Category Archives: 07. Avoiding Vancouver

Folks who’ve either left Vancouver, or decided not to move here, solely or largely because of RE prices.

Ken Lum’s ‘Vancouver Especially’ – “Two of the city’s great crises: Homelessness and Obscene Real Estate Prices”


A man who appeared to be homeless offered to sell me a tiny house – actually a new art installation by Ken Lum, which I was looking at – for “a good price:” less than $1-million (which would be a good price, considering the tiny plot of land, on the edge of Vancouver’s Chinatown, is alone assessed at more than $1.7-million).

The exchange exemplified two of the city’s great crises: homelessness and its obscene real estate prices. Lum’s installation, Vancouver Especially, speaks very much to the latter. The work, with its faux brick and stucco, replicates the mass-produced, no-frills house known as a Vancouver Special, scaled to its 1973 property value ($45,000 – Lum’s production budget), then enlarged eightfold, because the installation would have been too small otherwise.

There’s a house-shaped cut-out in the base at the front that Lum says represents what $45,000 would buy today. Growing up in East Vancouver, Lum watched Vancouver Specials popping up everywhere. Built with working class and immigrant families in mind, what they lack in architectural significance they make up for in square footage – and are now out of reach for the common home buyer.

Beyond the obvious economic commentary, the work, at 271 Union St., addresses the transformation in this specific neighbourhood. “I find it shocking that Chinatown may lose its special, ethnic character,” says Lum, who now lives in Philadelphia.

– excerpted in total from ‘Ken Lum’s new art installation tackles Vancouver’s real estate crisis’, Marsha Lederman, The Globe and Mail, 2 Mar 2015
– images from, G&M, Vancouver Sun



Art as a beacon of sanity in insane times.
Very well done, Ken Lum.
– vreaa

A Veterinarian’s Dilemma – “Living in a 300-square-foot closet, moving to northern B.C. or renting for life.”

“My veterinarian, owner of a successful west-side practice, emailed recently to say young professionals like him “are left with a choice between living in a 300-square-foot closet, moving to northern B.C. or renting for life.”
– from ‘Here in B.C., we’re richer than we think — on paper’, Barbara Yaffe, 24 Mar 2014

[Posts are, as you can see, very sporadic. No change in our outlook for Vanc RE market. -ed.]

Families With Children Leave Vancouver – “We bought a townhouse in Port Moody in 2006, sold it in 2011 and bought a house. We couldn’t have done that in Vancouver. Absolutely not.”

“Last month, The Sun reported preliminary results of a Vancouver school board survey that found many families are leaving Vancouver due to the high cost of housing.

The purpose of the survey was to pinpoint the cause of the declining enrolments, which is bad news for school boards because fewer students means less government funding and difficult decisions about cuts to spending and closing schools.

In each of the past three years, the Vancouver school district has had a net loss of 600 to 700 students, the report shows. A typical elementary school in Vancouver has about 300 children.

Tracking where the students who left Vancouver schools went isn’t easy; there is no central source of this information.

Ministry of Education figures show a drop of about 10,000 students in all B.C. schools between 2008 and 2013, which could be attributed to people having smaller families, people moving out of the province or other factors.

While it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly where Vancouver’s students are going, at least some of them are heading to the eastern suburbs.

Catherine Cowan and husband Trevor are among those families, moving to Heritage Mountain in Port Moody from Burnaby in 2006, primarily because of the lower cost of housing but also for the town’s livability, good schools and community feel. Before moving to Burnaby, they lived in Vancouver.

“We bought a townhouse (in Port Moody) in 2006, sold it in 2011 and bought a house. We couldn’t have done that in Vancouver. Absolutely not.”

– from ‘Go East: Families leave Vancouver for suburbs Surrey, Coquitlam, Langley school enrolments rise while more expensive areas see decline, Tracy Sherlock and Brian Morton, Vancouver Sun, 4 July 2013 [hat-tip RESkeptic]

“I just visited Manhattan for a week, and happened to snap some real estate ads on both the Upper West and Upper East sides of the island. Compare to Vancouver. It simply doesn’t compute.”



“I just visited Manhattan for a week, and happened to snap some real estate ads on both the Upper West and Upper East sides of the island (both very affluent areas). Compare these prices for these apartments, located in the heart of the one of the world’s most important metropolises with all the employment opportunities that go along with it…. to how far one’s money goes in Burnaby, Downtown, etc. It simply doesn’t compute.”
– from ‘L’, via e-mail to VREAA, 8 Apr 2013

Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association Annual First-Time Buyer Seminar Attendance Plummets

“The Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association presented its 19th annual free seminar for first-time homebuyers in Surrey on March 19. This event is the largest of its kind in North America, drawing aspiring homeowners from virtually all Metro Vancouver municipalities – and beyond.
Attendance over the years has averaged 800. One year, registrations were cut off three weeks before the event, as 900 eager people had already signed up. Last year, attendance dipped to a tad under 600.
This year, despite significant promotion and a top-notch panel of speakers, about 500 prospective first-time buyers registered. Moreover, an audience head count revealed less than 300 attendees.
Mind you, I believe a number of external factors contributed to the attendance drop – March break, heavy rain, traffic and a Canucks game. Also, it appears the wealth of information available at folks’ fingertips kept some of the registrants at home that night.”

– from ‘A world of advice’, Peter Simpson, The Vancouver Sun, 6 Apr 2013

Thanks to RG, who sent the above link to VREAA by e-mail, and who adds:
“The interesting bit is Mr. Simpson’s rationalization that the marked drop in attendance may be attributable to, “March break, heavy rain, traffic and a Canucks game” …
Seriously? … “rain” and “traffic” resulted in far less than half of the typical numbers of potential first-timers from seeking critical purchasing information? Wow.”

“Mere mortals could not afford housing in Vancouver even back in 2004.”

“Moved from Montreal to Vancouver, stayed six years, (got-the-hell-out-cause- I-didn’t-like-it), moved out to Ottawa. In each city I had a job waiting at 90K range.

Mere mortals could not afford housing in Vancouver even back in 2004. House was fully paid off in Montreal, even with that equity we realized we were going to have the largest mortgage ever. With wife and three kids, living in a condo was not considered, so we moved a little east of the city – Pitt Meadows, commuted into Vancouver for work. Wife gradually found self employment – accounting – in small businesses locally. Loved the views, hiking with kids in the mountains, crossing to Victoria by ferry.

Shocked by real estate prices. Stunned by the cost of everything else. Couldn’t believe that salaries in general here were Lower than Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Where in Vancouver would someone bring up a couple of kids on 60k? Where did the 35k salaries live? Was not impressed by the theatre and music scene. Good Chinese food, and Indian food, but otherwise, Vancouver does not hold a candle to Toronto/Montreal/Ottawa. Only place that made real bagels seemed to be Granville Island. Drove down Hastings Street one day. Remarkably like NYC of the seventies, down and dangerous.

Was slightly depressed by weeks and weeks of cloudy days. Missed the changing of the seasons. I love a sunny cold winter day, so bright with the sun reflecting snow. Came to realize that there were no advancement opportunities in my industry. (Like most other Vancouver industries, only a branch office in town.) A survey of some neighbours’ professions: Two teachers, one small business owner, four retired.
Realized that there would be nothing for my kids to do once they hit teenage years in Pitt Meadows. Take a 1.5 hour bus ride to see a band downtown? If would be a pain for them to go to either UBC or SFU.
And where would they live as adults? Love my kids, but after a degree, you’re out. Didn’t see a future for them here.

Moved to Ottawa. Housing is aprox 1/3 the Vancouver cost. We live 20 minutes drive from downtown and Parliament buildings – in traffic. Oldest attends Carleton U, also about 20 minutes away, by bus. High school is 4 minute walk for other two. We lucked out at Canterbury High.
Unknown to us when we moved here, it’s the city’s premier arts school. Incredibly motivated kids apply to attend Canterbury from all of eastern Ontario. We happened to move into its catchment area.
Ottawa has Carleton U and Ottawa U. Montreal (1.5 hour drive.) has Mcgill and Concordia U, if the kids want to adventure out to another city and/or immerse themselves in french language.
Ottawa has virtually no reports of grow-op busts, unlike west coast.
Ottawa has NAC, and host of other theatres, many museums, byward market. Rideau canal has pleasure boating in summer, and becomes world’s longest skating rink in winter. Hiking and cycling, cross country sking in Gatineau park is great. Montreal is 1.5 hours drive with major Jazz/music fest. Many of those acts come to Ottawa the week before or after.

Kids still facebook old buddies from the Pitt. Several bored buddies are serious dopers, dropped out, etc. We’ll go back to Vancouver to visit, but never to live.”

Dadeedumer at VREAA 9 Mar 2013 11:57am

Thanks for sharing your story, Dadeedumer.
We bemoan the fact that RE prices have driven many from Vancouver.
And we agree that, by 2004, prices were already overextended beyond those supported by fundamentals.
– vreaa

VanCityBuzz – Vancouver vs. NYC – “If Vancouver wants to keep waving the world class flag, she’d better get used to being compared to those with a few hundred years experience, because beauty and access to a lot of natural resources can only take her so far.”



“Vancouver is often touted as a world class city by local boosters. While the costs of living and real estate prices are certainly indicative of that caliber, our culture (or lack thereof) and the locals’ inability to get to know themselves without making a big stink about how dissatisfied we are with one another, leaves us to question whether or not our very young city is really ready to step up onto the global stage. There’s only so many years a city can ride on having hosted the lesser of the Olympics, no matter how many gold medals were won by locals. Only so many venues can close before the so-called ‘creative’ class finally throws in the towel and leaves everything to the mercy of developers, corrupt political parties and their sycophant friends. So since I’ve just returned from a five month stint in New York, I’ve been asked by the good people at Vancity Buzz to write up a piece comparing some of the finer points of life in both cities.” …
“Housing and Real Estate Development
I’m no expert when it comes to discussing the finer points of housing and real estate, however as someone who at this point can never even hope to think of one day dreaming about the mere thought of buying a property in or around Vancouver, it’s important to mention that many New Yorkers are in the same boat. I was warned that everything is much more expensive in NYC, but this isn’t true at all. If anything, prices for lodging are almost exactly the same. My trendy, 1500 square foot loft cost close to, if not slightly less, than what you’d end up paying here, which is about three grand per month. And just like here, it pays to have roommates.
There are always new development projects happening all over the city, with walk-ups and high rises popping up all over New York, like zits on a teenager’s chin, boasting deals “starting at only 500K!” The difference between there and here is less of a marketing push. Of course, there are the requisite flyers falling out of every free weekly, but I didn’t notice such an in-your-face attempt as Vancouver’s to get me to sign over the next 30 years of my wages in exchange for a tiny, poorly built shoebox in the sky. Nor did I see any buildings wanting to have sex with the handsome new 12 story about to go up just off Bedford. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t looking, or there was a lack of real estate focused billboards, I don’t recall.
New Yorkers, while dealing with various gentrifying forces, are less likely to complain about being priced out of their neighborhoods thanks to fairly rigorous rent control initiatives, which, like the subway, place the rich and poor side by side, often in the same building. Still, just like Vancouverites, there are grumblings among Gotham locals about everything going condo and being sold to absentee foreign investors. But boy did they have a laugh when I showed off” …
If New York is a grand dame of the urban world, gaudy, spackled with lights and experienced in the ways of love and war, then Vancouver is like a naturally beautiful teenage girl: not sure of what she yet wants or what she’s capable of, only that she’s good looking enough to, for now, have her pick of suitors at the expense of those who really have her best interests at heart. …
All in all, these are two different places, with their own unique styles, so is it even really fair to compare the two? Well, if Vancouver wants to keep waving the world class flag, she’d better get used to being compared to those with a few hundred years experience, because beauty and access to a lot of natural resources can only take her so far.”

– from ‘A Tale of Two Cities: Vancouver vs. New York’, by Hipster Designer, VanCityBuzz, 6 Mar 2013 [hat-tip proteus]