Not even the pandemic slowed Vancouver real estate

[The Globe and Mail – June 15, 2020]

Stories about Vancouver’s housing market often border on the absurd, and the latest seemingly tall tale fits that mould: Home prices have actually ticked higher during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The phenomenon is not limited to Vancouver. Prices of houses and condos in Toronto were also higher in May than they were in February. Vancouver, however, remains in its own hard-to-believe category. The benchmark price of a house on the city’s west side in May stood at $3-million. On the east side, it was $1.4-million. A typical west-side condo was $801,000 in May, and $595,000 on the east side.

The numbers underscore the entrenched problem of inflated housing costs in Canada’s biggest cities, where home ownership is out of reach for many, and for young Canadians in particular. Even if prices moderate over the next year as predicted, they will still be high.

Given this longstanding challenge, it’s difficult to understand why Vancouver city councillors want to dial back housing development.

In late May, council voted to look at “recalibrating” the city’s housing goals. The effort, led by a conservative councillor, is being justified by the belief Vancouver will require less housing, because the pandemic could lower future immigration. The motion suggested that an established target of 72,000 new homes should be more than halved, to 30,000. Support was unanimous, although Mayor Kennedy Stewart and one councillor abstained. City staff were asked to put together a report for July.


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