Business & Economy
July 16, 2018

The View from the New York Times on the $2.7 Million House in Lions Bay

Last week, Lisa Prevost of The New York Times took a look at purchasing a four-bedroom house on the “bluffs” of Vancouver; in reality, the house is 32 kilometres north of Vancouver in Lions Bay. The price is CAD $2.7 million, in our local market which has increased by 40 per cent in the last decade.

The property is less than a mile from the Lions Bay Marina and Lions Bay Beach Park, “the most idyllic little beach. With a population of roughly 1,350, the village has just a few shops for necessities, he said; more shopping and dining can be found about 15 minutes south, in West Vancouver.

Phil Moore, president of the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver, calls Vancouver “the California of Canada”, pointing out that 40,000 people coming into the metropolitan area annually, presumably undeterred by the prices.

The Times article states that the benchmark sale price for a detached house is $1.6 million in Vancouver, and that in the more exclusive West Vancouver, “that buys you nothing. That’s an area that’s $3 million and above.”

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Peter German’s 250-page report “Dirty Money“, delivered to Attorney General David Eby on March 31 and to the people of British Columbia almost three months later, contained more than just a set of 48 recommendations for the response and reforms to the gaming industry.

It also delivered a scathing review of casino operations, oversight and regulation in British Columbia, a sector wallowing in poorly-written legislation, acrimony and denial between various concerned entities, such that “certain Lower Mainland casinos unwittingly served as laundromats for the proceeds of organized crime.”

German describes it as a “collective system failure” of the province’s casinos, where an estimated $100 million of illicitly gained currency transferred from anonymous hand to anonymous hand.

That the money laundering uncovered so far in casinos is but a “drop in the bucket”, according to Mr. German’s interviews, is disturbing enough. But it delivered a third eye-opener — that there are likely other sectors in the provincial economy are being used, mis-used and abused in the same way.

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There’s a farmland travesty occurring in Richmond where city council has been influenced to approve mansions of 10,700 square feet on farmland over one half an acre, and on larger parcels, an additional house of 3,200 square feet for the “help”.

This is all a shell game in more than one sense. The pro-development Richmond Farmland Owner’s Association (you will note that is farmland owners, not farmers) has organized a $ummer Barbeque (yes they use the $ sign for the “S”) to raise money for the six councillors who were complicit in the McMansioning of City of Richmond farmland, ignoring the cap established by the province for houses on agricultural land (previously 5,382 square feet).

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Richmond’s vintage Lansdowne Centre Mall, age 41, is getting a facelift, but maybe not the type you’d assume for its location — smack dab in the middle of a downtown not typically known for its active transportation facilities, or lifestyle.

But it’s true: for this future development, cars are out; transit is in. Even bikes feature in the planning docs and related literature. For residents and visitors alike, this is big.

As usual, click an image to see a larger version.

A few thoughts come to mind.

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The question for all mayor and council candidates — “what would you do different” —was in itself not without some controversy. (See “Vancouver Candidate Survey on Kettle-Boffo Project: What Would You Have Done to Close the Gap?“)

Ultimately, the premise of the question was based on the idea that, as the project team stated, Kettle-Boffo “enjoys Council support”. Reliving the imminent failure of the project Groundhog Day style, we wanted to know how a prospective mayor or councillor might expect to work with staff and the applicants, and within the rules of established policy, to ensure project viability, and thus possibly a successful application.

We also felt it was a way for declared candidates to clarify their positions, especially given the degree of complexity in the topic, “the #1 issue” this election year.

Beyond positions, reasonable explanation of some of the core, underlying issues may serve voters. The presumption is some candidates have done their homework, and are figuring out how to bridge the knowledge gap with the electorate. Some at Price Tags are not too humble to admit we too can learn from the responses.

And this goes for not just the issue (“What moves housing forward in the city? What are the possible systemic problems?“), but also the candidates themselves (“Who thinks about housing the way I do? Who has ideas I’ve never considered?“)

Lastly, we were careful in our introduction to not position Kettle-Boffo as having claimed in their statement that there is something ‘broken’ in city hall, which they did not. Nor do we believe our representation of the City’s claim — that they extended every concession they felt they could to enable a successful re-submission of the development application, which ultimately Kettle-Boffo chose not to do — is not to be taken at face value.

With that, we present the first six responses submitted to our call-out; we will continue to publish submissions if and when they come in.

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Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock have reported in Business in Vancouver on another startling casualty of rising housing prices.

Late last year, British Columbia started to experience a surprising drop in people moving here from other provinces. While migration across Canada has historically risen and fallen with economic swings and employment potential, this drop in the influx of new residents may be more directly attributable to the increasing cost of housing in British Columbia.

This province has Canada’s lowest unemployment rate, and “by mid-2014, interprovincial migration was adding more than 5,000 people to B.C.’s population every quarter – upwards of 20,000 annually. Over the subsequent three years, net interprovincial migration ranged between 4,000 and 6,000 per quarter. But in the third quarter of 2017, the net inflow plummeted to 500, and it stayed low (at 800) in Q4.”

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Not much of a surprise when people see things differently. Even in Vancouver.

But this is about a global event — it’s about football (aka soccer), and hosting the great, big tournament. The most popular sport in the world, testosterone, and billions of bucks.

It’s FIFA’s 2026 World Cup, which is coming to North America. But not Vancouver.

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Contributor Ian Robertson writes to suggest that Vancouver’s rental market has, just maybe, jumped the shark.

A “den” just wide enough to slide a twin bed into, for almost $900/month. If we’re being generous, it’s all of 40 square feet. It may even come with access to common areas, like the kitchen and a bathroom.

But hey it’s a room, and it’s downtown in a building that has this sweet rooftop deck!

Except — wait, how do you get this view from Alberni Street. And is that BC Place from 2011?

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At the southeast corner of Oak Street and King Edward Avenue in Vancouver, a Shell gas station looks like any other, with the huge roof over the gas pumps, and bright vibrant colours.

But there’s something different here, evident as you get closer and see the gas station site is subtly fenced in. There appears to be no activity, but there’s a sign. Literally — a large, outdoor advertisement of a young woman sipping a beverage, with the headline: “Open for Snacks. Closed for Gas.”

The question: who in their right mind would use this gas station to get food when there’s a supermarket (and a really good Japanese restaurant) right behind the station?

And this is not a redevelopment at this site — indeed, the whole King Edward Mall site has been identified as “unique” in the City of Vancouver’s third phase of the Cambie Corridor Plan (approved in May), and can be redeveloped as “three higher elements of approximately 12 to 14 storeys … above a low- to lower mid-rise podium”.

So while the car snack department is “business as usual”, the gas station part of the operation is likely just having a tank renovation in advance of the mixed-use development project that will eventually be located on this whole site.

Take a look at the Cambie Corridor planning process, which will provide 32,000 new housing units.

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Trust the New York Times to call it like it is.

As the newspaper astutely observed this past weekend:

Last year, in a provincial election almost entirely about housing costs, citizens voted out the center-right B.C. Liberal Party, which had run British Columbia for 16 years, and brought in a government led by the left-of-center B.C. New Democratic Party. Since then, the New Democrats have not only tried to increase the housing supply, but have also proposed a slew of measures that aim to curb housing demand and chase away overseas buyers.

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