Paul Liberatore

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In Vancouver, a Housing Frenzy That Even Owners Want to End

“I live 15 minutes from the downtown core in a house,” said Keith Roy, a real estate agent. “That’s crazy. I should be in a townhouse at this distance, maybe even a low-rise condo building.”

The figures show, however, that unlike other expensive West Coast cities like San Francisco, where the housing supply has long lagged behind population growth, Vancouver has consistently produced new housing. Over the past decade, the housing stock has grown by about 12 percent, while the population has grown by about 9 percent, according to the city.

This disparity has persuaded the city to broaden its measures beyond just a push for new buildings to efforts like the empty homes tax.

“It’s getting out of the mind-set that just more is better,” said Gil Kelley, the city’s general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability.

Tom Davidoff, an economist at the University of British Columbia, said it was all of the above. Vancouver is popular with foreign buyers, yes. But it also has strict zoning laws that reserve most of the city’s land for single-family homes, as well as high income taxes but low property taxes of about a quarter of a percent of the property value.

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