Paul Liberatore

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Metro Vancouver home sales totalled 2,253 in September 2016, a decrease of 32.6 per cent from the 3,345 sales recorded in September 2015 and a decrease of 9.5 per cent compared to August 2016 when 2,489 homes sold.

Last month’s sales were 9.6 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month.

“Supply and demand conditions differ today depending on property type,” Dan Morrison, REBGV president said. “We’re seeing more demand for condominiums and townhomes today than in the detached home market.”

New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Metro Vancouver totalled 4,799 in September 2016. This represents a decrease of one per cent compared to the 4,846 units listed in September 2015 and an 11.8 per cent increase compared to August 2016 when 4,293 properties were listed.

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS® system in Metro Vancouver is 9,354, a 13.4 per cent decline compared to September 2015 (10,805) and a 10 per cent increase compared to August 2016 (8,506).

The sales-to-active listings ratio for September 2016 is 24.1 per cent. This is the lowest this ratio has been since February 2015. Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months.

“Changing market conditions are easing upward pressure on home prices in our region,” Morrison said. “There’s uncertainty in the market at the moment and home buyers and sellers are having difficulty establishing price as a result. To help you understand the factors affecting prices, it’s important to talk with a REALTOR®.”

The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $931,900. This represents a 28.9 per cent increase compared to September 2015 and a 0.1 per cent decline compared to August 2016.

Sales of detached properties in September 2016 reached 666, a decrease of 47.6 per cent from the 1,272 detached sales recorded in September 2015. The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,579,400. This represents a 33.7 per cent increase compared to September 2015 and a 0.1 per cent increase compared to August 2016.

Sales of apartment properties reached 1,218 in September 2016, a decrease of 20.3 per cent compared to the 1,529 sales in September 2015.The benchmark price of an apartment property is $511,800. This represents a 23.5 per cent increase compared to September 2015 and a 0.5 per cent decline compared to August 2016.

Attached property sales in September 2016 totalled 369, a decrease of 32.2 per cent compared to the 544 sales in September 2015. The benchmark price of an attached unit is $677,000. This represents a 29.1 per cent increase compared to September 2015 and a 0.1 per cent decline compared to August 2016.


One of Vienna's biggest challenge is to find enough land to build housing for the growing city. Vienna is the capital and largest city in Austria, with a population of about 1.8 million. 



Vienna, Austria might be known for stunning architecture, but its dedication to subsidized rental housing is why it's in the spotlight today.

Nearly 220,000 units in the city are subsidized, explains Kurt Puchinger, a housing administrator for the city, who is in Vancouver to speak at the Re:Address Housing Conference.

In comparison, Vancouver has 25,649 units of social housing.

The key difference is funding.

"From 1922, we have a tradition of nearly 100 years of subsidized housing," Puchinger said. "The money comes from the central government [and] public housing is part of our constitution ... there is a stable financial basis from the public sector."

He said every year Vienna receives 460 million Euros ($672 million Canadian) from the central government, and the state chips in a further 140 million Euros ($204 million Canadian).

The city uses public funding to create 8,000 to 9,000 units of subsidized housing every year.

Vancouver's perspective

After sharing the stage with Puchinger at the conference, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he found the contrast between the two cities particularly interesting.

"Ultimately if the right to housing was in the Canadian constitution, we'd be in a different world now," he said, referring to Vancouver housing crunch.

He said his city's scenario is entirely different.

"We're a long ways from achieving the right to housing in our constitution," he said. "For now, our struggle is to get more resources from those levels of government."

The City of Vancouver has asked the federal government for $500 million over five years to build social housing on 20 city properties.

The provincial government committed $500 million this year from a budget surplus, but the money is for affordable rental housing across the province — an estimated 4,900 units.

Number of challenges

Despite the significant amount of social housing, Puchinger said Vienna faces some challenges in meeting their subsidized housing policy.

For one, the city is facing immense population growth — an estimated 30,000 people arrive in the city every year.

Not all of the growth is covered with subsidized housing, Puchinger explained. The market housing and private housing sectors make up the difference.

Puchinger said another struggle is to find available land. The city is only about 400 square kilometers, and developers have to contend with a city policy to keep 50 per cent of the city green.

The city of Vancouver, by contrast, is 114 square kilometers, and the Metro Vancouver region is 2877 square kilometers.

"The land prices are growing, so it's becoming more complicated to get the appropriate land."

A key success of the policy, Puchinger also said, is subsidized housing is not a point of discrimination.

"[There] is a social mixture all over the city. You cannot identify the social status of a person by looking at their address," he said.

"Renting a flat is not a social discriminating act."


In her B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit, Mei Han claims she was under the impression that she could secure a private school spot for her daughter by buying this house.

In her B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit, Mei Han claims she was under the impression that she could secure a private school spot for her daughter by buying this house. (Google Streetview)


A failed real estate transaction has landed in B.C. Supreme Court with a Vancouver woman's claim she offered to buy a $6.7 million home as part of what she thought was a deal to gain her daughter a place in one of the city's most prestigious private schools.

In a notice of civil claim, Mei Han claims an acquaintance who owned a home opposite York House offered to broker an "alternative arrangement" which would see Han buy the property in order to lend or lease it to the school.

As a quid pro quo, Han claims the acquaintance — Lili Song — told her Han's daughter Olivia would get a much-coveted spot in York's Grade 4 class.

Han claims she put down $100,000 as proof she would purchase the home last December. But two months later, York House told her they had no place for Olivia.

"Lili never discussed with York House, or its official or representative, with regard to the alternative arrangement, and York House never agreed to same," the notice of claim says.

'Just doesn't happen'

Han is suing to get back her deposit. The notice of claim was filed in the summer.

Last month, Lili Song filed a response claiming the two never had an arrangement to get Olivia into York House. She says the money was a non-refundable deposit on a home sale contract which Han repudiated.

"Lili agreed to assist the plaintiff by informally raising with members of York House's administration the plaintiff's desire to enroll her daughter. To this end, Lili provided a letter of recommendation to York House and provided the plaintiff with some introductions," Song's response says.

"At no time did Lili represent that she would secure the plaintiff's daughter admission at York House, nor did Lili ever request, demand or require in any manner any payment from the plaintiff for her informal assistance."

York House Senior School

York House School for girls is consistently ranked among the top private schools in British Columbia. (Michael Elkin/Fast+Epp)

Founded in 1932, York House is an independent day school for girls located in Vancouver's tony Shaughnessy neighbourhood. The school is consistently rated as one of the top private schools in B.C. 

According to the school's website, tuition is nearly $20,000 a year. A non-refundable new student entrance fee is $2,500.

York House's director of communications says the school was unaware of the lawsuit — to which it is not a party.

"At York House, we've got a very stringent admissions process at the school," said Darcy Hausselman.

"Any influence by a prospective family or a third party to secure a position just doesn't happen."

Han claims she first started trying to enroll her daughter in York House in the fall of 2015. But she knew it was very difficult and sought help from friends and acquaintances.

She claims Song accompanied her to meetings with school officials who told her Olivia could only be enrolled if a current student transferred out of the school.

"Lili represented to Mei in private that, despite the ordinary practice of York House, she would be able to foster an extraordinary arrangement for Olivia to enrol, if Mei was willing to make a substantial monetary donation," the claim reads.

The 'alternative arrangement'

According to the court documents, Song owns a home which sits on the opposite side of the road from York House.

Han claims Song told her that if she bought the house for $6.7 million, she wouldn't have to donate money — she could lend or lease the property to the school instead.

But Song claims she never told Han anything in regards to the purchase of the home. She claims Han offered to buy it, and she offered to sell it because she knew the other woman was actively lobbying to get Olivia into York House.

Han claims she told Song she was no longer interested in buying the house after the school rejected her daughter.

But Song's response says the two had a contract for purchase and sale of the house which involved a non-refundable $100,000 deposit. She says by repudiating the contract to purchase the home, Han forfeited her money.

None of the claims have been proven in court.


Construction workers on the site of a new home being built in Maple Ridge. - TIMES files

There’s a changing dynamic in the Metro Vancouver real estate market, that includes Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

The bubble hasn’t burst, but it’s certainly deflating.

Home sales dipped below the 10-year monthly sales average last month.

Metro Vancouver home sales totalled 2,253 in September 2016, a decrease of 32.6 per cent from  the 3,345 sales recorded in September  2015 and a  decrease of 9.5 per cent compared to August  2016 when 2,489 homes sold.

Last month’s sales were 9.6 per cent below the 10-year sales average for the month.

“Supply and demand conditions differ today depending  on property  type,” said Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) president Dan Morrison. “We’re  seeing more demand for condominiums  and townhomes today than in the detached home market.”

The total number of homes currently listed for sale on the MLS system in Metro Vancouver is 9,354, a 13.4 per cent decline compared to September 2015 (10,805) and a 10 per cent increase compared to August 2016 (8,506).

The sales-to-active listings ratio for September was 24.1 per cent. This is the lowest this ratio has been since February 2015.

Generally, analysts say that downward pressure on home prices occurs when the ratio dips below the 12 per cent mark for a sustained period, while home prices often experience upward pressure when it surpasses 20 per cent over several months

“Changing market conditions are easing upward pressure on home prices in our region,” Morrison said. “There’s uncertainty in the market at the moment and home buyers and sellers are having difficulty establishing price as a result.”

How much of this decline has to do with the recently implemented BC Foreign Buyers Tax (FBT) in Metro Vancouver?

Not as much as you think, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which recently released a Housing Market Insight (HMI) report on the tax.

On July 25, the province implemented an additional property transfer tax of 15 per cent on home sales to foreign buyers.

According to the corporation, preliminary analysis of resale data suggests the market was slowing down prior to the tax’s introduction.

According to the corporation:

• Prior to the tax’s introduction, Vancouver was seeing a slowing pace of sales, an ongoing market shift to more condominium sales and a downward trend in average prices, and

• MLS sales declined following the start of the tax, continuing an already established trend, particularly at the higher end of the price spectrum.

The MLS Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver is currently $931,900. This represents a 28.9 per cent increase compared to September 2015 and a 0.1 per cent decline compared to August 2016.

However, the sales of detached properties in September 2016 reached 666, a decrease of 47.6 per cent from the 1,272 detached sales recorded in September 2015.

The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,579,400. This represents a 33.7 per cent increase compared to September 2015 and a 0.1 per cent increase compared to August 2016.

House prices inched up ever so slightly in Maple Ridge (one per cent) and Pitt Meadows (1.2 per cent) from August to September.

Last month, the benchmark price for a detached house in Maple Ridge was $719,900, and $793,600 in Pitt Meadows. That’s still a 37 per cent increase in price in Maple Ridge and a 34.9 per cent jump in Pitt Meadows from September 2015 (Benchmark represents a typical property within each market).

Townhouses (benchmark $398,00 in Maple Ridge and $474,900 in Pitt Meadows) actually dropped in price in both cities from August to September. It was a slight stumble: 2.6 per cent in Maple Ridge and 0.9 per cent in Pitt Meadows.

Meanwhile, apartments inched up 1.7 per cent in price in Maple Ridge ($203,900) from August to September and two per cent in Pitt Meadows ($305,200) over that same time period.

The two communities combined led the way in one category of real estate sales last month, among the 16 regions covered by the REBGV.


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Vancouver’s real-estate market is currently nothing short of cutthroat, so if you do manage to get your hands on a property, it’s likely not without some compromise.

But while that ’80s condo may not be the brand-new, open-concept space you had in mind, there are some adjustments that can be made without blowing your already-tight budget out of the water.

“With everything being so expensive, it’s really nice to be able to update your home a little bit to ensure you’re getting what you want in this market,” explains Amanda Severson, one half of local interior-design firm Marie Joy Design, by phone.


Ahead of Severson and her partner Kristina Hibbs’s appearance at the Vancouver Home + Design Show next Sunday (October 30), where they’ll be dishing on the perks of considering design elements before a renovation, the designer duo shares some tips for transforming your condo on a budget.


Overhaul cabinetry

If you’re stuck with weathered wood cupboards but don’t have the resources for an entire kitchen gut, painting your cabinetry is an easy fix. You can go for an eccentric look by opting for a bright red or pewter blue, though Severson and Hibbs suggest sticking with a clean white when working with limited square footage.

“If it’s a smaller space, doing white makes way more sense,” explains Hibbs. “It will make it feel way larger, and you can add your contrast with the backsplash or countertop and things like that.”

Faced with updating melamine cabinets? Keep the boxes, says Severson, and simply replace the doors. Swapping out your knobs and pulls—in both the kitchen and bathroom—is another DIY move with big impact.

“If you have a decent layout but if it’s a bit dated and the cabinets are fine and a good colour, just switching out the hardware changes it up a lot,” says Severson.


Switch out lighting

Ditch outdated lighting units—or worse, the builder-grade “boob light”—by installing new fixtures throughout. To keep your budget in check, Severson suggests fitting cheaper options in high-traffic areas so you can spend more in feature rooms.

“Splurge on dining fixtures or pendants that you might have in the kitchen, because that’s an area where you really want to draw your eye up as a focal point,” she says.

For foyers and hallways, a simple flush-mount light—available from $20 at home and hardware stores like Home Depot—will do. You can have more fun in the dining room, for example, with a drum-shade pendant or modest chandelier.

However, try not to go too OTT. “If you add in a very elaborate fixture, it can sometimes take away from the space, and you never want it to feel that way,” adds Hibbs.


Refresh the basics

Simple finishes like baseboards and casing can easily be overlooked when it comes to partial renovations, but replacing these seemingly small details can make a world of difference. “You’re not removing a wall or anything, but it will make it feel a little bit fresher,” says Hibbs.

In the bathroom, a large, clunky mirror can be replaced with a chicer option from HomeSense, for example. Look for a framed ornate or vintage-inspired piece that will add charm to your space.

Severson and Hibbs also stress the importance of good window coverings. Consider tossing the requisite blinds for airy linen drapery. “Keeping it light in colour just softens the space and adds enough texture without being too much,” says Severson.


Streamline flooring

A little bit of vinyl, a dash of parquet, and some questionably clean carpeting seem to be the go-to formula when it comes to flooring in older spaces. To help bring your space into the 21st century, rip out the mishmash of materials in favour of one type all the way through.

Severson and Hibbs recommend laminate wood flooring, which is more durable than many people think. It’s also pretty easy on the wallet and eyes. “People are kind of scared to do laminate in kitchens…but we say install it throughout the whole place just to make it feel larger, more open,” says Hibbs.

The two note that homeowners working with south-facing spaces, which are exposed to more natural light, should opt for flooring options that feature a low sheen. “The shinier you go, the more you’ll notice dirt and marks—especially if you have a lot of windows,” explains Hibbs.

Create a feature wall

While wallpaper can be a big—and costly—commitment, wall decals are an affordable alternative. Whether you go for oversized polka dots, tropical palm leaves, or a cheeky animal print, the patterns help add a punch of personality to any space.

“Something like that, especially for a kid’s room, is really fun to update it, modernize it,” explains Severson, “and it’s totally inexpensive.”

Severson and Hibbs are fans of Urban Wall, a Vancouver-based producer of vinyl wall decals that are easy to both install and remove. When decking the walls in a tighter space, however, keeping the print to one side may work best.

“If your room isn’t huge, you don’t want to do the whole space, because it will just feel too busy,” says Hibbs.


We have listed a new property at 24819 106B AVE in Maple Ridge.
Gorgeous home in Highland Vistas backing on to greenbelt! Engineered hardwood flooring, open concept plan, and lots of natural light. Huge living room with 18' ft vaulted ceilings. Gas fireplace, granite counters, dark wood cabinets, gas range and more. 3 bedrooms upstairs and 1 bedroom mortgage helper downstairs. Huge master bedroom with walk in closet. Finished basement with kitchen and seprate entrance. Minutes away from Samuel Robertson Technical Highschool. Too many upgrades to list. This designer home is a pleasure to show! Open House Sunday October 23rd from 2-4pm.

To determine each year’s total, Realtors and real estate offices disclose information about their charitable donations to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV).

The REBGV’s 13,000 Realtor members have collectively donated or fundraised more than $41 million for various charitable causes over the past nine years.

"This program underscores the time and money Realtors across our region contribute each year to help build, strengthen and give back to the communities where they work and live," Dan Morrison, REBGV president said.

REALTORS Care® is the charitable program under which Realtors give back to their communities. Each year, REALTORS Care® initiatives raise funds and collect donations for a wide range of local groups and institutions.


We have sold a property at 1225 GARDEN DR in Vancouver.
Stunning and pristine 1 owner home in the heart of East Vancouver. This Italian built home situated on a perfect flat CORNER lot. The best layout in this Vancouver special. Features granite counters, gas stoves, fridge with water hookup, 2 wood burning fireplaces, laundry room with sink, beautifully tiled and hardwood through out, cantina cold storage, and an extra converted spice kitchen. Huge 300 square foot south facing sun deck. Custom built with attention to detail. Steps to shopping on Nanaimo street, close to transit and schools. Manicured front and back yards. Pride of ownership shines thru this home. A pleasure to show!


Vancouver’s housing crisis is more than a question of real estate prices – there’s the bigger issue of housing as a human right.

“Housing is the core to well being and to life. It affects us in so many ways, emotionally and physically. That’s why it is a human right,” says Leilani Farha, special rapporteur on the right to housing for the United Nations Human Rights Council. “We are talking life and death issues. We are talking health issues. It’s very serious. All tend to compromise one’s dignity, and one’s being.”

Ms. Farha, a lawyer by trade, was in Vancouver recently as part of her research on a paper she will present at the UN, on the commodification of housing. As part of her research, she toured the Lower Mainland and attended the first Larry Bell Urban Forum, an international housing conference at Simon Fraser University.

If there’s a cautionary tale of what happens when houses become commodities instead of homes, it is Vancouver. It’s not an isolated phenomenon, nor is it new. It’s happening in other gateway cities, such as London, New York and Sydney. Rich people have always gentrified neighbourhoods and displaced low-income groups.

But Ms. Farha, who is also executive director of Ottawa-based Canada Without Poverty, says the scale of the phenomenon has changed, and the sudden benefactors of this wealth aren’t as concerned as they should be. While the widening gap between rich and low-income is leading to an increase in displacement and homelessness, we’re not responding to the crisis with enough concern or haste.

“There’s something different,” she says. “It’s the amount of wealth, and the intensification of housing as a commodity and the incredible emphasis right now on housing as an investment.

“If we took the North American context, or even the Vancouver context, where people are in a few years doubling the equity and value in their homes, I think people are chuffed. You bought it for $500,000 and now it’s worth $3-million in a short period of time. I don’t see people embarrassed by that or worried about what that means for the poorest people in [the] country. They are chuffed. They know what they are sitting on.

Presenting her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing Leilani Farha stressed that local and regional governments must be aware of their obligations under international human rights law with respect to housing. (United Nations)

“This is because of the intensification of the drive to own property and real estate, to invest in it, to flip it to make money – that has created a culture where people are being harassed and forcibly evicted, or evicted unfairly, so that landlords can sell properties and make a big quick buck.

“The human-rights alarm bells go off for me. The question is, should subnational governments be regulating this stuff? From a human-rights perspective, the answer is, absolutely. Subnational-level governments are all equally responsible. I don’t think there’s been enough attention paid to the necessary regulations that could control this.”

The right to housing is found in Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations and signed and ratified by Canada. Adequate housing is defined as living “in security, peace and dignity,” at reasonable cost, with secure tenure. That makes forced evictions and skyrocketing rents a human-rights concern.

In Vancouver, low-income residents are being routinely displaced from rental buildings because landlords know they can get higher rents. At Little Mountain, our oldest social-housing project, about 700 low-income residents were displaced when the province sold the six hectares to developer Holborn, the same developer behind the luxury downtown Trump tower, which sold for an average of $1,615 a square foot.

Ingrid Steenhuisen, spokeswoman for Little Mountain, stands near a boarded-up house. At Little Mountain, about 700 low-income residents were displaced when the province sold the six hectares to developer Holborn. (Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail)

And in Burnaby, hundreds of low-income renters have been given the boot from their rental buildings because the city rezoned the area around SkyTrain for greater density.

“The international human-rights community has decided forced evictions constitute a gross violation of human rights and should never happen,” says Ms. Farha.

“But the human-rights world is also realistic. It does happen. And if it does, what rules should govern? It’s been decided that there has to be a pretty long and involved process before people in a community should ever be forced to leave. It involves meaningful consultation and exploring every alternative to the displacement. There are many more criteria.

“But just ask yourself, were those criteria met for the folks in Burnaby, who are being displaced as a result of the Canada Line? Have they been meaningfully consulted and has every alternative been pursued?

“Of course not. So that answers the question. Under human-rights law, you do everything you can to keep communities intact, because families set up homes in certain locations for a reason, and once they do that they become very rooted.”

Ms. Farha attended the Urban Forum to hear academics such as Dallas Rogers, Urban Studies Professor at the University of Western Sydney. His book, The Geopolitics of Real Estate, is out this month, and it looks at the history of the global wealth driving the housing crisis.

Dr. Rogers says foreign wealth grew in part because governments in China and Russia privatized previously state-owned assets. Wealth in those countries became global and mobile.

But not all foreign capital is equal. Sydney, he says, is seeing a more middle-class type of Chinese foreign capital, where buyers are interested in housing for their children while they attend university. That’s different from the rich buyer in London or Vancouver, who purchases a luxury house or condo as a means to build the investment portfolio.

The result of that sort of capital is felt on the ground, as in the empty neighbourhoods. Dr. Rogers says he saw signs of emptiness in Vancouver.

The last row of homes left at the 15-acre Little Mountain site in Vancouver, seen in this June 26, 2012 photo. (John Lehmann / The Globe and Mail)

“That is when you have neighbourhoods where nobody lives in them, businesses die, no one is servicing them – you are seeing that maybe in Vancouver,” says Dr. Rogers. “It certainly looked that way when I was there. We’re not seeing that in Sydney yet, but this [situation] is the dead end. We don’t want Sydney to become Vancouver, in that sense.

“The real estate is so detached from the physical environment because they are just putting their cash in and knowing they can get it out later. They are more interested in diversifying than capital gain – that is the most worrying progression in this. That is the end game that we all need to be worrying about.

“In Sydney, there is some trophy home investment, but not to the scale of Vancouver or London, where you are abstracting the home so far from a place that you live in, have kids and send them to school, to this place where you store capital.”

As well, he says it’s tougher to get citizenship in Australia than it is in Canada, which is a significant difference. Also, foreign investors in Australia are mostly limited to new housing stock.

“Because of differences like that, you get the footloose capital into Vancouver, but we get more strategic capital. It’s investment for a purpose, and that is directly related to our foreign-investment rule.”

Dallas Rogers, Urban Studies Professor at the University of Western Sydney and author of"The Geopolitics of Real Estate."

Both Ms. Farha and Dr. Rogers argue for intervention that aims to close the widening gap. Government needs to step up.

“The government is going to have their pro-foreign agenda, and their rules, and if we accept all those things, we need to be arguing for affordable housing,” says Dr. Rogers. “If you provide it in all suburbs of the city, then you protect against that absentee landlordism because you are building communities.”

Ms. Farha says it’s simply government’s job to regulate the housing market and uphold human-rights laws. It’s also government’s job to regulate developers, she adds.

“I’m talking about recognizing the dignity of every person, and making sure we are doing everything we can to ensure that dignity remains intact – that’s not too much to ask of government.”


Iredale project architect Daniel Hawreluk has been working with celebrated Swiss architect Harry Gugger on work at Vancouver's Exchange Tower | Rob Kruyt

International architects are leaving their marks on Vancouver’s evolving skyline in a way that is in stark contrast to the urban landscape at the dawn of the century.

Not only did celebrated Danish architect Bjarke Ingels come up with the original concept for the twisty Vancouver House building that is rising at 1460 Howe Street, but Swiss architect Harry Gugger (known for work designing the birds-nest style Beijing National Stadium) designed the façade of the Exchange tower, which is under construction at 475 Howe Street.

German architect Ole Scheeren has designed a Jenga-inspired structure for a Kingswood Capital and Bosa Properties structure in the courtyard of 1500 West Georgia Street.

It is almost as though a new international starchitect, or star architect, is tapped every few months to unveil a new design to change the look of the city’s skyline.

Japan’s Kengo Kuma is another example, as he unveiled his design in April for Westbank Projects Corp.’s 43-storey residential tower at the corner of Alberni and Cardero streets.

These architects normally partner with Vancouver counterparts, many of whom are on Business in Vancouver's 2016 list of largest architectural firms in the city, and their presence stems from at least two drivers.

The floodgates first opened for major offshore talent when British architectural luminary Norman Foster, in 2004, had his Foster and Partners agree to design the Jameson House at 826 West Hastings Street for Jameson Development Corp.

“That was really the advent,” said Dialog principal and longtime Vancouver architect Joost Bakker.

“[Foster] was a name that one would otherwise only see his work in magazines or online. Vancouver just hadn’t had the experience of having such a recognized-name architect before.”

Foster was fresh from winning the 1999 Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of Architecture, and was known for designing globally identifiable buildings, such as the London Millennium Tower.

The second significant development was Brent Toderian taking the job of chief planner at the City of Vancouver in 2006.

(Image: Vancouver House at 1460 Howe Street | Dialog)

Toderian started speaking out against what he saw as being a bland sameness among many of Vancouver’s buildings.

“It was necessary to break the culture that we were a closed system and only local architects could get hired,” Toderian said.

He stressed the need for new buildings to fit in the context of strong urban design and environmental sustainability, yet also be architecturally adventurous.

Toderian told Business in Vancouver that he believes his speaking out encouraged local architects to stretch their imaginations while alerting international architects that their talents were welcome.

“I played matchmaker between [Westbank principal and developer] Ian Gillespie and Bjarke Ingels,” Toderian said of setting up the first meeting between the two men.

“I think they virtually walked out of that room with a handshake agreement to work together, and that led to the Vancouver House building.”

(Image: Jameson House)

Bakker remembers his firm coming on board as the “architects of record” for the Vancouver House project after Gillespie and Ingels sought bids from local architecture firms.

Dialog had worked previously in Copenhagen and some of its partners had contacts within Ingels’ Bjarke Ingels Group.

“It takes a while to get to know each other because we each have different ways of working,” Bakker said of working with the Danish architect. “Then a pattern develops and it demands a lot of communication.”

(Image: Kengo Kuma's design for Westbank Projects Corp.'s 43-storey residential tower at the corner of Alberni and Cardero streets | submitted)

Another of Toderian’s goals was to ensure that some of Vancouver’s prominent new buildings would be office towers and not condominium towers because he believed that the city lacked sufficient space for businesses.

Articulating that sentiment encouraged SwissReal Group principal Franz Gehriger to think big when he envisaged redeveloping his Old Stock Exchange building on Howe Street.

(Image: Exchange Tower | Iredale)

He hired Vancouver’s Iredale Group Architecture to stickhandle the rezoning of the site, and the firm was able to persuade city council to grant extra density in return for retaining a heritage façade on the project.

Credit Suisse came on board as the majority shareholder in the project and financing was flush enough to get starchitect Gugger to redesign the façade of the new portion of the project.

“It’s fascinating to meet people like [Gugger],” Iredale project architect Daniel Hawreluk told BIV.

“He’s a dominant figure, for sure. There’s no question about that. He’s an architectural educator at a Swiss university so he approaches architecture from a philosophical, as well as practical, perspective, which makes working with him very interesting.”

Iredale was responsible for the building’s interior planning and detailing as well as integrating Gugger’s façade into an existing plan that was developed when the project was going through rezoning.

“There are logistical challenges working with someone who is in a different time zone,” Hawreluk said. “There’re also cultural differences. You learn an awful lot, and I hope that they learned a little bit from us as well.” •


We have sold a property at 110 7 RIALTO CRT in New Westminster.
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The federal government will make it tougher for speculators to profit tax-free from Canadian real estate investments, while further tightening mortgage qualification rules to help avoid excessive risk in the housing market.

The changes announced Monday by Finance Minister Bill Morneau are expected to put further downward pressure on hot housing markets such as Vancouver and Toronto.

Homes sold from now on won't be eligible for the principal residence exemption from capital gains tax  if the seller wasn't a resident of Canada in the year they bought the property.

Experts say that should bar foreign investors from using the capital gain exemption and also hit some Canadian citizens who have been abusing the exemption to use real estate as a tax-free investment.

The Canada Revenue Agency will now require taxpayers to report the sale of homes for which they are claiming the principal residence exemption.

NDP housing critic David Eby predicted the federal rule change could have more effect even than the B.C. government's recent imposition of a 15 per cent foreign buyer tax on residential real estate sales in Metro Vancouver.

"I think there's a great deal of domestic speculation in the housing market that is totally unaddressed by the foreign buyer tax," Eby said.

"The reason people are putting money into real estate instead of shares of a company is because they can do so capital gains free."

He suggested that with CRA auditors poised to take a harder look at potentially phony claims of the exemption, more real estate investors may shift to different investments.

Eby has been among the critics who have flagged cases of homemakers and students buying multi-million-dollar Vancouver-area homes with minimal to no declared annual income.

When those individuals sell a million-dollar home and avoid paying tax on a $300,000 capital gain, he suggested, they'll be prime targets for "lifestyle audits" by the CRA.

The new disclosure requirement should also help the CRA unravel cases where multiple family members – mother, father and kids – are each declaring different principal residences to dodge capital gains despite a rule that a family could only declare one such property exempt.

Ottawa also unveiled a tightening of rules on mortgage insurance eligibility and a revised mortgage rate stress test that will be applied to all insured mortgages.

The revised stress test means more home buyers will have to have sufficient income to meet their mortgage payments not based on the mortgage rate a bank is offering them but based on the Bank of Canada's posted rate for fixed five-year terms.

"That can be a two per cent difference in what you qualify for," said UBC associate economics professor Tom Davidoff, who predicted it will make it considerably harder for buyers who are stretching to afford the biggest payment and mortgage they can get.

"I think the lower end of the market is going to feel it the most."

B.C. Housing Minister Rich Coleman praised the federal measures.

"They are welcome steps that may help provide further fairness and stability in the market for home-buyers," Coleman said.


Real estate sales in Metro Vancouver dropped significantly after the province introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in August.

Real estate sales in Metro Vancouver dropped significantly after the province introduced a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in August. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)


The number of homes sold in Metro Vancouver continued to drop last month, but the benchmark price remained stable, according to new numbers from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver.

In total, 2,253 homes were sold in September, a decrease of 9.5 per cent compared to August 2016, and a drop of 32.6 per cent compared to September 2015.

But the benchmark price for all residential properties in Metro Vancouver remained stable at $931,900 — a 0.1 per cent decline compared to August 2016, but a 28.9 per cent increase compared to September 2015.

The sales drop follows the introduction of a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers by the provincial government in early  August.


"There's uncertainty in the market at the moment and homebuyers and sellers are having difficulty establishing price as a result," said board president Dan Morrison in a statement Tuesday morning.

He notes the slowdown in sales was most significant for detached homes, but benchmark prices remain flat for all types of homes.

"Supply and demand conditions differ today depending on property type. We're seeing more demand for condominiums and townhomes today than in the detached home market."

Breaking down the numbers

Sales of detached properties decreased 47.6 per cent last month from September 2015. 

The benchmark price for detached properties is $1,579,400 —  a 0.1 per cent increase from August 2016, and a 33.7 per cent rise from September 2015.

Also in September, sales of apartment properties decreased 20.3 per cent compared to September 2015.

The benchmark price of an apartment property is $511,800 — down 0.5 per cent from to August 2016, but up 23.5 per cent from September 2015.

Sales of attached property decreased 32.2 per cent compared to September 2015.

The benchmark price of an attached unit is $677,000 — down 0.1 per cent from August 2016, but up  29.1 per cent from September 2015.

Last month, the real estate board released statistics showing the number of sales in the region dropped 26 per cent in August compared to the same month in 2015.

In July, sales were down 18 per cent compared to the same month in 2015.





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  • An agent with RE/MAX Crest Realty Westside is hoping to attract a buyer willing to pay $5 million for this property at 3538 West 29th Avenue.REAL ESTATE WEEKLY

On September 22, the provincial government released its third round of data on B.C. real estate to reveal that sales to foreign nationals plummeted following the introduction of a 15-percent tax on such transactions.

Then, on October 4, the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver reported that property sales across the Lower Mainland continued a downward trend they’ve been on for six months now and, in September, fell below the 10-year average for the first time since May 2014.

Meanwhile, the City of Vancouver is moving ahead with plans to implement a tax on vacant homes and Ottawa is tightening restrictions on risky mortgages.

All of that might give people hope that the region’s out-of-control real-estate market might soon begin to chill. But listings that some might describe as unreasonable are still easy to find.

Take this four-bedroom, two-bathroom fixer upper on West 29thAvenue in the city’s West Side.

Asking price: $5 million even.

The author of the listing doesn’t even pretend to care about the house that sits on this 6,540-square-foot lot. Its description makes no mention of bedrooms or bathrooms. Instead, it focuses on the land.

“This is a perfect opportunity to buy a large oversized lot in the Dunbar area,” it reads.

In case you were wondering, 15 percent of $5 million is $750,000. Even for the wealthy, that’s quite a premium to pay on a teardown.

This article is part of a really fun series. Click through similar posts at the links below.


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Vancouver has joined a growing list of cities around the world grappling with both the new sharing economy and housing crises, proposing new restrictions for short-term rentals through platforms such as Airbnb.

Mayor Gregor Robertson and staff outlined a proposal Wednesday for new rules that would restrict rentals to homes that owners or renters live in most of the time and only rent out occasionally. Full-time listings in otherwise vacant homes, which have been blamed for taking long-term, stable rental housing off the market, would be prohibited.

“At a time like this, when affordable and rental housing are in a crisis, it’s incumbent upon the city to take bold steps,” the mayor said.


Anyone renting short term would need to get a permit, post the number on the listing site and likely pay some equivalent of a hotel tax. There are 13 short-term-rental platforms now operating in the city, although Airbnb is the largest.

to be rented out to short-term vacationers.

Nor will they give them for basement suites or lane-way houses, even if the owner lives full time in the main part of the house.

The move has prompted praise from housing advocates who say it will help ensure that desperately needed rental units aren’t being turned into hotel businesses.

“It looks like the city is allowing housing to be the driver on this issue, rather than taxes or tourism,” said Karen Sawatzky, a Simon Fraser University graduate student whose research on Airbnb for her thesis helped inform public opinion on the issue the past year.

And it is already generating criticism from those who see it as an ineffective effort to deal with housing problems caused by lack of supply or a bureaucratic intrusion on private-property rights, or both.

SFU business professor Andrey Pavlov said the new rules are an unneeded piece of micromanaging into something the city shouldn’t interfere with – the agreement between two private individuals about renting a space.

He also said the city is using this inefficient tool to solve a problem of its own making – the lack of housing supply.

“The development process in Vancouver is incredibly cumbersome. It’s the City of Vancouver that is in large part responsible for the housing crisis.”

While some will agree with Prof. Pavlov, the political reality that Vancouver councillors are facing is that people are clamouring for instant action to solve a dire housing situation, which has seen real-estate prices rise by an astronomical rate in recent years, while rental costs are also skyrocketing at the same time that vacancies are near zero.

The city’s report on the new regulations says there were about 4,000 Airbnb listings in Vancouver for entire units in June of this year, and it estimates about 1,000 of those could be prohibited under the new rules, potentially opening them up for long-term renters.

Airbnb has denied that its service is having a major effect on housing in Vancouver, suggesting that full-time listings that could otherwise be used as a long-term rental represent just a small fraction of its business. Instead, the U.S.-based company argues that Airbnb allows homeowners to help make ends meet.

The company says it’s reviewing the City of Vancouver’s proposed rules.

Vancouver is far from the first city to bring in new rules to deal with the sharing-economy platforms that have flourished in the past decade, allowing renters and landlords to connect directly for short-term rentals of anything from a bedroom in a shared apartment to a van to an entire house or condo.

This is the third new housing policy that Lower Mainland residents have seen in recent months, as both provincial and local politicians have bowed to popular opinion. The province introduced a stiff 15-per-cent sales tax for foreign buyers of residential real estate as of Aug. 2. And two weeks ago, Mr. Robertson announced the city would be implementing a tax as of 2017 on secondary residences left vacant for lengthy periods during the year.

Many cities in Europe and North America have been moving to regulate Airbnb-type platforms, demanding that they have special permits or limiting the number of nights per year a unit can be rented out.

Vancouver chose not to put a cap on the number of nights, although staff considered that seriously.

“Other cities we looked at said that it was difficult to monitor,” said Kaye Krishna, Vancouver’s general manager of development services.

Ms. Sawatzky said that, although the Vancouver policy is generally good, it did avoid tackling two problems.

The city’s policy will allow someone to rent out a spare bedroom in their house or condo. That takes away much-needed, cheap space away from low-income workers, she said.

“Lots of people in this city are working full time for minimum wage and they can’t rent something on their own. So where are those people supposed to live?”

The city also didn’t propose fining the platform operators if individual owners don’t get the required permit, something that Barcelona has done.


Most days, when I get to the office, I sit down at a desk and write about the latest news in Metro Vancouver. But for the past few weeks, work consisted of putting on a lot of makeup and meeting men for coffee dates.

My pseudonym was April Lim. I posed as a young woman looking for a place to stay in Vancouver’s hot housing market. The men I met up with were offering just that – but at a price.

In simple terms, it’s prostitution. These men are asking women to have sex with them in exchange for rent.

Ads have been popping up on Craigslist, some with careful wording suggesting that a discreet deal could be made if you’re the right candidate. Others were more blatant, asking for “friends with benefits” or a “sexy slut.” It seems the men behind these ads have found a new way to get Vancouver’s expensive housing market to work for them.

The first man we met with was from Croatia. He’s waiting for his permanent residency in Canada, and lives in a basement suite in Burnaby. He explained that he hadn’t been successful in relationships and that he was looking to try something new.

He treated the rendez-vous almost like a first date, asking about my background, my family and what my hobbies were. He seemed nervous, and said his mother was waiting for him in the Metrotown mall. I almost felt sorry for the guy – until I realized I shouldn’t.

The reality of the situation remains: this man was setting himself up in a power position to prey on women. When the exchange of goods stops, he’ll want money – or kick the woman out onto the street. I met with Janine Benedet, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, who explained it very clearly.

“It’s not all men who are overtly violent or discriminatory,” she said.

“But it doesn’t mean even the confused ones, even the ones who want to set themselves as unlucky in love aren’t engaging in behaviour that’s exploitative and predatory.”

That man quickly became explicit and very specific about his sexual needs the next time I was in contact with him over the phone, and suggested that I wear clothing that would be easy to take off on certain scheduled nights. He then asked for rough sex on the couch. I felt even less sorry for him then.

rent for sex scheme

The second man we met up with owns a place on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver. He’s from Turkey and works in a restaurant. His ad described the situation as a “room share,” but in the e-mail response he revealed it was actually a “bed-share.” He claimed more than a thousand women emailed him in hopes of staying at his condo. When I asked why he decided to meet up with me, he said it was because I stated in my email that I was “open-minded.”

“I ask if you’re open minded, none of them says I am open minded,” he said, describing the other candidates. “And then [I say] is it possible to share a bed? They say: if I put a small blanket down [on the floor] I can sleep there. So they’re not open minded.”

He explained that he didn’t want women paying rent because then they would ask for privacy – and then told me about a previous tenant, whom he had kicked out for that exact reason. She was paying $350 monthly and he decided to ask her to leave in the middle of the month. He wasn’t clear about the entire situation, but told me that she had asked him to be quiet in the mornings. When she threatened to call police for kicking her out, he dared her to do so. She didn’t.

Louisa Russel from Vancouver Rape Relief says women face these kinds of situations too often in Vancouver’s expensive housing market, where vacancy rates are at a record low and competition is fierce. It’s left them desperate, and with not many options.

“We receive calls from women phoning us complaining about predatory landlords,” she said.

Russel says the sex that’s being exchanged for rent can’t be seen as consensual. She explained that single women in poverty receive $375 per month for shelter from the government – an amount that wouldn’t get them anything in Metro Vancouver.

“It’s under these coerced conditions, these unliveable economic conditions that women are responding to these ads because they’re desperate and they don’t want to be homeless,” Russel said. “That’s why they’re responding.”

sex for rent

So why do these women need to stay in Metro Vancouver? Iglika Ivanova from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says it’s because most of the jobs that have been created in the past year in B.C. are located there. She also says women earn less than men in this province and more of them live in poverty.

“It makes them susceptible to abuse,” Ivanova said. “Especially in Vancouver, the gap is very high.”

The women I spoke to are all looking for systemic change; whether it’s the local police force to start cracking down on the men behind these ads, or our governments to take steps to ease the housing market.

In any case a solution has to be found to help women who are turning to these coercive situations because although I get to forget about these men and go home to my family at the end of the day – many women in B.C. don’t.


Vancouver’s west side exists in a parallel universe, and it’s located in a sprawling gated community in Beijing.

Vancouver Forest is a Chinese interpretation of Vancouver’s west side, designed by a Vancouver firm to look like the old houses of Dunbar, Shaughnessy or Kitsilano.

Each house is different from the other, in old-world styles typical of Vancouver: the Craftsman, the Tudor, the Story Book, with some Victorian thrown in. The garages are out of sight, the streets are in a grid, and they are tree-lined, with gardens. They don’t have the lush, world-famous gardens of Vancouver’s west side, but they are still pretty green for a project 30 minutes from Beijing’s airport.

It’s a rare thing to have an area filled with trees that are decades old – mature by Beijing’s standards – but urban designer Paul Rosenau designed around those trees specifically because they are so rare. Mr. Rosenau is based in Vancouver, but 15 years ago when China began its massive economic growth he spent about 200 days a year there. Their housing economy softened two years ago, but he still spends half the year there.

Vancouver Forest is a residential project with 900 luxury single-family homes on 55 hectares. Developer Beijing Capital Group built it in phases, starting in 2002 and completing in 2015. It was Mr. Rosenau’s first project in China, and it launched his company, EKISTICS, into the Chinese market. He was one of several B.C. firms involved with the project, which is made up of houses 3,000 to 5,000 square feet in size.

His firm, EKISTICS, designed every aspect of the community, including the master planning, architecture and landscape architecture. When it came time to market the project, the developer insisted on calling it after its inspirational westcoast city. Vancouver conveys positive things to the Chinese, enough so that the name also shows up in many condo developments around China.

Charles Pittar, chief executive officer of Chinese real estate website, says it’s popular for developers to build entire communities with international themes. The country has famously replicated even cities, such as Paris, with an Eiffel tower of its own.

“The developer claims to have traveled to Canada more than 10 times to learn more about North American homes and lifestyles,” he said in an email. “They hired Canadian architects to design the whole community and claim to have planted 10,000 trees to give it a suitably leafy environment.”


Like all single-family homes in China, they were marketed to a wealthy buyer. The average price at Vancouver Forest is about $3-million (Cdn.).

“We didn’t like the Vancouver reference but they did,” Mr. Rosenau says of the project name. “It’s based on this notion that a certain look transfers into a certain lifestyle, and a foreign lifestyle is what they want.”

Mr. Rosenau is seated in the boardroom of his Main Street office, having returned from China the day before. Many times, he’s tried to convince developers to go for designs that make sense in China, but foreign house designs, especially Tuscan, which tops the list, are hugely popular there. Only recently, he says, has he seen a little more interest in traditional Chinese home design.



And he does find it ironic that many Chinese foreign buyers who come to Vancouver are demolishing the historic houses that were replicated at Vancouver Forest. But new is better than old. And so is concrete. The big difference between Vancouver houses and Vancouver Forest is wood. Wooden houses are a hard sell in China, so the houses are built using concrete, including concrete mouldings, which don’t have the softness of detail, says Mr. Rosenau. Only the show houses at Vancouver Forest were built using wood.

Mr. Rosenau has a unique perspective into the Chinese housing market because it’s occupied so much of his business – about 70 per cent, which is why he keeps an office in Shanghai. Developers often invite him to speak at design conferences in China. He’s worked for eight out of 10 of the biggest developers in that country, and he’s more famous there than here, he says.

“We hit the market there almost at perfect time,” he says. “It was very lucrative, and it still is. We had some very good years.”

Mr. Rosenau started his company, EKISTICS, in 1992, and he has designed communities in Whistler, the Okanagan and around the Lower Mainland.

Mr. Rosenau figures he’s designed about 500 housing communities for Chinese cities – and he also estimates that about half of them are empty. That includes Vancouver Forest.

“A lot of our projects sit 50 per cent empty, not because they’re not sold. They are sold overnight. What’s interesting about the Chinese market is – and this is very different than here, very different than our culture – is people don’t really believe in putting their money into the bank. Anyone who has money, as soon as they have enough saved up, they buy a piece of real estate. These are middle- to upper-middle-class people. A lot of my friends in China, professional designers, someone like me, the boss of a [boutique] company like this one, they all own 15 or 20 apartments or houses. I have a friend who’s the equivalent of me in China, and he has about 20 pieces of real estate. I asked him, ‘Why do you keep buying property?’ He says, ‘how else would I invest my money?’”

In hindsight, Mr. Rosenau can see the appeal. China’s housing market was a sure bet for 15 years, with prices going up as much a 50 per cent in one year. He bought an apartment in Shanghai n 2004 and sold it in 2011, for $1.5-million, five times what he’d paid for it 

“My friends over there said, ‘you should have done that 20 times. When you have extra money you just buy another place.’”

He says it’s difficult for Vancouverites to understand the incredible wealth in China, or the building spree the country had been on for 15 years.

To put it in perspective, he describes a high-end project in the city of Shenzhen, involving 27 homes hanging on the side of a mountain. It was 2005, and the developer wanted to sell them for $20-million (U.S.) each.

“I said to him, ‘do you really think you can find 27 people that can pay $20 million for a second home?’ These were vacation homes. They had done a market study, and he said the market study indicated there were 150,000 families in China that could afford a $20-million second home. And that was 2005.”

Vancouver Forest couldn’t be built today, says Mr. Rosenau. The government doesn’t allow low-density single-family projects like Vancouver Forest any more, what with the shortage of affordable housing for so many people. Detached houses are also seen as an elitist form of housing, he says.

As for Vancouver’s impact from Chinese wealth, Mr. Rosenau says it saddens him to see nice old character houses coming down. He’s also concerned about his kids’ futures. But he doesn’t see any way around the forces of a free market economy. In fact, one possibility is that Vancouver could become even more of an attraction for the rich Chinese market. He sees a general distrust of the current government, and concern about the devalued Chinese currency.

“All my personal Chinese friends say they are looking to get a significant portion of their total assets out of China,” he says. “It is pretty common knowledge in China that in order to become rich, most businessmen have more than a few skeletons in the closet. In other words, getting rich had a lot to do with knowing the right government officials at the right time and greasing the wheels where necessary. Many of these same businessmen are now so worried by the federal government’s witch hunt to root out corruption that they are looking abroad to get their money out in case of the need for a quick exit. It is surprising how many Chinese actually think this way.

“When and if the real estate market totally crashes in China then the economy will totally grind to a halt. If this happens, there is nothing to hold a rich business person in China, and at that time I could see a lot of the wealthy people in China flocking to Vancouver to permanently live and retire in a more desirable and livable city than any city in China.”




Premier Christy Clark and Finance Minister Michael de Jong talk last month about the province’s new 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers of Metro Vancouver residential real estate.


VICTORIA — Premier Christy Clark unveiled her government’s latest fix for the Lower Mainland’s housing affordability crisis Monday — a plan that was big on funding, short on details and all but ensures a series of further feel-good housing announcements for her government in the run-up to the May provincial election.

Clark said she’ll use $500 million in tax profits from the real estate sector to identify and approve construction of 2,900 rental units by March 2017. That coincides with the end of the provincial government’s fiscal year, but perhaps just as importantly, ensures a rush of new project announcements in the two months before voters head to the polls on May 9.

“This is by far the biggest amount that any government has invested in British Columbia’s history in affordable housing,” Clark told reporters. “And now is the time.”

The funding follows her government’s decision to institute a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers in Metro Vancouver’s real estate market in August. 

The government provided few details on where the new rental units would be located and how many would serve different categories of low-income renters, saying it will depend on what kind of partnerships it forms with municipalities, non-profit groups, community organizations and private developers to actually build, convert or re-purpose apartments and townhomes into rental suites.


Housing Minister Rich Coleman said one scenario could see the government use public funds to invest in a private developer’s project, in the process securing a number of units that provincial agency B.C. Housing would then rent at below-market rates to at-risk tenants such as seniors, students, First Nations, transitioning youth, the disabled, and women and children fleeing abusive relationships.

Coleman said his ministry has already cuts similar deals, but the difference now is the amount of funding available.

“Five hundred million is a tonne of money to move out into the marketplace between now and the end of March,” Coleman said. “By March 31 we want them to be able to identify the project, where it would go, what the zoning is and move ahead with new construction.”

The plan was quickly panned by the Opposition New Democrats.

“That’s transferring public wealth into private hands,” said leader John Horgan. “Those are the same developers financing the B.C. Liberal Party for the past decade, and now on the way out the door they are getting a top up.” Horgan said the NDP would reveal more of its housing solutions before the election.

Clark said the $500 million adds to $355 million announced in February to create 2,000 new affordable housing units. The federal government has also promised to spend $150 million on affordable housing in B.C. 

Kishone Roy, CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association, described the announcement as “momentous,” and said that the funding infusion is exactly what’s needed. But he estimates that the province needs about 3,000 new subsidized units on an annual basis.

“We probably need an announcement like this every year. I would suggest to the government that what we need is a permanent program for affordable housing,” Roy said.

B.C.’s seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, said she was pleased to see that the plan specifically addresses seniors living in rural areas, where she noted in a May 2015 report that appropriate housing can be hard to come by. 

However, she’s still waiting for news of increases to seniors’ rental subsidies, something she had hoped would be in this year’s budget.

“These new units are important, but the majority of seniors that are renting are using the Shelter Aid for Elderly Renters subsidy and there is a challenge with it in the Lower Mainland, where the cap is quite low compared to what rents actually are,” Mackenzie said.

Thomas Davidoff, a University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business professor, said that while the new rental housing will help, 2,900 units “is not going to make Vancouver affordable.”

“I’m not sure it’s the best start you could make with $500 million, but it’s something, absolutely. To the extent that it’s affordable homes, a decent roof over the head of battered children, First Nations, I have no problem with it at all.”

However, Davidoff believes it might not be very efficient to spend $500 million on 2,900 units and provide what is effectively a $172,000 per unit subsidy.

“My concern is that’s too much of a subsidy, too much money per unit,” he said.

Anne McMullin, president and CEO of the Urban Development Institute, said it was a “huge first step” but that municipal governments now need to accept growth and density in their communities to help create the supply. 

“The development industry is ready to deliver even more affordable housing, but municipal red tape and restrictive zoning regulations must be addressed,” she said. Clark also called on municipalities to move faster on approving zoning changes.

The data relating to real estate on this website comes in part from the MLS® Reciprocity program of either the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV), the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB) or the Chilliwack and District Real Estate Board (CADREB). Real estate listings held by participating real estate firms are marked with the MLS® logo and detailed information about the listing includes the name of the listing agent. This representation is based in whole or part on data generated by either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB which assumes no responsibility for its accuracy. The materials contained on this page may not be reproduced without the express written consent of either the REBGV, the FVREB or the CADREB.