Empty homes not the issue in Vancouver, Urban Futures think-tank says

A THINK-TANK THAT looks into demographic and economic issues has had enough of some of the talk around unoccupied homes in Vancouver.

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Noting that “with recent headlines speculating on the share of the City’[s] unoccupied housing stock ranging between 25 and 50 percent”, Urban Futures thinks it might be helpful to give out again its previous report on vacant dwellings in Canada.

Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Carlito Pablo

In a media release today (September 26) providing a link to the paper “Much Ado About Nothing: What the Census data say, and don’t say, about foreign & temporary residents and unoccupied dwellings”, Urban Futures states that “discussions around this issue have suffered from, at best, misrepresentation of the available data to consider the issue”.

“At worst they are further entrenching misconceptions about housing occupancy in the region,” the group adds.

The Urban Futures study notes that an average of 4.8 percent of dwelling units in 33 major metropolitan areas across Canada was unoccupied during the 2011 census.

“With a 5.4 percent level of unoccupied units, the Vancouver CMA [census metropolitan area] was above the CMA average, but the difference was slight compared to other CMAs, such as the Victoria (7.5 percent), London and Windsor (6.9 percent), St. Catherines/Niagara and Sherbrooke (both at 6.8 percent) regions,” the paper states.

Zeroing in on apartments, Metro Vancouver had 6.2 percent vacant, which is “below the 7.0 percent average for all 33 of the CMAs in Canada”.

“The average of 5.4 percent of all private dwellings in the Vancouver CMA being unoccupied at the time of the Census represented underlying levels of 3.2 percent of the single detached stock, 6.2 percent of apartments, and 6.8 percent of attached ground oriented units. Single detached units accounted for 20 percent of the unoccupied units in the region on Census day, perhaps reflective of 2011’s active real estate sales market,” the paper notes.

It goes on: “Within the Vancouver region, with an overall average of 6.2 percent, unoccupied apartments accounted for a slightly above average share in the City of Vancouver (6.7 percent) and West Vancouver (6.9 percent), and well above average shares in Pitt Meadows (8.7 percent), Surrey (9.2 percent), and in the UBC/UEL area (10.1 percent). The spatial pattern of unoccupied apartment units throughout the region is driven by a wide range of factors, from the prominence of student populations within each municipality to sales activity.”

The authors note that there are no census data on foreign ownership or investment in housing.

Their conclusion: “There are significant housing issues in this region—the levels of occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents and level of unoccupied units are not among them.”

Last year, the Straight spoke with one of the authors of the report, economist Ryan Berlin, who said at that time: “We were just trying to reframe the debate in terms of the actual numbers and in terms of the definitions.”

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Real-estate analyst says Lower Mainland elections could influence housing prices

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DON CAMPBELL LIKES to say that he doesn’t sell real estate. “I’m just a researcher,” insists the author of several books on property investing.

Campbell also likes to say that because he’s not selling property, he can be counted on to offer an unbiased perspective. He’s the founding partner of the Real Estate Investment Network, a Langley-based company that provides market analysis to clients.

Reached by the Georgia Straight on his cellphone for an interview about the fall municipal elections, he was forthcoming about which cities he’s watching.

Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Carlito Pablo

Surrey is number one on his shortlist of three. According to Campbell, B.C.’s second-largest municipality has been “excellent” on a number of fronts. One is the development of its town centres. Another is the protection of farmland. Third is its ability to provide more affordable housing than Vancouver.

“And now that Dianne Watts is no longer going to be the mayor and heading up that focus, it’s going to be very interesting to see (a) who gets in next, and (b) what their policies are,” Campbell said. “They need to keep very similar policies that they’ve got now. They’re growing at such a rapid rate that if they start changing policy now, they’ll get caught in a lot of problems.”

Earlier this year, REIN released its latest report on the top B.C. towns in which to invest in real estate, and Surrey topped the list.

Former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum and councillor Linda Hepner have announced that they’re running for the city’s top post. Councillor Barinder Rasode is widely expected to join the fray.

Campbell said that he’s also looking at what happens in Abbotsford. In REIN’s latest report on the top towns in B.C. for real-estate investment, Abbotsford placed third after Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, which came second.

Underscoring that he’s not siding with anyone in particular, Campbell said that he’d like to see that the next Abbotsford council “understands that the Surrey model is a sustainable model”. Another concern he has regarding Abbotsford is the need for the municipality to attract jobs.

Vancouver is third on Campbell’s list of cities to watch. “The next mayor, whether it’s the current one or a different one, is really going to have to tap into us being that high-tech hub, and attracting that millennial-aged, well-paid employee because they can, you know, afford to live in Vancouver.”

Asked about New Westminster, Campbell admitted that he’s not familiar with its politics.

But there’s one thing he has observed about the Royal City: “What they need is a new economic-development focus that right now hasn’t been communicated very well.”

Campbell explained that while the city has transit and jobs, it “seems to have missed the majority of the real-estate demand curve that you saw in Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, [and] Coquitlam”.

It’s mostly “reputational”, according to Campbell, pointing out that New Westminster needs a brand that is attractive to young people and families.

“What it needs is a new message by the city put out to the world of, ‘Hi, we’re New Westminster, here are our positives,’ and a new, young, fresh mayor might do that,” Campbell said.

He emphasized that he doesn’t know much about Jonathan Cote, a young councillor who declared in June that he wants to become the next mayor. Incumbent four-term mayor Wayne Wright hasn’t announced his plans. According to Campbell, “The mayor is just one of many moving parts in a city’s reputation.”

Campbell also mentioned one other thing in connection with civic elections: the impact on real estate of decisions made by mayors and councils on public transportation. According to him, every time a new rapid-transit system like the Evergreen Line in the Tri-Cities area is developed, demand for real estate shoots up along its corridor.

Surrey council has been pushing for a three-pronged, street-level light-rail system that would connect Surrey Centre with Guildford, Newton, and Langley. For its part, Vancouver wants a subway along Broadway to UBC.

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Green incentives a must for developers, says report

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NOT SURPRISINGLY, RESIDENTS in areas well served by public transit drive less.

Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Carlito Pablo

Driving less means fewer greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, which is good for a warming planet. But what if there’s a way to boost this benefit to mitigate climate change?

An information item included in the agenda for the meeting on Friday (September 12) of Metro Vancouver’s housing committee gives some direction. It’s a summary of a report with a self-explanatory title: “Why Creating and Preserving Affordable Homes Near Transit Is a Highly Effective Climate Protection Strategy”.

The full report can be found on the website of the two U.S. nonprofits behind it, the California Housing Partnership Corporation and TransForm. The paper cites analysis of data provided by 36,000 households in three types of locations in California: transit-oriented, areas with less frequent transit, and not transit-oriented (those more than a half-mile away from transit or that don’t get as much transit service as the first two categories).

It also uses five income categories: extremely low income, very low income, low income, moderate income, and higher income.

The 16-page report notes that households in transit-oriented areas use transit three to four times more than those in other areas.

Although that is to be expected, the paper points to a much higher “transit trip bonus” from extremely low income and very low income households in transit-oriented neighbourhoods. That is, they take transit 50 percent more than their neighbours in the higher income brackets. This finding has implications for how policy should be geared toward residential development in transit nodes.

The paper notes soaring demand from high-income households for luxury apartments near public transit in California. However, there is little private interest in developing homes for low-income families in transit-oriented areas.

The situation may be similar here in Metro Vancouver. Although current and future transit locations are attractive sites for development, housing prices in general are beyond the reach of many working families.

The report also draws a model wherein public investments are made in affordable homes in transit-oriented locations. With 10 percent of revenues from California’s auction of GHG cap-and-trade allowances, the state could build—over a period of three fiscal years—“15,000 transit-connected homes that would remove 105,000,000 miles of vehicle travel per year”.

“Over the 55-year estimated life of these buildings, this equates to eliminating 5.7 billion miles of driving off of California roads,” the paper states. “That equates to over 1.58 million metric tons of GHG reductions, even with cleaner cars and fuels anticipated.”

The paper also suggests providing additional incentives to developers for more GHG-reducing measures in projects in transit-oriented locations. Topping these measures is housing more extremely and very low income families. Another is for developers to provide free transit passes.

According to the report, developers can also be encouraged to create space for bike-sharing and provide amenities like bicycle-repair stations and “pedestrian trunks to support walking to shopping”.

Relaxation of parking requirements for developments in transit-oriented areas may also be a good incentive for developers.

The report cites a prototypical example of an approximately three-hectare site with an original plan to build 875 units in six-storey buildings and a parking requirement of 1.65 spaces per unit. By designating the entire development as “affordable” for extremely low income households, the parking can be reduced to less than one space per unit, allowing the developer to add 146 units. The paper also notes an interesting detail, which is that “contrary to popular perception, lower-income households have relatively high car ownership when they lack access to transit.”

“This finding is significant because it indicates the large financial savings that lower income households can accrue by being able to avoid vehicle ownership by living near transit,” the report notes. “Transportation costs, primarily those associated with vehicle purchase, maintenance and operations, are the second highest household cost after housing.”

Read original article here

Yaletown properties assessments reduced

THE PROPERTY ASSESSMENT Appeal Board has approved a joint recommendation from Bosa Development (Pacific Point) Inc. and B.C. Assessment’s area assessor for the Vancouver Sea to Sky Region to reduce the valuations on nine addresses on the northwest edge of Yaletown.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Charlie Smith

In 2013, Bosa Development completed the Pacific Point project at the corner of Homer and Pacific streets.

For 425, 427, and 429 Pacific Street, there were reductions of 6.7 percent, 17.8 percent, and 15.8 percent, respectively.

These three properties were initially assessed at $900,500. As a result of the agreement, the three sites are now valued at $790,000.

Six other addresses in the 1300 block of Homer experienced a collective drop in assessment from $2.5 million to $2.3 million. For these six sites, the average reduction was seven percent.

In each instance, the value of the land was reduced but the value of the “improvement” (i.e., the building) remained the same. This indicates that under certain circumstances, B.C. Assessment may be prepared to make adjustments on its assessments of land in the downtown core.

Lower assessed values translate into lower property taxes. That’s because municipal and school levies are based on B.C. Assessment’s valuations.

The head of Bosa Development, Nat Bosa, was in the news late last month after he and his wife bought the famed 106-year-old Empress Hotel in Victoria. The Bosas purchased the 477-room hotel from Ivanhoé Cambridge for an undisclosed price.

The Empress Hotel was designed by architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury. His fame increased after he was murdered in England in 1935 by his wife’s lover.

In addition to designing the Empress Hotel, Rattenbury was the architect of the neighbouring parliament buildings in Victoria and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Read the original article and more here.

B.C. Supreme Court rules in mother-daughter housing dispute

A RECENT B.C. Supreme Court battle should serve as a caveat for relatives thinking of jointly buying property.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Carlito Pablo

This one pitted a daughter against her mother in connection with a home purchase where they did not put their agreement in writing.

In a July 18, 2014, ruling, Justice Barry Davies reminded us about the pitfalls of “undocumented or under-documented inter-generational ventures entered into amongst family members”.

As Davies observed in his reasons for judgment: “All too often…the best of intentions result in sorrow.”

In the case filed by Catherine Ann Cerenzie and her husband against the woman’s mother, Mary Teresa Duff, “what is lost by all involved…is far more than money.”

“The real loss,” Davies wrote, “is the love and trust which gave rise to the venture in the first place and which likely will never be regained.”

Wading through conflicting testimonies, Davies was able to piece together a narrative around the purchase and eventual sale of 1064 Buoy Drive in Port Coquitlam.

The property was purchased by Duff and her daughter in 2008 out of the younger woman’s desire to have a stable home for her three children. When mortgage financing of $464,000 was first approved, it was contemplated that both Duff and Cerenzie were to be the mortgagors.

“It was only later, after Mrs. Duff advised Mrs. Cerenzie that she would eventually qualify for lower property taxes, that the Buoy Drive Home was conveyed only to Mrs. Duff rather than jointly to her and Mrs. Cerenzie, with Mrs. Cerenzie then becoming a guarantor rather than a co-borrower on the mortgage obtained for its purchase,” Davies recalled.

Duff made a $137,000 down payment, and the Cerenzies contributed $5,000. The Cerenzie family occupied the upstairs of the house, while Duff moved into a suite on the lower floor.

Although there is “insufficient evidence of the specifics of the arrangements”, Davies noted that there was “general agreement” between the parties on buying a suitable home that they could all “collectively afford”.

One aspect of this agreement was that Duff would contribute $500 monthly toward paying off the mortgage and the Cerenzies would shoulder the balance of mortgage payments.

In the spring of 2012, Duff “began to assert sole ownership rights by unilaterally determining to sell the Buoy Drive Home”, Davies wrote.

Davies didn’t go into why there was a falling-out. He noted that there had already been “sufficient discord and recrimination in this litigation to likely irreparably poison the once good relationship between the parties”.

The Cerenzie family was evicted, and Duff sold the house.

During the trial, Duff testified that the Cerenzie family was her tenant, an assertion that the judge rejected. Davies agreed with the plaintiffs’ claim: “In this case, Mr. and Mrs. Cerenzie submit that evidence establishes that they are entitled to a share of the Sale Proceeds both by imposition of a resulting trust or by application of the equitable principle of unjust enrichment.”

The judge determined that the Cerenzies contributed a total of $83,913.86 toward the purchase of the house: their down payment of $5,000 and mortgage payments totalling $78,913.86.

Duff contributed $155,510.66, which is the sum of her down payment of $137,000 and her monthly mortgage payments.

Although Davies agreed that the Cerenzies are entitled to a share of the sale proceeds of $192,682.45, he denied their suggestion that the amount be divided on a pro rata basis or in proportion to overall contributions.

One reason is that Duff made a bigger initial investment to acquire the home, and that should “accordingly entitle her to a greater share of the Sale Proceeds”.

After some adjustments, Davies ruled that Duff is entitled to $136,800, and the Cerenzies, $55,882.45.

Davies also dismissed Duff’s counterclaim that the plaintiffs owe her for damage to the home and loans made by her to Mr. Cerenzie.

As in many cases similar to this, Davies noted, when courts are called to sort out issues, the “result will never be totally satisfactory to the parties”.

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Just Sold – 8707 Hudson #201

I have just sold this amazing opportunity in the LANDMARK HUDSON; a beautiful, spacious one bedroom, CORNER unit in a newly remediated building; cedar siding, brick work, vinyl windows and patio doors and modern glass balconies. The suite features a great, functional layout; large living room with cozy gas fireplace and gorgeous built-in cabintery. RENOVATED BATH with contemporary, dark wood and elegant fixtures. Wrap-around balcony drenched in west facing sun. Two storage areas; one in-suite plus a locker. Pets allowed. Unbeatable value!

Vancouver city council to vote on referring downtown tower application to a public hearing

A new highrise tower proposed in the Downtown Vancouver core – is being referred to a public hearing. The 31-storey building will be the same height as the Harbour Centre building (not including the UFO shaped revolving restaurant portion) and replaces the current 8 storey high-rise parking structure.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Charlie Smith

A Vancouver staff report recommends that council refer an application for a 31-storey building on the southeast corner of Granville Street and Cordova Street to a public hearing.

VIA Architecture submitted the documents to the city on behalf of Granco Holdings Ltd. (Carrera Management Corporation) to increase the floor-space ratio from 9.0 to 24.24. The proposal includes retail space at street level.

In the report, city manager Penny Ballem comments that the application “aligns with the Metro Core Jobs Strategy, the Vancouver Economic Action Strategy, and the Transportation 2040 Plan in that it involves the creation of significant job space adjacent to a major transit hub”.

Waterfront Station is across the street from the parkade.

According to CityHallWatch, there’s been speculation that the super-secretive owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps, Greg Kerfoot, owns the site.

The senior property manager at Carrera Management Corp., Trish Knight, has not returned a call from the Straight to confirm this.

Carrera’s office is in The Landing at 375 Water Street, which is the same building occupied by Vancouver Whitecaps office staff.

From Cordova Street, the proposed tower is roughly the same height as Harbour Centre minus the rooftop restaurant.

Read original article here

Just Sold – 5355 Boundary Road #209

We have just sold this bright and modern 1 Bedroom Plus Den! Living room features an open floor plan and laminate flooring. Gourmet kitchen with Maple Cabinets, Stainless Steel Appliances, insuite laundry, fireplace, 1 underground secured parking, 1 storage locker, balcony. Rainscreen Technology Build Building. Close to shopping, school, Central Park and 8 minutes to Joyce Station.

Vancouver Campfire Project proposes fire pits on beaches

Make good choices! Where is the line, do you try to stop people outright and make certain activities illegal, or regulate and provide safe access because you know they’re going to do it anyways? On a side note – I’m not quite sure I understand why a campfire in the middle of a provincial park surrounded by trees is allowed, when one on the beach surrounded by sand and water (both proven fire suppressants by the way) is not.

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Stephen Hui

Students’ idea ignites opposition from fire department

ALTHOUGH OUTDOOR FIRES fuelled by wood are illegal in Vancouver, a group of students is starting a “public conversation” about changing this on the city’s shores. The Vancouver Campfire Project proposes the introduction of designated fire pits on local beaches.

Robert Morton, a global resource systems student at the University of British Columbia, told the Georgia Straight that Calgary, Edmonton, San Francisco, and Seattle all have public fire pits at parks or beaches.

“It’s not a crazy idea,” Morton said in an interview at the Yaletown Farmers Market. “We’re not trying to do something that’s never happened before. These cities are already all doing it. Why can’t Vancouver also do this in a controlled, safe way?”

Hatched at CityStudio, an “innovation hub” that brings together students and city staff, the Campfire Project has submitted to city hall a plan for a summer pilot program involving one fire pit at Jericho Beach. Ultimately, Morton—along with Stuart Dow and Peggy Wong, geography students at Simon Fraser University and UBC, respectively—envisions anywhere from four to 12 fire pits being installed at Jericho, Locarno, Spanish Banks West, and Third beaches.

With a $500 NeighbourMaker grant from the Museum of Vancouver, the Campfire Project staged two events last week to raise awareness of its proposal. Morton and Wong noted that the fire pits would be “bring your own wood”, ringed by river rocks, and located on sand with no seating. They would be situated at least 300 metres from the closest home, have washrooms in the vicinity, and be visible from the nearest road. Signage would outline the relevant regulations and make it clear the fire pits are communal.

“The whole point is that they’re shared,” Wong told the Straight at the farmers market. “The idea is that people will just come and have firewood, and then other people will come and join.”

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Gardens go communal in Southeast False Creek

Let’s be clear here – communal sure, but more in the way that elite posh private schools are communal and their students are free to use the facilities. But not to fear – you too can have access to the gorgeous rooftop oasis of a communal garden, with the small one time investment of $438,000 which gets you exclusive use of 1 bed 1 bath 550 sq ft apartment on the second floor – and unlimited access to the rooftop and skylounge. Feel free to contact me for more information!!

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Reblogged from The Georgia Straight | Stephen Hui

FROM THE ROOF of the James in southeast False Creek, the 360-degree view includes downtown Vancouver, City Hall, and the North Shore mountains. The terrace atop the 155-unit condo building at 288 West 1st Avenue, built by Cressey Development Group in 2012, features a barbecue, kids’ play area, and lounge.

James residents Matt Cooke and Carlson Hui gave the Georgia Straight a tour of the three raised beds and six pots that comprise the communal garden that occupies the rest of the 14th-floor space. The largest bed is home to 12 plots named after nearby streets, the pots contain herbs, and there’s a compost bin, which will soon be joined by a rain barrel.

“We have all of our lettuces and tomatoes here,” said Cooke, who is a food, nutrition, and health student at the University of British Columbia. “Around the corner, we have mint.”

Although the typical community garden consists of plots maintained by individual users as well as common areas, this rooftop garden is a truly collective endeavour. Participating units pay $25 a year to join the provisionally named James Garden Club and then take part in scheduled planting and harvest days.

According to Cooke, the year-old communal garden has “brought the building together”. Residents have an incentive to help out on harvest days, because they get a share of the crops.

Hui, who works for Lululemon Athletica, noted that strata members approved the communal-garden concept at a meeting in early 2013. He maintained that the garden has been the catalyst for residents to organize events such as barbecues, bike rides, hikes, and potlucks.

“This year, what we found interesting is how this has provided a foundation for community for the entire building,” Hui said. “So, it’s sort of gone beyond gardening.”

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