. They keep a list of bad tenants.


    • You get rid of these and you get rid of a lot of the cheap labour left in Van.

    • Ha Ha Ha. Good one Jesse. That is why there is thousands of them. Because they shut them all down. Too funny man. I hear they are renting out unfinished garages there now too. You get to drink from the garden hose and cook with a single burner electric hot plate. Maybe not a bad deal compared to the competition. You just got to be your own “BOSS”.

      That means “Bring Your Own Stainless Steel”

      My how times have changed. It is so romantic these days in Vancouver.

  2. Renters Revenge

    • Great link, RR, thanks. Thought provoking.
      From the video:

      “You know, I saw some friends of mine that had these houses that were just so extravagant. I thought to myself: “Why? You’re spending so much time, you’re working so many hours every week, to heat that house, to furnish it, to pay for it, to clean it”. It just seemed kinda absurd to me. The bigger the house, the more of your life… your shortened, finite life, you’re using up, to make those ends meet. You don’t really need a house like that.”

      Also, when it comes to ‘sustainability’ this guy appears to talk the talk and walk the walk. A rare combination.

      • “…friends of mine that had these houses that were just so extravagant. I thought to myself: “Why? You’re spending so much time, you’re working so many hours every week, to heat that house, to furnish it, to pay for it, to clean it”. It just seemed kinda absurd… ”

        We rent a farm and one day the water pipe blew from the street to the house. The landlord keeps the rent low, so I don’t bother him. I call a buddy who’s plumber and ask “What do I do?” He says dig it up and he’ll stop by.

        An hour later he shows up with the service truck, fifty feet of new hose and a couple of shark couplings. In minutes the water is on again. I asked him, how much would you charge a home owner for that? $1500 he says matter-of-fact. In my case, he brought his guitar and we bbq for the rest of the afternoon.

        He told me about a lady who called from West Vancouver on New Years Day. Her toilet wouldn’t flush. Buddy explains it will be $350 to show up and look, hoping to dissuade her, but she’s okay with the price because the last guy quoted her $1000. Then Buddy asks her, “Hey, you’re in West Van, don’t you have another bathroom in the house? It’s cheaper if I come tomorrow. Then she says, “We have three bathrooms, but the other one is in the den and I’m not using my son’s bathroom.” Buddy hung up on her.

      • Deek! I’m a long-time fan… there is a whole DIY tiny house movement out there and some of the folks and houses are pretty cool.

      • Gypsies were cool too until the social order broke down.

      • When the social order broke down, traditionally the gypsies picked up and moved on. They took the biggest hit when the social order was the most orderly, frankly.

  3. “The house and lane house”

    Says it all.

    • They meant to say Alley. Lanes are in the country where the air is good and trees are tall and pumpkin patches grow in your neighbors yard. Alleys in the city is where drunks pass out and garbage trucks and sewer and sanitation services get the real work of litter done. That’s where people throw their garbage. When you add extra houses back there then it is more like London and you more formally start calling it the gutter. But hey, the best bars are always in the gutter streets!! Is it allowed in Point Grey?

  4. Isn’t this a bullish anecdote?
    If we pretend this landlord owned a couple more of these, that suggest that the demand for density on that piece of land is quite high. High enough to support a minimum of a fourplex, or perhaps even a boutique 8 unit.

    If thats the case, the value is far beyond the cost of a home, it more accurately calculated by land cost+construction cost for maximum allowable density. The problem we will find is that this is likely zoned RS, and under the current city plan would likely never be accepted for rezoning.

    I still remain fairly sure that there is very strong demand for land in this city, though perhaps not at these prices. However, if you were to take a block of houses anywhere in the city, level them, and put up row homes I would venture to say they would be snapped up pronto.

    • Burt, thanks. These are all good points… we’ve discussed the possible effects of zoning changes and densification here before. jesse and others have made the point about trying to value land per “maximal potential use”.
      And this pertains to how it’s not necessarily valid to point out that some westside SFHs are priced at 500 or 600 or 800 times monthly rent.
      But the land value calculations regarding possible densification are not trivial.
      For instance, if 1 residential block of the city was allowed to change density, that would imply that block may be worth more, and you could do the valuation math including factors like building costs, number of units, future rental income, etc.
      However, if ALL blocks in the city were allowed the same densification, what would that do to prices?

      • It is a double edged sword, something similar is happening in Vancouver already. If we take a look at where most of the densification is already taken place, its plain to see that the East Side has taken the brunt of the impact. In fact, the West Side of Vancouver is reducing densification via cash rich buyers building mega homes on 2 or 3 lots. Granted, there are more low rise being put in along Broadway for example, and the newly proposed developments along the Cambie corridor.

        Having said that, even if we rezoned the majority of Vancouver to condos and town homes the remaining few SFH holdouts would commend a significant premium. Its only natural that some wealthy people will only be interested in owning a big house with a big lot. Even though in your scenario prices would come down over all, via adequate supply for family housing. I suspect many Vancouver families, and locals would not be ready to give up on the dream of owning a SFH, and those that could would be willing to pay a serious premium. A similar scenario already exists in high density centres like New York, where a townhouse can cost upwards of 10-15million dollars solely based on the land use premium.

        The real issue with Vancouver pricing is in the condo market. A commodity easily created, and horribly miss-priced. Its hard to argue against the fact that the land a condo is put on is already at its highest use, therefore the earnings a condo produces should reflect the lack of any further density increase opportunity. This is a sector ripe for correction.

        All that said, I still think we topped via the “prices high forever” capitulation top last summer.

      • Though it may not matterall the time, earnings start mattering from time to time, much to the amazementof those who think a 200+Tspread is sustainable

      • The whole damn lower Mainland should be rezoned as a lunatic asylum since it is clearly populated by crazy people with more debt than brains (who pretend they are rich). Very sad to view from 30,000 feet. Glad I don’t have to live with them. I am not sure I will have sympathy now that the top is gone and the slide begun. They enjoyed the ride up and bragged and bragged. So let them piss themselves all the way down. That is why you pay to be on the roller coaster, right? Thrills.

    • smart post Burt.
      What’s keeping detached prices high is a variety of factors which mostly have to do with land use. If the city had tried to solve the density problem by allowing a sizable coach home to be erected on any larger lot in the City (rather than just a 700sqft apartment), then families would have far more rental options. Right now the demand for a 3 bedroom unit is so high that familes must either buy a home to provide one or move.

  5. The place sounds like a dump, yet his friend wants to go see it? All about location, location. Sacrifices need to be made if you want to live on the west side of Vancouver.

    • These pretzels are making me thirsty

      Do you really think that living in Vancouver is worth living in such conditions?
      The whole delusion about BPOE never ceases to amaze me.

      • Van is pretty sweet. Except for the rain, it’s a great city. No night life but great outdoor activities and summer days are sweet. Skiing in the winter and great seafood and Chinese food. Real estate is slightly overpriced. I predict 20% for Van east and 25% Van west sfh’s. Condos are toast

      • These pretzels are making me thirsty

        Yeah sure, really sweet…worth living in a moldy, 100 year old house for a coupe of million dollars

        except the rain, no night life, no real industry except RE, poor infrastructure and run down houses, expensive to live, no culture music or theater (compared to even cities like Seattle or Portland).
        If the only thing that you do with your time is skiing and enjoying scenery, then fine. But then that is all there is…

      • YES! if you are outdoors type person that loves sporting activities then it is one of the BEST places on earth. along with the mild climate , and it makes it one of desirable places to live.

      • These pretzels are making me thirsty


        So what makes it better than the several other cities on the west coast with as good, if not better outdoor activities and climate. How about the other aspects that I mentioned, or the economic fundamentals. You can’t live on milder climate or outdoor activities alone.
        People keep repeating the same arguments including “everyone wants to come here” ad nauseum as if in trance.

      • My primulas are blooming, tulips are shooting.

        That said, it’s not the beauty, it’s the ROI. F*ck the flowers.

      • Thirsty – it’s mostly delusional – all the claims about what a sporting outdoor active city Vancouver is but I’ve always known Calgary to provide a much more active outdoor lifestyle (and it does have a very vibrant night life). Most of my extended family in Vancouver (the ones who haven’t yet left) are there simply hiding from typical Canadian winters and are more than willing to spend their lives indoors or stuck in traffic but out of the rain. They are, in my opinion, too soft to live anywhere else in Canada and they are simply waiting / hanging on until they collect their CPP and OAS. You just will not find people like this in a city like Calgary.

      • But what if you are just a normal lazy drunk and want to watch TV naked in the dark with your weird friends? Is Vancouver good then? I recommend India’s monsoons for rain, going to China for real Chinese food and Heli-skiing in Europe for snow. But if you are stuck in Van……might as well make the most of it. I guess. (PS: the place really sucks but that would be an official opinion and I am not sure those are permitted on this site)

      • john mf'ing galt

        besides whistler the ‘skiing’ in vancouver is terrible – and whistler is 135 km away..

        the only idiots that blather about skiing and sailing or golfing in the same day are the ones selling and or humping the dream.

      • Is Whistler really 137 kilometers away? Cripes, some of the idiots make it sound like there is snow and Diamond runs in the same postal code as Burnaby. I KNEW someone was lying!! They are really grasping at straws there aren’t they? Sadly the ski hills will crash right along with Van houses.

      • Tried to go skiing one visit to Vancouver but the rental lines were almost 4 hours long. Tried to go skating, but the rink was about twice as crowded than I would have thought safe, and the notion of joining a mosh pit where everyone is wearing razorblades on their feet did not appeal. Could just be my small town upbringing at work here, but there may be things to do, and they may be great, but a million people seem to be trying to all do them at the same time.

      • john mf'ing galt

        and they ought to..

        $67 to ski grouse?

  6. I still would like to meet a Vancouverite who skis regularly enough etc to use that argument. Most of my friends go maybe 1-2 times a year, barely ever go to Stanley Park or even downtown. Yes they are young families and some with no kids. We seem to spend more time “enjoying” Vancouver when we come back to visit family.. We now seem to always walk around Jericho/Spanish Banks, go to Granville Island and walk around the seawall. We appreciate the natural beauty of Vancouver much more now than when we lived there.

    • Yes, Vancouver is a wonderful city to visit for a long weekend but not so much in terms of a place to live. It’s just so easy and cheap to jump on a flight to get your fix knowing that it’s just better living elsewhere.

      I think this anecdote smacks of desperation. Some people are perfectly happy to commit financial suicide, make other people rich, and forego so much in life just to say they “live” in Vancouver.

      It’s not where you live that’s important: it’s how you live. But then again, I’ve always had too much common sense ( or I’m a couple of million short) to stay in or want to return to Vancouver.

    • john mf'ing galt

      blah blah blah

      there’s over 30,000,000 mountains in the world

      The total length of the worlds coastline is in the region of 217,490 miles, or to put it another way, roughly equal to the distance from the Earth to the Moon.

      GET OVER IT.

    • FWIW, I’ve skied 17 days this year 🙂

      I suspect I may be atypical though.

  7. @Homeowner, you wrote, “Sacrifices need to be made if you want to live on the west side of Vancouver.”

    West Side owners should be making some sacrifices at this point, imo. Why doesn’t the City — if it’s so desperate for revenue as to sacrifice absolutely everything to build its coffers from development purposes — consider taxing the bejesus out of the West Side?

    Jesse has frequently made the good point on this blog that if the West Side doesn’t want to densify itself, it should start paying premiums for all those — I was going to say “nice trees,” but perhaps it’s more apt to say now “3-car garages.”

    If West-Side homeowners/investors can toss around $4 million buying and flipping places, maybe their taxes ought to look like the taxes in wealthier U.S. neighborhoods. Property taxes here are only about a third, aren’t they, of what they typically run in/near many US cities/wealthier communities?

    • Whoops — previous post by Vesta. Host, please feel free to correct attribution. Sorry!

      • AND I meant to say above “development permits,” not “purposes.”

        Saturday night fever.

      • OMG. Do they monitor this blog? I will have to stop being myself. How is this. I could say…”yes Vancouver is a swell yet rinky-dink town but I hear the sno-cones at the PNE are the best in all East Van. When I grow up I want to live in a trailer by the sea-wall and fish for Pacific Cod off the rocks. The fantasy millionaires will pay big bucks…maybe even two or three hundred a fish. Then I will use my money to invest in Microsoft and save up until I can live in a real city like Seattle with normal people who do not talk about how rich they got 24 hours a freaking day”.

        But I won’t. I fully predict the Vancouver slide will be one of the most precipitous in the western world and quite on par with the ascent that drove prices of this third rate ego-town town to unheard of heights.

        Does honesty get you banned on this site?

    • All taxes are “redistributional”. Even the bad ones.

      As I mentioned I think it’s a fair callout: if a neighbourhood, close to the core of a growing and desirable city, wants to maintain its “character” it needs to consider externalities associated with that choice.

      BTW I was reading through condohype’s archives tonight. An interesting re-read, especially towards the later posts, at how sure it looked that prices were going to fall as they did in the US. Prices are now higher than ever. My how things change. Lest we forget.

      • If the price of oil rises, everyone on earth pays more Jesse.
        If corn, wheat or rice prices go up, humans who eat all pay more too.
        Both of these events are a form of taxation. Both have speculation as roots. They are not weighted equally though depending on income and even the region where you live (planet-wise).

        So if your idea of “all taxes being redistributional” means that speculators and a handful of Ag companies plus oil interests and government end up with all the loot that has been extracted, then sure, I agree.

        That is what you meant, right? Man, you are one fine capitalist, friend. You will go far. You don’t do seminars by any chance. I am so sick of hearing about Reits.

  8. Forget a SFH. Maximize your revenue with a 1br+den.



    • Those places are like 800 dollars a square foot! Holy crow is it ever getting bad there. No wonder they are trying to fit 3 bedrooms into 600 square feet. They are packing them in like Third World ghettos now. Just a bunch of pickled sardines. What a disgusting trap many will endure for life. And to think they could have had all that but lived in New York and had a real city to enjoy. And a real hockey team too!

  9. “However, if ALL blocks in the city were allowed the same densification, what would that do to prices?”

    VREAA – you sound like Greg Swann! 🙂

    Vancouver is a great place to live, but way over-priced, even if you bought a property long ago. Figure this out: homeowners grants will be available to people whose homes are worth up to $1.285, because, after all, we want 85% of the population to get that tax break.

    In other words, you can have a $1.285 without actually being rich (doubt that? Check out how many people with million dollar plus houses drive old beat up cars).

    If you have to give the homeowners grant to million dollar plus houses then the owners of those houses are rich on paper, but not on cash flow terms. Additionally, they aren’t old age pensioners (or Kevin Falcon would just let them defer taxes). When there are enough land millionaires in the everyday world that they need the homeowner’s grant then things are overpriced.

  10. Here is a case of drinking your own Kool Aid.

    A realtor friend of mine owns a 1 bed in Van. Needs to upgrade, expanding family and all. So what does he do? Buys half a duplex (the lower half) in East Van for 600K. His 1 bed is still listed and he is carrying both properties.

    Talk about getting high off your own supply, with an East Van basement suite no less !

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