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Want to make the province change some rules for real estate? Put on the pressure

February 10th, 2016 · 22 Comments

If Vancouver residents really want the province to start making changes to try to moderate the officially out-of-control (parts, anyway) real-estate market in Vancouver, just holding demonstrations and/or waiting for newsrooms to provide coverage is not going to do it.

My experience of politicians — okay, not all, some do things strictly out of principle — is that they wait to see how much public uproar there is. If it seems like it will die off in a few weeks, they’ll just sit out the dust storm. If it seems like it’s building up to serious levels, they’ll start to move.

One thing that would have an impact is if homeowners, those people with their money sunk into the market and whom the premier seems to be so afraid will be upset if she does anything, should start a petition saying they do not need the excessive profits that the last couple of years have been providing and that they’d rather see the market moderated.

Many people I know, myself included, take no pleasure in seeing the big jump in alleged value of our homes the last couple of years.

They’re not planning to cash out and take their millions to Hedley or Charlottetown. They are committed Vancouverites (and, by this, I don’t mean just the city but the region) who want to stay and would like to see other committed Vancouverites be given a chance to put down  roots here.

Go ahead: Let the premier and her party know, in your thousands, that you don’t need that extra $500,000 or $1 million or $2 million on top of the 300 per cent or so increase in value you’ve already seen on your property since you bought.

One note: Even though I’m encouraging this, I do it with the warning that I don’t think any of the measures so far proposed are going to do what some people want, which is to return Vancouver real-estate values to the level of Saskatoon or even Victoria. That’s not going to happen. It wasn’t even happening in the ’70s and ’80s.

Vancouver is one of the many cities around the world that have become go-to places and where real-estate values have risen because the number of all people wanting to buy here is exceeding the supply.

But one of my blog commenters said, “I’d just be happy to see it go back to 2005.”

What needs to be taken out of the Vancouver equation is the layer on top of the general jump in property prices that exceeds wage increases that’s happening everywhere. That layer is the extras — the speculation, the use of houses to park investment cash while leaving them empty, and so on. We don’t know how much of that there really is. Maybe only a few hundred properties in this region of 2-million-plus.

But at least sanding off the crazy peaks at the top would prevent even more speculation and loophole diving.

Then Vancouverites who really want to do more will have to look at much bigger measures.

For those who believe it’s the demand that’s the problem, pressure to limit immigration and, perhaps, limit the number of wealthy people who can immigrate. (I know that sounds wacky, but, really, when you listen to some conversations out there, that’s what some groups really want. They dress it up by saying they don’t want people with illegal money or who are leaving families here while working abroad or whatever. But, truly, what they don’t want is wealthy people competing with locals for housing.)

For those who believe it’s supply that’s the problem, there should be pressure to convert more areas to housing that uses less land but is still ground-oriented, as the planners call it — places where you can walk out the front door and not have to use an elevator to get outside.

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