Archive for December, 2013

Vancouver Real Estate To See ‘Negative Change’: Royal LePage

Friday, December 20th, 2013


Vancouver’s real estate market faces a rough ride in the coming years, says a new report from Royal LePage.

The report foresees a dark period for Vancouver housing due to factors such as low job creation, rising interest rates and changes to federal mortgage policy.

“The Vancouver housing market is clearly in a state of transition, from an environment of very rapid growth of house prices to a period in which price growth will provide much less impetus to housing demand … and to job creation,” the report by market economist Will Dunning said.

His research found a period of about a year and a half in which there has been little to no job creation, which hints at a weakened economic backdrop that could hurt the housing market, he noted.

Additionally, resale activity has been consistent with an economic slowdown. Sales started falling early in 2012, even before the federal government announced changes to mortgage policies last year that included lowering maximum amortization periods for insured homes from 30 years to 25 years.

He went on to write that these factors, combined with a rise an interest rates that occurred early in the summer, could slow housing activity in Vancouver, while the new mortgage rules could have adverse affects on future condo construction.

“In combination, these factors amount to a substantial negative change for the housing market outlook in the Vancouver area,” the report said.

Dunning expects that condominium construction could slow by as much as one-half in the coming year compared to the building rates seen from 2008 to 2012. He projected that condos would be built at an annual rate of 5,000 to 6,000 units in the latter half of 2014 and into 2015, which is still below an estimated demand of 6,000 to 7,000 per year.

But these “negative changes” are not particular to Vancouver. The report predicts instability for condo markets in all of Canada’s three biggest cities over the next two years as new trends set in.

That said, large numbers of consumers are still expected to move into condos due to economic factors and lifestyle considerations.

Copyright © 2013, Inc.

Binning Tower 3355 Binning Road by Westbrook

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Graduate to a higher lifestyle: The residences at Binning Tower


Take a short drive through the forest at Vancouver’s western edge and you enter a whole new world. The Wesbrook master-planned community is a sought-after neighbourhood with Vancouver, UBC and a host of cultural and recreational opportunities at your doorstep. Coming soon to the area: 216 luxury residences at the Wall Group of Companies’ Binning Tower.

“The location is what makes Binning Tower really stand out from other properties currently on the market,” said Sales Manager Yvonne Dawson. “There’s not a lot of inventory available in this community and Binning Tower is right next to the Pacific Spirit Park. The views are outstanding… the lower levels overlook the forest and the higher floors have great views over Richmond, across to Vancouver Island, and over English Bay.”

Another important selling point, noted Dawson, is the larger floor plans, which go as high as just over 1,800 square feet for a three-bedroom and den plus flex home. The variety of floor plans and sizes makes Binning Tower a natural choice for families and a smart choice for those with their child’s education in mind. Along with the three-bedroom homes, one-bedroom with flex space and two-bedrooms with flex space are also available. A limited number of townhomes offer private entries, garden space and terraces. All homes are air-conditioned and have ample outdoor space, with the penthouse suites boasting up to an additional 1,100 square feet of exterior entertaining space.

What’s on the inside counts too at Binning Tower and it is here you will find contemporary design that offers practical and flexible choices. The spacious interiors are filled with natural light with 8.5-foot ceilings in every room (10 feet high in penthouse suites). Choose from two elegant colour schemes as well as engineered wood flooring, porcelain floor tiles, and wool-blend broadloom carpeting.

It goes without saying that the kitchens will appeal to the gourmet in all of us, featuring Italian-crafted Armony Cucine design with wood shaker cabinetry, quartz composite stone counter and island tops, and top-of-the-line appliances.

Roomy baths carry through with the Armony design and also include polished marble or travertine vanity countertops, frameless glass master shower enclosures, drop-in tubs and other attributes to create a spa-like setting.

Binning Tower residents will also enjoy exclusive access to a private gym and yoga studio, an amenity lounge with kitchen and meeting areas, outdoor landscaped gardens and terrace, and electric car-charging stations. Wesbrook Community residents can also join the University Neighbourhoods Association offering free access to the university’s library and botanical garden, Nitobe Memorial Garden, and the Museum of Anthropology, along with preferred rates at UBC’s athletic and recreational facilities and other venues.

“The Wesbrook Village community is unique,” said Dawson. “Grocery stores and restaurants are all within easy walking distance. Plus the location offers incomparable access and recreational, educational, and cultural facilities.”

The developer bringing Binning Tower to life is the Wall Group of Companies which has experience in creating thousands of prestigious Vancouver condominium residences and hotels.

The Binning Tower presentation centre is open daily (except Fridays) from noon to 5 p.m. or by appointment at 5898 Gray Avenue in UBC’s Wesbrook Village. Prices start from $529,900.

RE/MAX Housing Market Outlook 2014 for Vancouver

Thursday, December 19th, 2013


A Look Back at 2013

May’s election marked a turning point for the city, which had suffered through six consecutive quarters of tepid sales activity throughout 2012 and the first two quarters of 2013. The current momentum is expected to propel the number of homes sold to 28,000 by year-end 2013, a 10 per cent increase over the 25,445 sales reported in 2012. Overall average price is projected to climb five per cent year-over-year, rising to $765,000, although certain price ranges and neighbourhoods will perform better than others.

Vancouver’s housing market has returned to more balanced conditions, with the sales-to-listing ratios in most communities sitting between 40 and 60 per cent. Inventory levels continue to decline, with just over 15,000 properties listed for sale at the end of October. Local buyers have been most active, taking advantage of softer housing values to move up to larger homes and/or better neighbourhoods. Offshore investors maintain a solid presence, although their impact is less noticeable than in years past.

Vancouver’s luxury market, in particular, has experienced a solid upswing in home buying activity, with sales over the $2 million price point up more than 20 per cent over one year ago.

Condominiums continue to be a major factor in the Lower Mainland, representing the first and second step in homeownership for many purchasers. With an average price of approximately $560,000, condominiums represent an affordable alternative for entry- to midlevel purchasers. Single-detached homes remain a sought after commodity, with the average now approaching $1.25 million.

New Housing

New construction has picked up in recent months, with multi-unit residential dominating the landscape once again. The city’s commitment to build along major transportation routes is gaining traction, with signs of progress evident along the up–and-coming Cambie corridor where a vibrant live/work community is developing.

Southeast False Creek, one of the projects currently underway, focuses on ‘efficient energy solutions, high-performance green buildings’ and easy access to transportation. The mixed-use community with a residential, retail, and commercial component— surrounding the 2010 Olympic Village—is designed to accommodate between 11,000 and 13,000 residents. Despite tighter lending practices, there is a movement afoot to create more affordable housing. Builders and developers are challenging conventional design and displaying a level of creativity that is bound to set the standard for years to come.

Greater Vancouver’s economy is ideally positioned for growth after an extended period of reduced activity. Housing starts in the Vancouver CMA are expected to top 18,200 in 2013, and climb another percentage point to 18,400 in 2014. The unemployment rate has steadily declined, hovering at seven per cent in October/November. Eighteen capital projects over $15 million, totaling just over $1.5 billion, are scheduled to start in the Lower Mainland in 2013, with another $500 million in proposed construction planned for the following year. The largest project now underway is the Little Mountain Housing Redevelopment valued at $300 million, while construction has also started on the $100 million Low Level Road Re-Alignment. The city’s commitment to transportation infrastructure remains intact, with a proposed extension of rapid transit from the Expo Line to UBC—a $2.8 billion dollar investment—expected to be completed by 2015.

Vancouver’s CMA population continues to climb, up just over nine per cent to 2,313,328 in the 2011 Census, with suburban communities such as Surrey, New Westminster, Langley, and Burnaby experiencing double- digit growth. Immigration remains strong, with 14 per cent of the 257,515 new Canadian residents in 2012 moving to British Columbia—the vast majority choosing to call Vancouver home. Given strong underlying fundamentals, the Greater Vancouver economy is expected to experience steady growth, which should serve to buoy home buying activity in the years ahead.

Real Estate Market Forecast

Vancouver’s real estate market should continue to benefit from the momentum gained during the latter half of 2013. Pent-up demand is expected to play a role moving forward, with purchasers at all price points demonstrating greater confidence in the market overall. Balanced conditions are expected to prevail throughout 2014 as inventory is absorbed. Moderate upward pressure on prices is anticipated, with slow but steady appreciation. As values improve, there could be an upswing in the number of homes listed for sale, which in turn may hold price increases in check. Although local purchasers have the ability to sustain the market’s current momentum, foreign investment in the Greater Vancouver Area will continue, although not at the same frenetic pace experienced in 2011. Changes to financing have created a more qualified purchaser base, which should bode well for the market in the coming year.

A continuation of low interest rates should further stimulate home buying activity, particularly in higher-end move-up markets priced between $1.5 and $2.5 million in the core. Greater Vancouver’s luxury segment—priced in excess of $2 million—is forecast to climb further as baby boomers and Generation X move to secure their next step. Modest increases in both unit sales and average price are forecast for 2014, with the number of homes sold expected to climb two per cent to 29,000 units and values are anticipated to reach the $800,000 benchmark, an increase of almost five per cent over 2013.

“Greater Vancouver” refers to the area covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver: Burnaby, Ladner, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Shore, Pitt Meadows, Richmond, Squamish, Tri-Cities, Tsawwassen, Vancouver and Whistler.

© 2013 Real Estate Weekly

Housing market defies expectations with latest CREA figures

Monday, December 16th, 2013


Canada’s housing market is on track to close out 2013 on a stronger note than last year, defying the expectations of economists just a few months ago.

The picture is mixed across the country, and sales are certainly not on a runaway train. But their strength contrasts starkly with the plethora of lacklustre forecasts that were made earlier this year, after sales fell as a result of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s decision to tighten mortgage insurance rules in July, 2012.

he degree to which prices are surpassing expectations is even higher. That’s a development that could be worrying to policy makers in Ottawa, amid international debate about how overvalued Canadian house prices are and whether a bubble has formed.

The Canadian Real Estate Association said on Monday that it now expects the average price of houses sold over the Multiple Listing Service to have risen by 5.2 per cent this year, to $382,200. Heading into 2013, CREA had been expecting the average price to rise just 0.3 per cent; it became even more pessimistic in March when it revised its forecast and called for a 0.2-per-cent decline, to $362,600.

CREA’s prediction for the number of houses that will change hands this year is now 458,200, which would be a 0.8-per-cent increase from 2012. In contrast, at the outset of 2013, CREA was expecting sales to fall 2 per cent, and by March it was expecting sales to fall by 2.9 per cent.

CREA noted that rising mortgage rates appear to have bolstered sales this fall by prompting buyers to move more quickly than they otherwise would have. The increase in average prices is being skewed to a degree by the strong rebounds in pricier markets such as Toronto and Vancouver.

But CREA, which represents real estate agents in Canada and tracks sales via the MLS system, is calling for sales to grow by 3.7 per cent in 2014, while it expects average prices to rise by 2.3 per cent.

“While we would not describe the housing market as the ‘comeback kid’ just yet, the market is certainly showing us its reluctance to fade to the background,” said Toronto-Dominion Bank economist Sonya Gulati.

She expects that higher mortgage rates will eat into affordability and prevent the market from taking off over the next few years. That would put a damper on economic growth but would be good news for worrisome household debt levels and house prices. Deutsche Bank economists in New York released a report last week saying they believe that Canadian house prices are 60 per cent too high, and that “Canada is in trouble.”

The ratio of household credit-market debt to disposable income climbed to 163.7 per cent in the third quarter, Statistics Canada reported last week. “Household leverage continues to rise despite mortgage rates increasing roughly 40 to 60 basis points since the spring,” National Bank analysts said in a research note on Monday.

At the same time, rising house prices led to a 1.8-per-cent increase, or $20-billion, in the value of real estate assets last quarter, Royal Bank economists noted.

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz said last Thursday that he expects imbalances in household borrowing and residential investment to stabilize and then gradually unwind in coming years, leading to a soft landing in the housing market. But he also noted that “there is a risk that household imbalances could keep building and set the stage for a sharp correction down the road.”

Resales rose 5.9 per cent in November on a year-over-year basis, with the monthly showing coming in slightly above the 10-year average, CREA said. The average sales price was 9.8 per cent higher, which Ms. Gulati noted is “far above the pace of household income growth.”

The MLS Home Price Index, which seeks to account for changes in the types or locations of houses that are selling to create a more apples-to-apples comparison, rose by 4.1 per cent.

That was the fastest rate of price growth in 16 months, according to Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic. Last week, Teranet and National Bank released their house price index, which showed that prices rose 3.4 per cent in November from a year earlier, compared with a 3.1-per-cent gain in October. On a month-to-month basis, the index declined 0.1 per cent from October to November.

Canadian home sales by city, dollar volume (in millions)


Nov. 2012

Nov. 2013

Percent change





Fraser Valley












Montreal CMA
















Sherbrooke CMA





















© Copyright 2013 The Globe and Mail Inc

Meet modernist design, Vancouver’s new housing trend

Saturday, December 14th, 2013


When Maria Grigoriadis’s new house started going up, her neighbours were intrigued. People driving by slowed down, stopped, got out of the car to ask about it.

It didn’t look like anything else on her block of east Vancouver, which is a jumble of century-old houses, post-war bungalows, and various iterations of the dreaded Vancouver Specials that are this city’s unique contribution to residential architecture.

Instead, it was a simple rectangle with a flat roof, charcoal-coloured panels, horizontal cedar slats and silvery bands of aluminum. A modernist house, the kind of thing that used to exist only in certain nosebleed seats of West Vancouver or, very occasionally, the west side of Vancouver.

But such a thing was unheard of for the rest of Vancouver, whose housing aesthetic for decades has been, in the words of Architectural Institute of B.C. president Scott Kemp, “haphazard suburbia, a mishmash of everything.”

The city has been particularly famous for Vancouver Specials, long, rectangular boxes that became popular with immigrants of the 1960s who wanted cheap, quick and lots of room. The city, the architectural institute, and various resident associations tried for years to stamp them out through changes to zoning bylaws, a design competition, and pure shaming.

Those had limited success and often resulted in ever-more-garish Specials – the wedding-cake house, the boxy Special disguised with fake gables, the out-and-out monster house. The only consolation-prize alternative seemed to be a plethora of imitation heritage houses.

Now, it appears, a 2.0 group of buyers and builders is changing all of that.

“We really liked the idea of having simple lines, something very organic. And we tried very hard to include the outdoors,” says Ms. Grigoriadis, the daughter and sister of contractors, who designed the new house from the shell of the 1956 bungalow that she and her husband, insurance broker Frederic Lajeunesse, had bought in 2008.

She had grown up in Kitsilano, living in everything from bungalows to Specials to older houses. None of those styles appealed to her as she planned a new house for her family of four.

The main floor is now one big space with walnut floors, white walls, a white Caesarstone island, and a minimalist fireplace with a slab of concrete built into the wall alongside for seating. The upstairs bedrooms are similarly spare and white, with large horizontal windows that provide expansive views of the city.

Ms. Grigoriadis and Mr. Lajeunesse are far from alone.

Modernist houses, duplexes and townhouses are popping up all over the city from west to east, sometimes in the unlikeliest places.

Clark Drive, a major truck route on the east side, has a cluster of modernist townhouses and duplexes around the SkyTrain line, as well as one striking duplex amid a row of bungalows and Specials near 33rd. And they’re not just being custom-built for specific clients, which has been typical of Vancouver modernism in the past. Companies are now also building them on spec.

It’s what some call the Dwell-ification of Vancouver – a homage to the magazine Dwell, which provides a monthly hagiography of modernist houses and interior design around North America.

“There’s a new generation out there that’s kind of tired of the old Craftsman look,” says Paul Albrighton, a Realtor who specializes in modernist apartments, townhomes, and single-family houses. They’re not the quickest sell on the block, he says, but there is a definite market of new buyers. “A lot of them have been in condominiums as younger people and they are trying to continue with that. They like the clean lines.”

Modernist interiors, which incorporate large, open spaces that aren’t dedicated to just one use, also suit buyers who are making do with less square footage as they try to cope with some of the highest housing prices on the continent.

Shannon Kelly just moved into her house near Fraser and Broadway three weeks ago after hunting desperately for months.

Although the exterior of her duplex looks vaguely Craftsman, the interior is pure modern.

“It feels like we’re in a full house,” says Ms. Kelly, who moved in with her husband and seven-year-old three weeks ago. “And I feel like you only get that from a more modernist design. You have a lot of light and a feeling of openness.”

And many people like the way modernist houses are designed better to blend with their environment.

“West Coast modernism created the idea that you can live within your environment, instead of turning your back to it,” says Piers Cunnington at Measured Architecture, which is seeing a growing interest from clients who want something different.

“So in a modernist house, the landscape plays more into the appeal. There’s an interplay between the interior and the exterior.”

The trend toward modernism is not just, as some might assume, a function of Caucasian gentrifiers moving east or buying houses for the first time, although there’s an element of that.

A new generation or ethnic builders and ethnic buyers – groups who were often seen as the main drivers of the Vancouver Special look – is also part of the new wave.

A couple of years ago, engineer, designer and builder Tony Jang tore down the nondescript older house that had straddled two lots on 18th between Clark and Commercial to construct two new striking contemporary concrete houses.

Mr. Jang had already built several modern-looking homes on the west side. With the two in the Cedar Cottage area, he wanted to show off that style on the east side. One was built with high-end finishes, the other more modest finishes, to demonstrate the range of price possibilities.

People driving by often stop to look and ask about having something similar like that built for them, says Mr. Jang, who lives and works out of one house. (A friend, Wei Do Chen and wife Hua Li, bought the one next door.)

Mr. Jang says his customers like modern because of “the uniqueness and the simplicity.” That includes clients he’s had from mainland China who want contemporary-style homes here.

“We build using feng shui principles and, with these houses, we interpret this feng shui to incorporate natural elements into the design.”

Perdip Moore, who built both Ms. Kelly’s duplex and the lone modernist duplex on Clark Drive, said he started building modernist just because he personally liked the look.

But, like others, he said there are special challenges to building modernist.

One is city regulations.

“I mostly do traditional homes because that is what the city likes. It’s easier to get approvals.”

Modernist homes are, inevitably, slightly more expensive to build than the standard Specials or neo-traditionals. Large open spaces mean no supporting walls, for example. That requires much larger beams for the house overall, in order to support the weight.

The extra cost cuts into the available pool of buyers.

“Often, people loved them, but they were not willing to pay the money,” said Mr. Moore.

© Copyright 2013 The Globe and Mail Inc.

With Vancouver prices up, some frustrated house hunters to call for curbs on the foreign buyers they blame for stoking the rapid ramping up of housing values

Friday, December 13th, 2013


Along with a jump in house sales, house prices in Vancouver have risen sharply and will likely continue to climb in the new year, pushing some frustrated house hunters to call for curbs on the foreign buyers they blame for stoking the rapid ramping up of housing values.

B.C.’s real estate market powered through third-quarter 2013 as the number of sales rose 18.91 per cent this year over last, according to the most recent report by Landcor Data Corp., which bases its findings on provincial assessment numbers. The total value of those sales rose 25.62 per cent to $14.72-billion for July through September.

The outlook for 2014 is just as robust, says Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Central 1 Credit Union. Mr. Pastrick forecasts prices to go up less than 5 per cent in 2014, with the greatest increase for single-family detached homes rather than apartments and townhouses. The Teranet National Bank Home Price Index, out earlier this week, showed prices up in Vancouver 3.9 per cent on an annual basis.

As usual, the market with the highest growth in sales volume was Greater Vancouver, with a 26.46-per-cent increase over 2012.

“Single-family detached [homes] are up a solid 6.39 per cent, propelling the average price of a Metro Vancouver detached manse to $869,772,” the Landcor report said.

Vancouver routinely shows up in surveys as one of the most expensive real estate markets in the world, requiring its residents to devote at least 84 per cent of their monthly incomes to housing costs.

But even areas outside the city are becoming unaffordable to residents such as Joy Mo, who came to Canada from China in 2001. Ms. Mo got shut out of the market when she and her husband sold their Coquitlam house and decided to rent for a year before purchasing a bigger house for their growing family. Ms. Mo has been renting a townhouse in Port Moody for the past four years, unable to find a house in the Tri-Cities area that falls within their $650,000 price range. They’ve put two offers on houses in the past three months and were out-bid on both of them, one by a foreign buyer.

Ms. Mo works as a court translator and she and her husband make a decent living.

Although some real estate analysts argue the lack of government data on foreign buyers is too anecdotal to confirm their impact, Ms. Mo disagrees. She was recently the subject of a South China Morning Post blog by Ian Young, in which she squarely blamed foreign buyers from around the world for driving the market.

She says you only have to look around to see that developers and marketers are catering to those buyers, particularly on the west side, in West Vancouver, Richmond, White Rock and the Tri-Cities area.

Because she’s from China, people often tell her she’s to blame for rising prices, but she’s not any different than the average middle-class resident. The government here, she says, should apply an extra tax to foreign owners.

Mayor Gregor Robertson recently said if warranted, he might consider a special property tax for foreign investors to try to control the high cost of real estate. But at this point, it’s less a plan than conjecture.

“Whenever we talk about building infrastructure, like bridges, tunnels, and that type of thing, we always cry about the lack of money,” Ms. Mo says. “Well, to me at least, [extra taxes for foreign buyers] is a way to generate some revenue.

“I am a Canadian citizen. If I go back to China, I am not allowed to purchase any property there. The government only allows it if you are a permanent resident there, and you have to purchase that house for your main residence. You can’t flip it or rent it out, that kind of thing.

“I’m not saying that’s wrong or right, but they know how to protect their market. I know Hong Kong has similar laws or regulations,” she says.

It’s true that China doesn’t allow foreign ownership. And the government in Hong Kong charges foreign buyers an additional 15 per cent Buyer’s Stamp Duty.

“I ask friends, ‘How do you find the housing market here?’ And they say it’s really cheap. They are surprised we don’t charge extra fees for foreign owners,” Ms. Mo says.

“On the one hand, we have immigrants like myself here, and we try to settle, and work very hard, trying to afford our homes. But on the other hand, there are really wealthy people from [China] coming here, and it’s not fair. They are our competitors. So why aren’t we doing anything?”

© Copyright 2013 The Globe and Mail Inc.

How a Condo’s Age Affects its Price

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Frank Schliewinsky

If you haven’t woken up to the fact that there’s housing for the 1 per cent and then there’s housing for the rest of us, then you just haven’t woken up. The Vancouver condo market is now firmly entrenched into the “us” and “them” markets. The “them” market has managed to push Vancouver into most unaffordable city category and caused much hand wringing amongst civic and other public officials but with little improvement in affordability.

But in the meantime, the “us” market has continued to buy condos in this most unaffordable market. This report has a look at what “us” is actually buying. The tables below show MLS® condo sales over the past three months by age, something that most analysts have not looked at.

MLS High-Rise Condo Sales

For most of us, buying a home or a condo is a matter of trade-offs and compromises. Few of us can afford to drop $900,000-plus on a new downtown high-rise, so it’s a matter of either changing location or buying an older unit to buy into the market.

Over the past few years, developers have had to shrink new units in order to keep prices in line. West side Vancouver is an interesting example of this. Over the past three months, brand-new units made up almost one in four MLS high-rise sales in this market; average price $440,000 for 570 square feet. But it’s evident that buyers in this market want more and are willing to pay more. The situation is similar in Vancouver East, but not as dramatic.

In most other markets, buying an affordable high-rise condo means buying an older unit. In Downtown Vancouver, New Westminster and North Vancouver, units built pre-2003 made up close to 50 per cent or more of the MLS high-rise sales over the past three months.

MLS Low-Rise Condo Sales

Low-rise condos remain the most affordable type of housing in Greater Vancouver. Judging from MLS sales over the past three months, a $250,000 price tag seems to be the limit for most buyers, and in many markets this means buying in a project built before 1993. Units over 20 years old made up over half the low-rise MLS sales in Vancouver West, Richmond and South Surrey White Rock. West side buyers had to pay well over $250,000, but the price of an older unit was still $130,00 less than a new unit.

In all other markets, low-rise units over 10 years old made up the majority of MLS sales over the past three months. In most markets, this meant buyers were getting a 900 or so square foot units for less than $300,000.

MLS Townhouse Sales

Townhouse condos make up about one-third of MLS condo sales and tend to be more expensive than high-rise and low-rise units. Even if a buyer is looking at a unit built in the last century, prices tend to be well over $300,000 in most markets. The most affordable units are townhouse units over 20 years old in Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, North Surrey and Langley. In almost all markets, townhouse condos over 10 years old made up more than half the MLS townhouse sales over the past three months.

© 2013 Real Estate Weekly

Binning tower 3355 Binning Road 216 Homes

Thursday, December 12th, 2013


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Vancouver Real Estate Sales Tied For Tops In Canada: Re/Max

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013


Vancouver real estate led the country in what proved to be a bounce-back year for housing sales, says a new report from Re/Max.

The realtor’s Housing Market Outlook 2014 showed Vancouver tied with Kelowna for Canada’s top home sales growth in 2013 at 10 per cent.

Greater Vancouver is set to see 28,000 home sales by the end of the year, compared to 25,445 homes sold in 2012. Housing activity is expected to grow more modestly in 2014, with 29,000 sales forecast, an increase of about two per cent.

The average price of a home is predicted to climb from $730,063 in 2012 to $765,000 by the end of the year, before increasing to $800,000 in 2014, an increase of five per cent, year on year.

The region’s real estate market rebounded in the latter half of the year after housing activity plunged in 2012, with slow sales stretching into the first two quarters of 2013.

According to the report, the May provincial election proved a turning point for real estate, with a clear government mandate, softer housing values and an historically low interest rate environment driving growth.

Many local buyers took advantage of softer housing values and moved into bigger homes or better neighbourhoods.

The luxury market also saw strong activity, with sales of homes costing over $2 million up 20 per cent over 2012.

The news does little to buck Vancouver’s recent title as Canada’s least affordable city.

“Affordability in Vancouver is uncomfortably strained and the city’s housing market still remains, by far, the most costly in Canada,” said Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist, RBC last month.

Copyright © 2013, Inc

Empress provides housing for vulnerable Vancouver women

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Hell hotel finds new life as haven

Mike Howell
Van. Courier

The drug dealer doesn’t live there anymore.

He was evicted.

But he was on the corner last Friday morning, lurking.

Inside the old building in which he lived, there now exists surveillance cameras and an alarm system. The security provisions allowed “Jenna” to enjoy the serenity of the same morning as she walked along a quiet hallway in her pajamas.

“We’re warm and off the street and safe and we actually have a home,” she said from inside the former Seaview single-room-occupancy hotel in the 300-block Alexander Street.

It was a different story for Jenna in the summer.

She pointed down a narrow hallway to a room where she said dealers installed a locked metal gate. Inside, she said, they tortured her and other women. Young people, she said, also died of drug overdoses in the 1912 hotel.

“Now it’s totally done a 180 and it’s clean,” said Jenna, who was homeless for two years.

The building’s history was notorious, or “profoundly checkered,” as Janice Abbott, the CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, described in a tour. Atira now manages the privately owned hotel.

“There were a group of alleged drug dealers who lived here and women were being brought in and tortured – head shaved, lit on fire, raped, assaulted,” said Abbott, whose non-profit along with the help of the Vancouver Police Department rid the hotel of the gang, including the dealer hanging outside the building Friday.

The women, she added, have been afraid to pursue charges against the men for fear of retribution. Moving in to the same hotel where she was tortured was a concern for Jenna – who slept the first night with her light on – but her options were limited. The police continue to work with Atira to ensure the hotel doesn’t revert to the horrible place it was.

“The VPD have been all over this and been absolutely fabulous to work with through this process – they are keeping us safe,” Abbott said.

The building, renamed the Empress Rooms, has become a refuge for Jenna and 35 other women who would otherwise be living on the street. The hotel got a new coat of paint, new floors and a renovated kitchen.

Tenants, whose rent is $375 per month, are guaranteed at least two meals per day and have access to professionals for whatever health or personal problems need to be addressed.

The B.C. government provided $350,000 for the renovations and management of the building. The money helped pay to have two staff on duty around the clock and employ a security guard.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton toured the hotel Friday and said the government is committed to the safety of vulnerable women. Anton visited the Empress Rooms on the National Day of Remembrance and a day where temperatures dipped below zero degrees Celsius.

“The goal here is to help women get into more permanent housing and into better circumstances,” said Anton, standing in the hotel’s kitchen. “That need is always around. People come and go and they have different circumstances in their lives, so it’s very important to have a safe place for women to get themselves back into a better personal space.”

The demand for housing for women is so great in the Downtown Eastside that Abbott said “we could probably fill this building a couple of times over. And if we took into consideration women who are living in unsafe buildings elsewhere in the community – yes, the need is huge.”

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