First-time home buyers received welcome news in today’s provincial budget. Any REALTORS® currently working with first-time buyers will want to share this news with them as soon as possible.

The government has announced, effective February 19, 2014, under the Property Transfer Tax (PTT) First-Time Home Buyers’ Exemption program, qualifying first-time buyers can buy a home worth up to $475,000. The previous threshold was $425,000.

The partial exemption continues and will apply to homes valued between $475,000 and $500,000.

With this change, the government estimates 1,700 additional first-time buyers will annually be eligible to save up to $7,500 in PTT when they buy their home.

The government estimates this measure will cost $8 million in lost tax revenue each year.

The Real Estate Board, together with BC Real Estate Association, has actively lobbied to make home ownership more affordable for first-time home buyers. This increase in the threshold clearly signals our efforts have paid off as in past years.

In 2008, as a result of industry lobbying, the provincial government increased the threshold to $425,000 from $375,000. 

In 2005, the government increased the threshold to $325,000 from $275,000.

The PTT is calculated at a rate of one per cent on the first $200,000 and two per cent on the remaining value of the purchase price.

Budget Highlights

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With over 1,000 laneways homes either constructed or under construction in the City of Vancouver, demand for them has never been higher. Last year alone 348 permits were issued in Vancouver.

The vast majority of them lack architectural variety, but that may soon change as award winning architect Gair Williamson has designed a new prototype exclusively for Vancouver’s Smallworks.

Designed to meet the City of Vancouver’s new LWH regulation changes for a 33 foot lot, Williamson’s Glass Brick 33 Lane House embodies urban modernism at perhaps its greatest.



The Glass Brick laneway home is a single-storey 470 to 650-square foot house built with insulated Japanese-designed glass brick walls. This allows for both privacy and light.

The interior features an open-space layout using sliding screens to subdivide space functionally and flexibly.

According to the Vancouver Sun article, taking laneway housing to a whole new level, by Bob Ransford, “high windows and skylights can be added to strategically capture long views of any surrounding tree canopies, connecting the interior to the exterior environment.”



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Living in Vancouver is wonderful. It's one of the most liveable cities in the world. And the beauty of residing in a place where everyone and his cockapoo wants to live, is the opportunity it affords you to craft your perfect house from the studs up.

That's right. Because who would want to buy a nicely cared for, tastefully finished, fully maintained property in a desirable neighbourhood, when they could tackle a teardown (sorry, fixer-upper) in an up-and-coming location with few amenities but lots of character? Now, that's what makes a house a home, isn't it?

And what bargains you can find if you just lower your expectations a little, and prepare to compromise on those tiny details. Imagine: you can actually buy a single family home for under $1 million. Even for as little as $649,000. We know, right? Where do we sign?


1. 3750 Inverness St., offered at $649,000



2. 1805 E. 37th Ave., offered at $658,000



3. 4952 Chatham St., Offered at $699,000




4. 4525 Commercial St., Offered at $718,000




5. 1121 Keefer St., Offered at $719,000



6. 2981 McGill St., Offered at $725,000



7. 1850 E. 38th Ave., Offered at $748,000



8. 7433 Main St., Offered at $750,000




9. 3621 Cambridge St., Offered at $759,900




10. 3518 Williams St., Offered at $775,000




11. 617 E. Pender St., Offered at $789,000



12. 536 E. 55th Ave., Offered at $799,000



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THE LOWER MAINLAND real-estate market bounced back this year from the dreadfully low number of transactions in the latter part of 2012. Last year’s slowdown was caused, in part, by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s decision to cut the maximum amortization rate to 25 years, which had a disproportionate impact in the Lower Mainland, where housing prices are traditionally higher than in most other parts of Canada.

Prices remained stable, too, confounding many bloggers who’ve been predicting a Japan-style housing implosion. Part of the reason is continued migration—B.C. Stats predicts 38,000 new arrivals in the province this year and another 41,300 next year.

There’s also a rising number of residents entering the 25- to 44-year-old age group, which drives aggregate demand from first-time buyers, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. Below, you’ll see our picks for the most significant real-estate stories of the year in Greater Vancouver.

False Creek North 
The Vancouver development board’s recent decision to approve amuch larger Edgewater Casino along with two hotel towers near B.C. Place Stadium will dramatically change the look of the city for those coming north off the Cambie Street Bridge. It will also reinforce Northeast False Creek’s identity as a sports-and-entertainment zone, which is anchored by B.C. Place Stadium and Rogers Arena. Meanwhile, Concord Pacific unveiled plans for eight high-rises containing 1,300 condominiums, as well as 90,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. If city council gets rid of the viaducts, this neighbourhood is likely to become one of the hottest real-estate plays in town.

Surrey City Centre 
This year, Surrey council approved the second stage of a land-use plan for the 581-hectare urban zone bounded by 112th and 96th avenues and 132nd and 140th streets. It includes three more parks, and anticipates that the population will more than double to 68,000 by 2033. Surrey hopes to attract lots of jobs, too, christening its network of health institutions, universities, and high-tech companies in the area as “Innovation Boulevard”. The city has attracted hordes of developers, including Concord Pacific, which revealed this year that it has about $750 million invested in the municipality. Bosa Properties senior vice president Daryl Simpson told the Straight that his company plans to develop 15 buildings in Surrey City Centre.

East Hastings 
According to Heritage Vancouver, there are more than 25 development projects under way in the corridor along East Hastings Street between Carrall and Renfrew streets. The area burst into public consciousness when the Solterra Group of Companies bought the Waldorf Hotel. Many properties are not listed in the city’s Heritage Register, which means the kitschy and quirky character could be lost to redevelopment.

Community plans 
Vancouver city council approved the West End community plan, and long-term strategies are expected to be completed in 2014 in the Downtown Eastside and Marpole, with Grandview-Woodland coming after that. The process has attracted intense interest from residents precisely because these plans will have a profound impact on the future of these areas. Early iterations called for densification in some neighbourhoods that many deemed unacceptable, most notably in parts of Marpole and near the Commercial-Broadway Station in Grandview-Woodland.

Disappearance of cultural venues 
The Ridge Theatre site is being turned into condos; a church bought the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts; and the owner of the Hollywood Theatre wants it converted into a fitness studio. Earlier this year, former Vancouver planning director Brent Toderian told the Straight that the city should identify which cultural assets are important and vulnerable. A week after Toderian’s comment, Coun. Heather Deal brought forward a motion asking staff to do precisely that. Will it make a difference? On the upside, it appears as though the Western Front is safe, thanks to a pending rezoning application to make what it is doing legal under the zoning bylaw after 40 years in Mount Pleasant. And residents near the Hollywood have been given some time to suggest alternatives. As well, the York Theatre opened on Commercial Drive. All is not lost.


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Each year around this time, I am often asked what will happen to Vancouver’s new-home market in the coming year. I always give the same answer: one cannot generalize about this since there are so many markets, differentiated by location, type of housing and type of buyer.

Having said that, I would like to offer a few observations and predictions of what might lie ahead.

In 2014, we can expect some locations and housing forms to be over-built, while others will not keep up with demand. Potentially controversial projects are likely to be put on hold, especially in the latter months, since this is a municipal election year.

However, alternative forms of housing common in other cities around the world are likely to become more popular in Vancouver.

For example, we can expect increased interest in individually-owned row houses that are not part of a condominium building, for the following reasons:

• Many people downsizing from a single-family house are not yet ready for condo living, but are seeking the outdoor spaces and other amenities that a row house can offer.

• Many municipal planners consider row houses to be a higher-density form of housing that can fit nicely within single-family neighbourhoods.

• By Dec. 13, most B.C. strata corporations had to prepare depreciation reports setting out how they planned to finance the repair and maintenance of their condominiums’ common property. Since owners of many older projects will likely have to pay special assessment fees, there is likely to be increased interest in alternatives to condominium living.

In 2014, we may start to see more developments comprising smaller detached homes, duplexes and coach houses. The demand for this type of housing is greater than ever, as evidenced by the success of “pocket neighbourhood” developments in the Pacific Northwest and of cottage-style infill developments in and around Metro.

Since many municipal planners and politicians now seem to be more accepting of lower-density alternatives to single-family housing, expect more.

Next year, highrise buildings will continue to rise higher and higher, especially in urban centres and near important transit stations. However, in many neighbourhoods, community opposition will compel developers to pursue alternative forms of higher-density housing.

I anticipate more Toronto-style “stacked townhomes”, especially in locations that appeal to younger buyers. While this form of housing requires many stairs, stacked towns, as they are sometimes called, can offer greater affordability. An additional attraction is that each home has its own front door to the street. Since the city of Vancouver and other municipalities are encouraging this type of housing in new neighbourhood plans, expect it to gain popularity in the coming year.

Also look out for six-storey wood-frame apartments. Although it has been four years since the B.C. Building Code was amended to allow taller wood-frame construction, the development industry has been slow to respond. However, with increasing municipal support for more intensive land use, especially along arterial roads, and strong demand for rental housing and affordable home ownership, developers are likely to embrace this building type in the new year.

In many municipalities, planners will more aggressively promote European-style mid-rise developments up to eight or 10 storeys, similar to those being built along Cambie Street. This form of housing has not generally been popular in Vancouver, due in part to higher construction costs when compared to low-rise wood-frame or highrise construction. However, as mid-rise development becomes more common, construction costs will likely come down as they have in other cities.

In some locations, expect to see highrise buildings capped at 12 storeys. This is the height limit in Kerrisdale Village, and many architects and planners believe that with good landscaping, well-designed towers at this height can fit in with townhouses, low-rise apartments and nearby single-family neighbourhoods.

In 2013, laneway housing gained in popularity along Vancouver’s lanes. In the coming year, expect other municipalities to also approve coach houses and backyard cottages on single-family properties that may not have a lane. Hopefully, some municipalities will allow these smaller houses to be sold, as well as rented, especially when located on corner lots.

Last year, we saw considerable interest in container and modular housing, and this is likely to continue. However, we could also see another innovative housing form — floating homes. A new floating home community was approved in Delta in 2013 and anyone who has been to Amsterdam knows that this can be a most attractive form of housing.

Regardless of the location or form of housing, one thing we can expect in the coming year is more interesting and innovative architectural designs. Many Vancouverites have become tired of what they see as standardized plans and repetitive, boring grey and green towers. They want more interesting shapes, a greater use of colour and materials, and more landscaping on the sides and roofs of buildings. Expect developers and their architects to tempt new-home buyers with more exciting designs.

Finally, to those hoping the coming year will bring declining home prices, do not hold your breath. As our region becomes increasingly attractive and livable, expect a continued influx of immigrants from around the world and aging baby boomers from other parts of Canada.

While we would like to think that Vancouver can be both livable and affordable, the reality is that the more attractive our region becomes, the less likely it is that home prices will fall. One thing we must do is ensure new housing supply keeps up with increased demand.

One way to achieve this is by building more highrises. However, I believe a better solution is a more gentle approach to densification, one with a broader range of housing choices, especially in older single-family neighbourhoods close to transit and amenities.

Time will tell whether my predictions will be right. In the meanwhile, best wishes for a happy, healthy and livable 2014.


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The latest report from CMHC (Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation) forecasts that housing demand with increase due to an increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Full-Time Employment as well as Immigration. By how much and which regions are forecast to grow the most client on the full report below:

Full Report

Tony Marchigiano1-155 Water Street
Mortgage BrokerVancouver, BC
cell: 604 505 7109
fax: 604 909 4666

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Sean Stevens immediately knew the Rolston development was a design winner when amateur photographers started showing up at the downtown Vancouver tower.

“I see people stopping and pulling out their phones all the time to take pictures,” said the real estate agent with Macdonald Realty. “It really catches people’s attention.”



The Rolston by Rize Alliance Properties has an eye-catching geometric design that snakes its way up the tower’s 23 storeys. Stevens credits the oversize balconies on alternating floors for helping create the building’s distinctive offsetting lines.

Suites with the larger balconies have proven popular with buyers, and some are still available. While most of the 187 suites have been sold, there still is a selection of two-bedroom units, starting at $484,900, with a studio suite remaining for $359,900.

Living in the Rolston means living in the burgeoning north Granville neighbourhood. Located at 1300 Granville St., the building is next door to the historic Yale Hotel and jazz club and close to parks and the Granville shopping district.



The offset design allowed the builders to include not one but two rooftop terraces, one on the 16th floor and the other on the top floor. The terraces offer stellar views to go with lounge areas.

“They’ve made them into urban parks for residents,” Stevens said.

The building’s interior includes a full-service fitness club, bicycle storage and 20,000 square feet of retail and office space on the bottom floor.

Each unit comes with in-suite storage, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances.

The development is scheduled for a December completion and for a limited time buyers will receive $1,000 a month towards their mortgage for 36 months.

The Rolston sales centre is open Saturday to Wednesday, noon to 5 p.m., at #140-1265 Granville St. For more details and to register, visit



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When Ben Taddei, president of Vancouver’s Bluetree Homes got into the housing development business in the early 90s single family was king.

Not anymore.

Single family housing accounts for just 15 per cent of new housing construction in the Lower Mainland and families that want an affordable traditional home with a fence around it will likely find themselves living as far east as Mission.

Unless, that is, they are wealthy enough to afford a new home built on a lot in Vancouver or Burnaby that has had its former home torn down to make way.

“When I started, it was 85 per cent single family and 15 per cent multi-family. Now it’s reversed and single family is a bit of a rare commodity,” said Taddei whose company builds small- to medium-sized multi-housing developments by densifying and repurposing sites in existing urban areas.

Figures released by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation show the number of new housing starts in August for the Lower Mainland area (as far east as Chilliwack) was 1,608 — down from 1,840 for August, 2012.

So far this year there have been 12,986 housing starts in the area compared to 13,725 for the same period last year.

Vancouver accounts for the largest share with 4,036 new starts, Surrey is second with 1,977, followed by Burnaby with 1,529, Coquitlam, 978, Richmond, 766, Langley District, 650, and the University Endowment Lands, 521.

Norm Couttie, president of Adera Development Corporation, a medium-sized development company building apartments in the University of B.C. Endowment lands and in North Vancouver, said the demand for new housing was steady but the market was becoming cyclical again.

“For a while there it was booming all year round. Now it’s going back to its old cycle of being slow through the summer and coming on in the fall,” said Couttie.

Adera and Bluetree are both involved in projects that repurpose former commercial or industrial land into housing.

Adera is building 375 apartment units on an old city works yard in North Vancouver while Bluetree is converting a former gas station site at Main and King Edward in Vancouver into a 39-unit apartment.

It’s this infilling and densification that is driving much of the new housing construction in the built-up areas of Metro Vancouver.

The present population of the area is estimated at about 2.3 million and this is expected to increase by almost 50 per cent to 3.4 million by 2041.

Taddei said it’s not hard to see why. “You only have to go on a vacation elsewhere to realize Vancouver is one of the best places in the world to live — clean water, clean air and the livability of the region is why people want to be here,” he said.

But a lack of land and the desire of people to live in Metro Vancouver is making municipalities turn to densification — especially along transit corridors — as the way to deal with the demand for more housing, said Taddei.

“Every municipality is trying to densify and make better use of their land resource. You will see even single family densification with more coach-houses, laneway houses and suites. Surrey has been allowing coach-houses for some time. You are going to see more higher density in-fill. You only have to look at Vancouver and its land-use policies and the efforts to densify single family neighbourhoods like Marpole and Grandview Woodlands,” he said.

Taddei said single family areas can be densified without destroying the existing character of a neighbourhood.

“If it’s done sensitively it will be far more palatable than having a 50-storey tower next to single family homes,” he said.

Converting the old gas station site on Main into housing was a typical example of what he expects to be the trend for the foreseeable future.

“It’s an affordable urban in-fill project. It’s a 39-unit wood frame apartment done as a contemporary interpretation of an historical theme. It’s a mixed use building with commercial at grade and the units are selling for an average price of between $350,00 to $375,000,” said Taddei.

But for those who yearn for the traditional single family home with its own yard and garage, the price of lots will determine the area a buyer can afford, with land becoming cheaper the further east it goes, said Blake Hudema, vice-president of Genstar Development Company,

The four hot spots for single family today are the Burke Mountain area of Coquitlam, Surrey’s Grandview Heights, Willowbrook in Langley and the Albion area of Maple Ridge, he said.

“Medium-sized lots in South Surrey go for about $375,000 — very similar to the Coquitlam area. When you get to Maple Ridge and Langley, it’s in the $225,000 to $260,000 range. In Mission, it’s from $190,000 to $220,000,” said Hudema.

Genstar has 1,300 acres assembled in Mission for its Silverdale integrated community and has the first 364 acres zoned for 1,500 housing units which will combine single family, townhouses and some apartment-condominiums, he said.

If closeness to transit corridors — either in place or planned — is the mantra driving much of the region’s multi-family development, the single family market isn’t much concerned by the reach of SkyTrains and most buyers will be reliant on the family car, said Hudema.

“The single family market isn’t as influenced by transit. People are trading off the distance and time factor (of travelling to work) for the fact they are getting a traditional ground-oriented home.”

In Mission, a family can buy a new home for under $500,000, he said

However, many people don’t need to drive from Mission to Vancouver for work as jobs have been shifting out of the city for some time, he said.

“In a place like Mission we estimate more than 20 per cent of people will be working from home or like the guys who work in construction their office is their pickup truck,” he said.

And road access to the area has increased.

“When you look at the new Port Mann Bridge, the Golden Ears Bridge and the new Pitt River Bridge, there isn’t a quadrant or suburb of any North American city that has had so much bridge and lane traffic added to it. There are now up to 10 bridge lanes going into the northeast,” he said.

Then there’s the difference for what your money can buy.

“The way condominium prices are going in Vancouver, $600,000 gets you 800 to 900 square feet on a lower level. But out in Maple Ridge you are getting a 3,600-square-foot home, a 400-square-foot garage and a backyard for the kids to play and dog to scratch around in,” he said.

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One of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods is comprised of some of its finest old houses and waterfront, and yet, it’s remained a quietly hidden gem for most of the city’s history.

East side residents know about Wall Street, but city wide, it’s largely an unknown. That will change, promises Sotheby’s agent Gregg Close, who, along with his son Mackenzie, has taken on his first Wall Street listing at 2523 Wall St. The Battersby Howat designed house is listed at $1.795-million, which is the highest listing price for any home in the area.

Wall is a long, winding street above a bluff overlooking the workings of an industrial port, the freighter-dotted inlet and the North Shore mountains. It’s a unique view, the urban answer to Point Grey Road’s more sombre, idyllic waterfront.

Mr. Close, who grew up on Point Grey Road and has specialized in selling houses in his west side neighbourhood most of his career, believes that Wall Street is vastly under priced.

“The prices here on Wall are insane,” says Mr. Close. “I’m so used to Point Grey Road, where everything there is cheek to jowl. Here you can look right down the channel. This house will be worth $3-million because this street has nowhere to go but up.”

Of course, the Closes believe in the area because they have a house to sell, but the fact that Sotheby’s has arrived in what was once an intensely working class neighbourhood is a sign of transition. Several years ago, I wrote a story about the first $1-million listing in the city’s other old neighbourhood, Strathcona, and today it’s hard to believe that anyone even found that shocking.

Considering the shortage of waterfront in Vancouver, it only makes sense that a similar hike in property values would happen on Wall Street. For the last decade, the Hastings Sunrise community has attracted professional urban types who prefer the obscurity of their enclave, which is a short walk to Commercial Drive, a five-minute drive to downtown, and a short drive over the Second Narrows Bridge to some of the best mountain biking in the country. Now that long-time residents are of retiring age and looking to sell their seaside properties, the area is opening to a new market that is starting to recognize the east side version of Point Grey Road.

“All that’s missing is a Starbucks,” says Mr. Close.

There are already the early signs of a neighbourhood on the upswing, in the form of a few brave independent retailers. Around the corner from Wall Street, on Powell Street, are a couple of indie craft distilleries, including the Odd Society, makers of gin, vodka and whisky, with a stylish new tasting room – and Powell Street Brewing, makers of an India Pale Ale. There is a movement under way by some businesses to rename and rebrand the neighbourhood, including adjacent Grandview-Woodlands, as “the East Village.”

Omer Arbel is a celebrated designer best known for his furniture and lighting company, Bocci. His 1942 Wall Street cottage-style house, which he purchased for $1.27-million three years ago, was recently featured in Dwell magazine. He’s a recent addition to the neighbourhood, but he’s been aware of it for more than a decade, says Mr. Arbel, who moved from Israel when he was a kid. Mr. Arbel’s home is located next door to the Sotheby’s-listed property, and he has plans for his own major renovation.

“When I could afford to buy and build, there was no question in my mind that it should occur on Wall Street,” he says in an e-mail interview from somewhere in Asia. “I feel much more comfortable in East Vancouver than I do in West Vancouver or the North Shore. I love the view of the mountains and the ocean, and the rawness of the proximity to port lands, the trains and large freighters. People have hang-ups about the noise of the train tracks, but personally I love it. I think it’s romantic, and I miss it when I travel.”

Mr. Arbel is less enamoured of efforts to rebrand the area as a namesake of that famous New York neighbourhood.

“I hate that some misguided individual or group chose to try to rename our neighbourhood. Why replace a beautiful and poetic name [Hastings Sunrise], particular to this place and its history, with a generic name of a neighbourhood in New York? It seems completely against the spirit of the place. Nowhere in the world will you ever find a neighbourhood called Hastings Sunrise. This is something to celebrate, not try to obscure.”

Before it was Hastings Sunrise, the area was set aside by the colonial government in the 1860s, and called the Hastings Townsite. Back then, Vancouver was comprised of individual municipalities, and Hastings Townsite became an annex of the city in 1911, following a referendum, says historian John Atkin.

“Because it was far out from the centre the orphanages and delinquent schools, et cetera, were set out there,” he says. “They stuck similar institutions way out in West Point Grey on Fourth Avenue as well. But it developed just as other neighbourhoods did, with a mix of incomes and people. The opening of the Pacific National Exhibition helped boost the area’s development.”

As for the name, Heritage Vancouver’s Donald Luxton says nobody knows why it was renamed Wall Street in 1911. Prior to that, it was simply Powell Street.

Change isn’t happening instantly on Wall Street. The house at 2523 has been on the market for two years, and is on its third agent. Since Sotheby’s took over in May, they say they’ve had two decent offers, but they believe they can hold out for the asking price.

Last year, the owner of a 1980s-era house on a 66-by-98-foot lot at 2645 Wall listed at $2.450-million without luck. It sat on the market for 126 days.

Elisabeth Obesen, owner of the house at 2523 Wall, has lived there since 2001. She purchased the property and had the house built, but she under built on the property and only allowed for two bedrooms upstairs, which is a setback in terms of its resale, says Mr. Close.

There is still the old, prevailing attitude among locals that the east side should be far cheaper than the west, and that’s an outmoded idea, says Ms. Obesen, who is a doctor.

“Vancouverites have a very crazy notion about the east side versus the west side,” she says. “Suddenly, just because you’ve crossed Main Street, they think a house should be really cheap. Those days are over.”

Ms. Obesen says she can’t afford to live out her retirement years in Vancouver, and so she’s selling her dream home, which includes a garden that cost her more than $150,000.

“I wish I could keep my house and retire here, but I can’t. That’s the reality,” she says. “People have this idea that physicians are rich and living high off the hog, and it’s just not true. The deal is, if I want to stay in my house, I have to work till I’m 75. I’m not going to work that long. So the options are sell this house … and move to Panama. That’s been on my list at the moment.

“I could hang on and wait [for the price to go up],” she adds. “But I just don’t want to.”


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VANCOUVER -- The only telling signs that a new Downtown Eastside housing project at 502 Alexander Street is unusual are the corrugated steel walls, painted navy blue and burnt orange.

The colourful walls are the exterior of 12 recycled shipping containers that form the base structure for the unique three-level, 12-unit development for women.

“Once you put the containers on site and secure them, the construction is really similar to other forms of housing,” Atira Women’s Resource Society chief executive Janice Abbott said in an interview on Thursday.

“We spray-foam insulated everything and put up drywall, and as you can see, it’s not significantly different than any other apartment you might see anywhere else in Vancouver.”

Canada’s first recycled shipping container social housing development features a dozen self-contained units ranging from 280 to 290 square feet in size. The first occupants are expected to move in next month.

The development meets all building codes, and indeed exceeds code requirements for insulation and sound transference.

Abbott noted the hard construction costs were $82,500 per unit, compared with about $220,000 a unit for a conventional concrete housing project Atira recently completed on Abbott Street, which features 320-square-foot homes.

The entire Alexander Street project — including a heritage restoration of the adjacent 16-unit Imouto Housing for Young Women — cost $3.3 million, with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. contributing $2.6 million.

The City of Vancouver kicked in $92,000. Coun. Kerry Jang noted that the city normally would have contributed $120,000, or $10,000 per unit.

“But because their costs were so much lower than normal, they didn’t need it,” he said.

City council first investigated the concept of shipping container housing about four years ago, as similar projects had been built in Europe but none had ever been developed in Canada.

Jang said one of the biggest challenges was overcoming the notion that the project would “stack up poor people and warehouse them” in containers.

“For us, the number-one thing is that it had to be livable. When you look around, you can see they have really achieved that,” he said.

Four of the 12 recycled containers were donated — two from BC Hydro and two from private citizens — while eight were bought through a broker from Port Metro Vancouver.

Project development manager James Weldon said the containers, worth from $4,000 to $5,000 each, contain steel that would normally be too expensive for this sort of development.

“It’s kind of ironic that when it’s recycled like this, it becomes very affordable,” he said.

Weldon said the innovative project came with a “phenomenal” learning curve for everyone involved.

“It seems very simple and straightforward now, but at the time, it was challenging for everybody because the industry isn’t used to working with this kind of material,” he said. “The next project like this will be more efficient and economical because we learned so much from this pilot project.”

Abbott said preliminary work has already started on Atira’s plan to develop “a more sophisticated” shipping container housing development on a site at Hastings Street and Hawks Avenue. The society hopes to gain city approval to build a seven-storey project that would require 42 recycled containers.

The Alexander Street development features two different levels of non-market housing — six units that will cost occupants $375 a month, and six whose rents will be determined by the resident’s annual income. Renters of the income-related units can earn a maximum of $34,000 a year and pay a maximum monthly rental of $850.

Abbot said applications from potential residents will be reviewed next week, and the society wants women over the age of 50 to occupy the $375-a-month units.

“We want those women to participate in an inter-generational mentorship program with the young women who live next door (at the Imouto development),” she said. “We’re looking for women with roots in this community who want to give back and support young women to perhaps take different paths than they did.”










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It’s a question that can create severe anxiety disorder among baby boomers: Who will buy their single-family homes when they decide to downsize into smaller units?

Pessimists feel baby boomers could soon flood the market with detached homes as health and financial issues force them to sell, creating an oversupply situation that forces prices down.

But a Conference Board of Canada report Monday said new young families and increased levels of international immigration should boost the demand for single-family homes in the future, at least partly offsetting any increase in the supply of baby boomers’ homes for sale.

Conference Board economist Julie Ades feels the relative supply of single-family homes will drop in the future as construction levels decline and some detached homes are converted into semi-detached units.

“The market will gradually adjust on the demand side and the supply side,” she said in an interview. “That will help balance the market and we will likely see a mitigation of the negative impact on the price of single-detached dwellings.”

The average Multiple Listing Service selling price for a single-family home in Greater Vancouver has skyrocketed in the past 30 years – from $130,000 in 1983 to $1.1 million last month.

Baby boomers hoping to cash in on increased home values by selling and downsizing shouldn’t be too concerned about a possible surge in the number of aging people chasing the same strategy at the same time, according to Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver president-elect Ray Harris.

“If a flood of homes did come on the market, I think the situation would correct itself very quickly,” he said. “Prices might drop but people who don’t have to sell would take their homes off the market, so it becomes a self-controlling mechanism.”

Harris said health issues are the biggest reason owners decide to sell their single-family homes.

“Going from a home with two levels to a home with just one level is very common because of mobility issues (among older people),” he said. “Some owners just can’t maintain a big home because maybe their partner has passed on or had to move into a long-term care home.”

Abbotsford resident Marlene Nunn said health and financial issues were the biggest factors in the decision by her and her husband, Herb, to sell their Maple Ridge house this year and buy an Abbotsford condo.

They sold their 1,700-square-foot rancher for $446,000 and bought a 1,200-square-foot condo for $261,000.

Herb Nunn developed a heart issue that made it hard to keep up with the maintenance work required on the house and cashing in the equity was “absolutely” another reason to make the move, Marlene Nunn said.

“It wasn’t an easy decision and it took a while for us to come to this conclusion but it was just the right thing for us to do,” she said.

Port Moody realtor Derek Love doesn’t expect to see a glut of baby boomer homes for sale any time soon.

“More than half the people in my neighbourhood are over 65 and most of them want to stay in their homes for as long as possible,” he said. “I’m still selling single-family homes in the $2-million range to people in their 50s whose kids have moved out.”

Love said many potential clients in their 60s have told him they would sell their suburban homes and move to a downtown Vancouver condo if those condo prices weren’t so high. But those dream condos are unaffordable, so they have decided to keep their homes.

Love feels condo prices could be under more pressure than single-family home prices in the future because so many new units are being built and many older buildings will need a lot of capital investment for maintenance purposes.

About 60 per cent of Canadians now live in single-family homes but the Conference Board report notes the prevalence of people living in detached homes declines after the age of 55.

According to 2011 census data, 67 per cent of Canadians aged 50 to 54 lived in a detached house but the proportion dropped to 59 per cent for those between the ages of 75 and 79.

The report also said smaller multi-family units will account for a growing share of future residential demand in Canada because of affordability issues and demographic trends.

The proportion of one-person Canadian households rose from 25.7 per cent in 2001 to 27.6 per cent in 2011, due to factors such as a rising divorce rate, fewer marriages and common-law relationships and the aging population.

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In the desperate days of the early eighties real estate crash, the developer of a luxury tower on New York’s Upper East Side offered buyers a free Rolls Royce with every condo.

Recounting this story to city insiders at the recent launch of Trump Tower Vancouver, one offered this deadpan reply: “Well, they could always sleep in it after losing their shirt on the real estate market.”

While the Vancouver equivalent of this might be sleeping in your Smart car, the sudden appearance of sales incentives to attract buyers in the city’s glutted condo market has been nothing short of enthusiastic.

In Vancouver’s once frenzied condo realm, the norm used to be waiting in line in the rain to register for a Bob Rennie project and getting in if you were lucky. Now, developers are lining up to attract purchasers.

In the current market, developers have been going to rather extraordinary lengths to attract condo customers. For example:

Rize Alliance Properties Ltd. is offering 5 per cent down and $1,000 off monthly mortgage payments for a year on its downtown Rolston project.

Millennium Group is dangling keys to a free Fiat 500 to entice buyers into its Bohème development.

At Wall Centre Central Park in Burnaby buyers are being offered a 3.2-per-cent credit off the purchase price.

One North Vancouver development, the Seylynn Village, is even raffling off a free unit.

And realtors, when not busy employing extra staging techniques to sell new and old properties, are inundated with offers of special $5,000 bonuses if they bring buyers to projects.

But are these hard sell techniques working? And will they help kick start a sagging industry?

“We have to be careful before saying ‘the sky is falling,’” says Diana McMeekin of real estate marketing firm Artemis. “What we’re seeing in the market today is a response to the shift from speculators to long-term investors. The kinds of people that are buying now are owner-occupiers as opposed to ‘flippers.’”

For that demographic, real estate is “less of a commodity and more of a home. Their decisions are often more measured,” she says, and they are more likely to be enticed by deals. “Their decisions are more emotional and less about dollars and cents.”

While Ms. McMeekin says our condo market is not as glutted as Toronto’s, she still advises clients that in a competitive market, especially in areas such as Metrotown and Richmond, “you need to have a promotion or special offer every day – just like in the retail business.”

But the key to sales success, she says, is targeting the right audience. “For first time buyers, the deciding factors are price, location and then design, but for more mature buyers it’s location, design and then price.”

George Wong, for one, believes there is no crisis – “just an explosion of supply in certain areas that has created a buyer’s market.”

Metro Vancouver’s real estate sales in 2012 were 34 per cent higher than in 2011, says Wong, whose company, Magnum Projects, is behind the Trump International Hotel and Tower.

While admitting that the market is competitive, he says, “My own approach to marketing is not so incentive heavy. We’re more about responsible marketing, not throwing fees and buyer incentives and creating an impression that the market is in trouble.”

A recent project he marketed for Nat Bosa at Homer and Pacific, for instance, sold 60 per cent of the units in two months, without incentives, he says, because of its “intrinsic attraction and allure.” But with 70 per cent of buyers owner-occupiers, his figures seem to jibe with Ms. McMeekin’s premise of a shift from speculative to long-term real estate investment.

While Mr. Wong acknowledges that incentives often appeal to first-time buyers who “need financial assistance,” they can be “all smoke and mirrors, raising prices and then offering big discounts.”

But for Geoff Duyker, head of marketing at Mosaic Homes, incentives are actually pragmatic “problem solvers” for many first-time buyers.

“We recognize it’s not easy to buy a first home – and we decided that we wanted to make it easier for first-time buyers.”

Mosaic’s current promotion – securing a home for less than $400,000 with a 5-per-cent down payment and a $10,000 rebate – is largely in reaction to the slowdown in sales it noticed after April 1 when the provincial government’s homeowner’s rebate ended.

It appears to be successful, he says. In the first two weeks of June, when the promotion began, relates Mr. Duyker, Mosaic sold 35 homes, with the majority of buyers coming to the table because of the 5-per-cent down payment and rebate scheme.

Free cars might lure buyers, he says, but they “don’t fix the problem of qualifying as a first-time buyer.”

Independent real estate analyst Michael Ferreira says agrees there are fewer buyers today than two years ago – “and a lot more supply.”

One of the main factors, he contends, is that many projects “froze” after the crash of 2008, picking up speed again in 2010 and 2011 and are only now coming to market.

Most of the competing condo projects he says, are targeting “entry level” buyers, as opposed to “wealthier downsizers,” who are “less swayed by promotions.”

According to Urban Analytics’ quarterly report for the end of 2012, there was a sharp increase in incentives offered by developers.

“I’ve been in the market since 1992,” says Mr. Ferreira, “and I don’t remember a time when it was as competitive as it is right now.” He adds that even during the leaky condo crisis in the late nineties, there was much less product on the market as many developers simply gave up and left town for other markets.

“There’s never been this much development,” he says, “but it’s relative to the tremendous population growth – so it’s not a question of oversupply.”

He contends that “the market is more in balance today than in the pre-2008 period. The advantage for buyers is that there’s more competition and more choice. They don’t have to worry about showing up at project launch and having 70 per cent of the units sold already. Now is the perfect time to make an educated decision.”


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Since the release of 2011 Census data on housing and families, those of us who are data-inclined have had the opportunity to explore the ways in which our communities changed over the previous five years across a range of dimensions, from the proportion of new dwellings that are being added as apartments to the shifts in family composition and living arrangements.


One specific element that has attracted significant attention of late (at least here in Vancouver) has been the prevalence of housing occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents; this has been closely followed by concerns over the prevalence of both unoccupied dwellings and foreign investment, specifically as they pertain to the apartment stock in the metropolitan Vancouver region.


Unfortunately, discussions around these issues have suffered from the incorrect reference to—and use of—Census data. Largely a result of not considering the precise Census definitions for the data, the discussions have at best misrepresented what the Census attempts to measure, and at worst supported misconceptions about housing occupancy in the region. Either way, if there is going to be a meaningful discussion about housing, and meaningful policy responses to particular issues or trends that we, as residents of the region, feel need attention, it is necessary to know what the data are and what they mean before we draw any conclusions from them.


In order to provide some clarification on both the definitions and the data, we purchased a custom tabulation of the Census data in question, thereby allowing us to more fully explore and explain two elements of housing occupancy: a) foreign and/or temporary residents and b) unoccupied dwellings.


The following is a summary of the major findings from our research, and it is supported by a technical backgrounder, Housing Occupancy in the City of Vancouver and Region: 2011 Census Results Plus, that details the data sources and definitions in question.


The Census Definitions


Among many other things, the Census counts the number of private dwelling units occupied by usual residents; this includes all units whose residents considered their residence in this region to be their primary place of residence on May 10th, 2011. Units occupied by persons who considered (or who were deemed to have considered) their primary residences to be elsewhere (in Canada or abroad) were classified as occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents. In this group are students who live in a private dwelling during the school year (and perhaps while working at a summer job) but at some point during the year live elsewhere, such as at their parents’ place. This group also includes foreign students, both short term (such as language students) and long term (such as graduate students) who lived here on Census day but have a principle residence elsewhere.


Also included in the foreign and/or temporary group are non-students who have a main residence elsewhere in Canada. This applies to people in a private dwelling in the region on Census day who have a main residence elsewhere in Canada, including those who were working here, on a short term or long term basis; visiting here to see or care for friends or family members; visiting as tourists; and those here on short courses and conferences.  Another group or people included in the foreign and/or temporary classification are non-students who have a main residence outside of Canada. This applies to people, regardless of citizenship, who were in a private dwelling in the region on Census day but had a main residence outside of Canada, including tourists, workers, family visitors, entertainers and professional athletes (such as those who play on our home teams, but consider their homes to be elsewhere, and those who play for other teams who happened to be here, and in private dwellings, on Census day).


For these definitions, note a) temporary does not imply any particular length of stay, and can range from over night (in the case of tourists in private dwellings) to year long in the case of students - all temporary means is that people have, or are deemed to have in the case of some students, a main residence elsewhere; and, b) while much is made of the foreign within this group, it is much wider classification as it includes students, workers, friends and family, tourists and some of our sports heroes.


The Census definition of unoccupied units includes much more than units that are vacant on Census day. In addition to units that were empty (without people or furniture), unoccupied also includes all other units that were not designated as a main residence by a Census respondent and in which there were no occupants on Census day. These units range from the vacant and available for occupancy (including newly constructed units for rent or sale, and vacant existing units for sale and rent), to units vacant on Census day but with occupants on their way (e.g., people moving into a recently-purchased home), to occupied by usual residents who were temporarily away and did not complete a Census questionnaire and, finally, to being full of furniture as second residences for people whose main residences are elsewhere. It is important to note that the Census count occurs on May 10th, after the exodus of many students at the April end of the fall/winter academic term, something that has a significant impact on the number of unoccupied units counted in the Census.


What the Census Actually Tells Us


Foreign and/or Temporary Residents in Canada’s Metropolitan Regions


Given recent discussions about dwellings occupied by foreign/temporary residents in this region, it is productive to commence with consideration of how we compare to other census metropolitan areas (CMAs) in Canada. Dwellings occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents in the Vancouver CMA represent 0.8 percent of the dwellings in this region, about the same (insignificant) share as they do in other major metropolitan regions in Canada. In considering the 19 metropolitan regions in Canada with populations of at least 200,000, the Vancouver CMA was right in the middle of the pack with the Saskatoon and Regina CMAs (0.9 percent), and the Montreal and Victoria CMAs (0.8 percent).


The regions in Canada with relatively high levels of occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents were the Sherbrooke CMA (2.0 percent) and the Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo CMA (1.5 percent), both of which have relatively large university and college populations. The Ottawa/Gatineau CMA was third-highest among the major CMAs at 1.2 percent, reflecting the influence of large post-secondary and political/diplomatic populations.


A similar pattern is seen when focusing specifically on the apartment markets of Canada’s larger CMAs. The 1.4 percent of the Vancouver region’s apartment stock occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents sits almost right at the 1.5 percent average for all of Canada’s 33 CMAs. Regions with above-average shares, once again, were Kitchener/Cambridge/Waterloo (3.5 percent), Sherbrooke (2.7 percent) and Ottawa/Gatineau (2.1 percent). There is no evidence in the Census data to indicate anything but normal levels of occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents in this region: the greater the role played by post-secondary education in a region’s economy, the higher the level of occupancy by this group of residents.


Foreign and/or Temporary Residents in the Vancouver CMA


The Vancouver CMA regional average of 0.8 percent of the housing stock being occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents was not uniformly distributed across either structure types or within the region. Compared to the 0.8 percent average, a below average 0.3 percent of the single detached stock and 0.4 percent of the attached ground oriented stock were so occupied, while an above average 1.4 percent of the apartment stock was occupied by temporary residents. This is to be expected as the apartment market provides a significant share of student’s rental accommodation.

While the City of Vancouver and the District Municipality of West Vancouver were both slightly above the 1.4 percent regional average (with 1.8 and 1.9 percent of their apartment units, respectively, occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents), the University of British Columbia / University Endowment Lands (UBC/UEL) area, with 5.8 percent of its apartment stock occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents, was substantially above the regional average. This spatial pattern clearly shows the impact of post-secondary students on apartment occupancy patterns. There are 250,000 students (including 28,000 international students) registered in post-secondary education institutions across metropolitan Vancouver (along with another 40,000 short-stay international students): if they all lived in one place, they would represent the third largest municipality in the region.


Unoccupied Dwellings in CMAs across Canada


An average of 4.8 percent of the dwelling units in Canada’s 33 CMAs were unoccupied at the time of the Census.  With a 5.4 percent level of unoccupied units, the Vancouver CMA 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.

Looking specifically at the apartment market, unoccupied units in the Vancouver CMA accounted for 6.2 percent of all apartments here, below the 7.0 percent average for all 33 of the CMAs in Canada. In 14 of the 19 largest CMAs the unoccupied apartment share was higher than here, ranging from 6.5 percent in the Winnipeg CMA to 16.5 percent in the Windsor CMA. While both the Montreal and Toronto CMAs recorded lower levels of unoccupied apartment units — 5.9 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively — they were not significantly below that of the Vancouver region. Given these data, the 2011 Census provides no basis for concluding that there is an excess of apartment units that are unoccupied in the Vancouver region.


Unoccupied Dwellings within the Vancouver CMA


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.


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 Census Undercount


No discussion of Census population counts would be complete without a discussion of the Census undercount. This is the number of usual residents who should have been included in the Census but were, for some reason or another, not counted. According to current estimates, there were roughly 85,000 usual residents that were missed in the region, 3.7 percent above the Census count reported for 2011. To the extent that these people lived in units that were classified as unoccupied, the actual prevalence of unoccupied dwellings could have been significantly lower than the recorded prevalence as per the Census. Thus, when using Census population numbers, not only must there be an awareness of the fact that university students who left a few weeks earlier are not included (nor were other people who were here but did not have a main residence here), but also that they leave out another 85,000 people.


Much Ado About Nothing


There is nothing in the most recent Census data that provides evidence that the Vancouver region has any abnormal or excessive level of occupancy by foreign and/or temporary residents when compared to other major metropolitan regions in Canada. These data also do not provide any basis for concluding that there is an excess of units in the region that are unoccupied.


Looking within the Vancouver region, while the City of Vancouver is slightly above the CMA-wide average for both units occupied by foreign and/or temporary residents and unoccupied units (apartment and otherwise), there are other parts of the region where such occupancy is much more prevalent, most notably the UBC/UEL area. Within this context, it is important to recognize not only the underlying characteristics the dwelling stock, but also of the residents who may occupy it (e.g., the Census treatment of students’ places of residence).


Further to this, the  Census provides no indication of the degree to which foreign and/or temporary residents were not Canadian residents or their actual citizenship; no indication of the duration of temporary residency, which could be for as long as eleven months in the case of students who only stay with their parents between school and job; no indication of whether the temporary residents were owners or tenants; and no indication to the degree to which unoccupied units were vacant rather than temporarily unoccupied on Census day. There are no Census data that apply to discussions of foreign ownership or investment in housing, and none that apply to foreign occupancy, except to the extent that persons with a main residence outside of Canada are included; but note that along with this group are the post-secondary students whose parents homes are outside the region of study, and other people whose main residence is not their residence in this region.


The bottom-line is that the 2011 Census data clearly show that much ado is being made about nothing when it comes to the prevalence of foreign and/or temporary residents and unoccupied dwellings in this region. 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. 

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The Granville Bridge in Vancouver was built in 1954, and it has been both a blight and an architectural element of the city since.

The bridge, a hulking six-lane mass of concrete, altered Granville Street on both sides of False Creek, turning it into a highway through the city and transforming streets underneath it into caves. But starting in 1972, the bridge also became a distinctive feature of one of the city’s most successful public spaces, Granville Island.

That federal-government-owned chunk of land under the south side of the bridge, a former industrial zone, now combines food markets, artisan shops, restaurants, an art school, studios and two theatres under the bridge’s soaring car deck and massive concrete supports.

Now, a Vancouver developer is planning to transform the north end of the bridge – at one of the shadowed intersections, Beach and Howe – in an equally dramatic way.

Not only has Ian Gillespie of Westbank Developments brought in a hot-shot European architect – the young, playful and innovative Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG – to design one of the most distinctive towers Vancouver has seen in a long time for his site that presses up against the bridge.

But Mr. Gillespie also has ambitious plans to create a Granville Island-like mix of shops, passageways, courtyards and outdoor public spaces among a cluster of triangle-shaped lower buildings that will fit in gaps between the bridge and its exit and entry ramps.

To cap it all off, he wants to create an unusual outdoor art gallery that would define that new market area.

Mr. Gillespie, who collects the work of Vancouver’s renowned circle of photo-conceptual artists, wants to put photographs in lightboxes attached to the underside of the bridge – an idea that impressed Mr. Ingels.

“It’s like a Sistine Chapel,” the architect said in Vancouver recently, as he presided over a crowded open house for the tower project that drew far more design and architecture nerds than any future neighbours. “It highlights the intention of this project to capture the infrastructural elements here. It’s all about trying to deal with that.”

The tower, a 52-storey-high cantilevered building that curves away from the bridge, will create a distinctive new entrance to Vancouver’s downtown. Mr. Ingels has also covered the building in a lattice-work of balconies that will incorporate bronze trim, giving it a metallic sheen.

That modern, metallic look deliberately plays off the grittiness of the big concrete bridge.

It’s also dramatically different from the standard all-glass look that has dominated Vancouver condo towers during the past 25 years of booming construction, as city planners deliberately encouraged a more residential downtown.

Hiring Mr. Ingels was an unusual and deliberate choice by Mr. Gillespie, who says he is trying to spur more innovation in the city’s architecture. While Vancouver’s massive expansion of downtown living has prompted the admiration of city planners around the world, it has also produced criticism that the forest of condo towers is bland and monotonous.

Mr. Ingels, who has rocketed to fame since he started his own architecture firm in 2006, already knew Vancouver and liked its look, unusual for North America or Europe.

“I was pretty blown away by the incredible city of glass,” Mr. Ingels said. “But the idea of urban density here has been very narrowly defined.”

But Vancouverism had been simplified, for many, to mean a podium of townhouses, with a slim, glass tower above. Mr. Ingels saw a way to take the original idea and move it forward.

Mr. Ingels’s tower turns the usual Vancouver model on its head. Instead of a narrow “point” tower that disappears into the sky – the typical form here – he has created a tower that sits on a small base and then broadens out as it rises.

It’s been a difficult site to work with because of the bridge, the ramps, and the slope. As well, the city has special requirements for the few buildings it allows to go above its standard height limits. The tall-building policy demands that projects like this one demonstrate that they are architecturally superior and that they enhance the skyline.

But that, Mr. Ingels said, is the kind of challenge he likes. Unlike some architects, whose buildings all fall into a recognizable look, Mr. Ingels prefers to design buildings that respond to the environment around them. He also likes to have fun with his buildings. A recent project, a waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen, will have a ski slope incorporated into it.

He has described the Vancouver project, in his official statement to the city, as “a contemporary descendant of the Flatiron building in New York city.”

So far, Mr. Ingels has had a warm welcome in Vancouver, at least from the architecture community. His project has received glowing praise from the city’s urban design panel in both rounds of review. It still needs to go through a public hearing and council approval.

Business owners on the downtown stretch of Granville Street are also hopeful the project will create new life and a new identity for that part of the street, which used to be home to lower-end hotels, sex-toy shops and clubs.

“It will help to connect and build on that part of the street,” said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

There are still many practical hurdles to jump, though.

The project sits on a slope with a 7-per-cent grade, which means Mr. Ingels and his team have to come up with unique designs for ground-floor shops so that people can enter at various levels.

Mr. Gillespie’s idea of an outdoor art gallery above the street – a street that will function sometimes like a public plaza, sometimes like a road – is also challenging.

And finding the retailers who want to operate in triangular spaces under a bridge will take some creativity, he admits.

“The geometry is difficult for most retailers. The idea is you have to find someone who is willing to break out of that box. It is a little more eclectic.”

Mr. Gillespie has a history of pulling off eclectic. He developed the city’s famous Woodward’s project, which took an old hulk of a department store and remade it into two towers, a university arts department, an office building in the oldest part of the historic store, and a courtyard that is split between an indoor and outdoor plaza.

Projects like that aren’t easy and they don’t bring home the usual developer’s slice of the profit, Mr. Gillespie said.

“I know I am going to have to leave a few dollars on the table here.”


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VANCOUVER, B.C. – April 3, 2013 – Lower levels of both supply and demand in recent 
months are holding home prices in check in the Greater Vancouver housing market.
The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) reports that residential property sales in
Greater Vancouver reached 2,347 on the Multiple Listing Service® (MLS®)in March 2013.
This represents an 18.3 per cent decrease compared to the 2,874 sales recorded in March 2012,
and a 30.6 per cent increase compared to the 1,797 sales in February 2013.
Last month’s sales were the second lowest March total in the region since 2001 and 30.2 per cent
below the 10-year sales average for the month.
“While home sales were below what’s typical for March, we are seeing more balance between
the number of sales and listings on the market in the last two months, which is having a
stabilizing impact on home prices,” Sandra Wyant, REBGV president said.
The sales-to-active-listings ratio currently sits at 15.2 per cent in Greater Vancouver, a three per
cent increase from last month. This is the first time this ratio has been above 15 per cent since
May 2012.
New listings for detached, attached and apartment properties in Greater Vancouver totalled 4,839
in March. Thisrepresents a 17.2 per cent decline compared to the 5,843 new listings reported in
March 2012 and a 0.1 per cent increase from the 4,833 new listings in February of this year. Last
month’s new listing count was 14.4 per cent below the region’s 10-year new listing average for
the month.
The total number of properties currently listed for sale on the MLS® in Greater Vancouver is
15,460, a 1.5 per cent increase compared to March 2012 and a 4.5 per cent increase compared to
February 2013.
The MLS® Home Price Index composite benchmark price for all residential properties in
Greater Vancouver is currently $593,100. Thisrepresents a decline of 3.9 per cent compared to
this time last year and an increase of 0.9 per cent compared to January 2013.
Sales of detached properties reached 933 in March 2013, a decrease of 21.1 per cent from the
1,183 detached sales recorded in March 2012, and a 48 per cent decrease from the 1,795 units old in March 2011. The benchmark price for detached properties decreased 5 per cent from
March 2012 to $906,900.
Sales of apartment properties reached 982 in March 2013, a decline of 17.5 per cent compared to
the 1,191 sales in March 2012, and a decrease of 39.5 per cent compared to the 1,622 sales in
March 2011. The benchmark price of an apartment property decreased 3.3 per cent from March
2012 to $362,100.
Attached property sales in March 2013 totalled 432, a decline of 13.6 per cent compared to the
500 sales in March 2012, and a 34.8 per cent decrease from the 663 attached properties sold in
March 2011. The benchmark price of an attached unit decreased 2.5 per cent between March
2012 and 2013 to $454,300.
April 1 marked the return ofthe GST and PST tax structure in the province. From a real estate
perspective, it’s important to remember that:
• sales tax on a new home is reduced to 5 per cent GST plus 2 per cent BC Transition Tax
(total 7 per cent) from 12 per cent under the HST; and
• tax on real estate commissions has been reduced to 5 per cent from 12 per cent under the
These reduced tax rates apply to transactions payable on or after April 1.


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A proposed co-housing project that would use shared facilities to lower costs and promote neighbourly socialization is heading to Vancouver city council Tuesday.

The planned 31-unit complex would feature a communal dining area, kitchen, gathering space, laundry room, music room, guest suite, exercise studio, roof-top deck, indoor play area, a teenagers’ lounge and a bicycle repair room.

Unlike co-operative buildings, which are legal entities that own real estate, co-housing is a privately owned lifestyle choice. The bulk of the proposed units would be available for purchase while at least two would be designated rentals.

Each would include its own independent kitchen space and bathroom.

Brenda Birch, who helped plan the project, said the communal areas could make living in the notoriously-unaffordable city a lot less pricey.

“You’ve got an extensive common facility that’s designed for people to use on a regular basis, you don’t have to buy as big a home,” Birch said.

Cohousing is just the latest in a line of creative real estate ideas to tackle Vancouver’s affordability problem, following the introduction of laneway homes and the so-called “micro-lofts” in the Downtown Eastside.

But before the project can move forward, the city must approve the Cedar Cottage Cohousing Company’s bid to rezone the proposed project site, located along three plots on 33rd Ave. between Argyle and Commercial streets.

Councillor Kerry Jang said he’s open to the idea of cohousing, which has already been tested in other parts of the world.

“The concept is very popular in Europe because of this affordability quotient, and also because it allows some communal living so families will help raise other people’s kids.”

It’s also seen some success in Burnaby, where families and singles already share facilities at the 22-unit Cranberry Commons townhouse complex.

Residents Ian Mothersill said his cohousing situation is akin to living in “a small village.”

“We share, you know, kitchen stuff, tools, lawnmowers, things like that. That’s part of that whole cooperative community approach.”

Cohousing projects are also being built or proposed in Victoria, Bowen Island, Nelson, Nanaimo and North Vancouver.

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Buying a condo which has not yet been completed has its rewards and risks. On the one hand, pre-sale condos have the potential to increase in value before the property is completed. Many investors have made a significant amount of return by buying pre-sale homes and selling them again when the value has increased. Many buyers are also drawn to the concept of owning a completely new home, or the latest trends and advanced technology of a brand new development. Some of the risks include time delays, or properties losing value by the time the project is complete. If you're interested in buying a presale condo in Greater Vancouver, here are the top ten most popular pre-sales:


The Views at Coal Harbour

Janda Group, Coal Harbour


Only 27 Luxury View Homes in Coal Harbour. VIP Sales access available now, contact for details. One of the final Presale opportunities that will come to Coal Harbour!

Block 100

Onni, SE False Creek/Olympic Village

VIP Access Available Now! Block 100 will be located between Quebec & Main St at the site of the current Burger King. Prices from $268,900.

The One

Pinnacle, SE False Creek/Olympic Village

VIP Selling Now, the 3rd phase of Pinnacle's False Creek developments. Air conditioned homes with 9' ceilings, and an outdoor infinity pool. 1, 2 & 3 bedroom homes + townhouses available.

Keefer Block

Solterra, Gastown

VIP Access now available: 81 Homes coming to Main & Keefer. Modern 1,2 & 3 bedroom flats by Solterra. From $249,900


Intracorp, Marine & Cambie

Now Selling, limited homes remain. The newest development to the sought after Marine & Cambie location. MC2 will consist of 2 towers, along the Canada Line.

M Three

Cressey, Coquitlam

VIP Access now available. The 3rd tower in Cressey's Metropolitan series, M Three will be Coquitlams tallest tower at 42 stories, the top 2 floors committed to outstanding common area amenities.

Granville at 70th

Westbank, South Granville

2 Towers and ground level townhomes to reshape the area of Granville & 70th.

Three Harbour Green

Aspac, Coal Harbour

Substantial & Exclusive discount available for remaining presale homes. Vancouver's most prestigious address, Three Harbour Green is now complete and move in ready.


Amacon, Yaletown/Downtown

New Downtown Presale, only 118 homes by Amacon at Burrard and Harwood. Exclusive Discounts available now!


Cressey, Yaletown/Downtown

Now Selling! Cressey's latest highrise in downtown Vancouver. High quality with great views located at Howe & Drake.


Contact us if you have any questions or are interested in purchasing a presale condo!

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The number of sales may be down in multi-family developments, but buyers are still keen on new homes in highrises near transit lines, Colliers International’s most recent residential real estate report for Metro Vancouver found.

Three developments in particular — Station Square and Solo District, both in Burnaby, and MC2 in Vancouver — were bright spots in the report, which said that overall multi-family sales were down 15 per cent in the third quarter of 2012, to 1,899.

“This is the second consecutive quarter in which sales volumes have decreased. However, despite all the crash talk, the sales volume posted this quarter and year to date is evidence of sustained demand for new multi-family homes in the Metropolitan Vancouver market,” said Scott Brown, senior vice-president, Colliers Residential group.

He said demand in the resale market is softer than demand for presales because presales tend to attract investors, particularly if they are near transit and will be attractive to renters.

“The ones that are selling the fastest …. are on transit and appealing to investors,” Brown said. “The buyers are a little bit more concerned about the immediate, short-term future, but there still is demand there and their belief in the long-term fundamentals of the Vancouver market is why they’re investing in these properties.”

Station Square is a five-tower development in Burnaby near Metrotown that will be ready for occupation in 2015. Units were priced from $280,000 for a studio apartment up to $1.35 million for a penthouse suite.

The first building of 269 units is mostly sold out, after about three months of a soft opening and a public opening Oct. 20, said Greg Zayadi, director of sales and marketing for Anthem Properties, which is a partner of the Beedie Group on Station Square.

“The location is key,” Zayadi said, adding that buyers want to be close to SkyTrain and Metrotown. He said most of the buyers are what he calls “family investors”: people who are buying with the plan that someone in their family will eventually live in the suite. He said 40 per cent of buyers at Station Square already have an address in Burnaby, while 30 to 35 per cent have an address in Vancouver.

Although they have addresses in the Lower Mainland, those might be homes of relatives, Zayadi said.

“Approximately 70 per cent of highrise sales occurred at developments targeting the Chinese buyer. While it is evident that the Chinese buyer is not as active as in recent years, this purchaser group does continue to be the primary buyer in Vancouver and Burnaby,” the Colliers report states.

Realtor Sunny Lee, who sold seven units in Station Square, said most of the people he sold to were investors, and that some were buying for their children. He said he believes Station Square sold so well because it is very close to SkyTrain, but not so close that the noise is a factor.

He said this year he has sold more pre-sale new homes than re-sale homes, which is unusual for him.

“Buyers are concerned about the current market, but they still believe in the future,” Lee said, adding that people are looking for a good investment in this low-interest rate environment. “They want to put their money somewhere.”

He said buyers of pre-sales usually put between five and 10 per cent down when they sign the contract, then another five to 10 per cent about six months later, with the remainder due when they move in.

The Colliers report also mentioned Appia’s Solo District development in Brentwood as selling well.

Looking ahead, in the fourth quarter of 2012 two projects are expected to keep sales flowing: Mosaic’s Elizabeth, near Queen Elizabeth Park, and Intracorp’s MC2.

MC2 is a two-tower development on Marine Drive and Cambie Street in Vancouver, directly across the street from the Canada Line. There are 443 homes in 26-storey and 32-storey towers, with prices for one-bedroom suites starting at $259,000 and two-bedroom suites at $421,500. The project opened for sale Oct. 27 and since then has sold 347 homes, said Linda Chu, director of marketing for Rennie Marketing Systems, which is selling the project.

Brown said people downsizing from single-family homes are also driving multi-family sales. He said developers are starting to build larger multi-family units — bigger than 1,000 square feet — to appeal specifically to downsizers rather than investors.

The Colliers report calls for annual sales volumes of 10,500 multi-family units in 2012, with a similar amount projected for 2013.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. says housing starts in Metro Vancouver are forecast to remain flat in 2013.

Although the 2012 sales numbers of multi-family units are down more than 10 per cent from 2011, 2012 stands to be the second-best year for multi-family sales since 2007, the Colliers report said.

“2011 was an outstanding year. 2012 is a very good year,” Brown said. “We think 2013 will be about the same.”



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A recommendation included in the city's new affordable housing plan to add homes to corner lots and create so-called thin streets won't go ahead without "community buy-in," says Mayor Gregor Robertson.


The mayor made the comment in a statement his office released Wednesday after council approved the plan that city staff says will fundamentally change the city's approach to housing. "Thin streets is an idea that has some merit and it has certainly gotten a lot of attention," Robertson said. "But I want to be clear-this is not something we're going to force on any neighbourhood. If it's going to happen, there needs to be community buy-in."


Developed by the Mayor's Task Force on Housing Affordability, the plan was released last week and got immediate pushback from some residents, particularly over the thin streets concept.


A thin street would be created if the city cut 66-foot wide side streets in half to create 33-foot lots on which to build different forms of housing on the converted strips of land.


That would mean the current owner of a corner lot would get a new neighbour and their once wide side street would be cut in half.


The mayor said the concern from residents is why the city will limit thin street experiments to Marpole, the West End and Grandview-Woodland. All three neighbourhoods are undergoing new community plans.


Robertson said any plan for a thin street conversion must include adding green space and parks, "as well as feedback on community interest" when the new community plans are finalized in 2013.


Other elements of the wide-ranging plan call for at least 20 new projects that will see new row homes, townhouses and duplexes built near major transit arterials. All must be 100 per cent rental or sold at 20 per cent below market.


Some of the housing could reach six storeys in height, according to the plan that also calls for the creation of a housing authority and reducing development costs for builders of affordable homes.


The plan is aimed at finding housing for people earning between $21,500 and a combined $86,500 per year. It's unclear how potential tenants will be chosen for the new housing and how much a house on a thin street, for example, will cost to purchase, rent or lease.


West End resident Randy Helten, coordinator of the city hall watchdog website, spoke to council Wednesday and recommended more public consultation and detail be provided before the plan was adopted.


Helten said a map showing the proposed changes to the city's density wasn't shown to council or the public until Wednesday.


"My point was basically take more time, there's no rush and let's discuss this more," he said.


Twitter: @Howellings


© Copyright (c) Vancouver Courier


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Rogers Arena is set to welcome hundreds of new neighbours after Vancouver city council Thursday night approved the development of three new highrise towers by Aquilini Developments and Construction, run by the same family that owns the Canucks. 

According to the $300-million plan, which originally favoured condos in the mixed-used development, a total of 614 one-, two-and three-bedroom rental units would be built in stages over the next several years with the last of the towers — between 23 and 32 storeys — completed in the spring of 2016. 

The initial construction work has already started on the West Tower, which was earlier approved by the city as a commercial tower. 

The company said the West Tower should be ready for occupancy by renters in the spring of 2014 and the second tower in the spring of 2015. 

The units, ranging in size from 500 to 900 square feet, would rent for $2.20 to $2.40 per square foot. That means a one-bedroom, 500-square-foot unit would rent for between $1,100 and $1,200 a month, while a three-bedroom, 900-square-foot unit would rent for between $1,980 and $2,160 a month. 

The 650,000-square-foot project includes 753 parking spaces and 216,000 square feet of commercial space.


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  • Will Pratt
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