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Phil Watkinson


Kathy Watkinson


The Hammer & Watkinson Blog

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The Untold Truth Behind Unaffordable Housing in Vancouver

I’m sitting here in my office looking at a beautiful architectural rendering of a  small multi-family development I want to build that was rejected by the city. This project would create four residences to be rented out, that I’ve been going back and forth with the city over since March. On a larger scale, I was just talking to a friend that wants to build a 40 unit rental building. He said the city made it so hard and so expensive he would lose money, so he did not go ahead with the build.
Everyone I talk to in the real estate community has a story about the City rejecting, stalling and changing projects, which drives up the costs to provide housing. As I talk to developers and architects, they all have the same story:  We want to provide housing but get shut down at the City. The City is holding everything up. 
Dealing with the City is so brutal one architect tells me “Nothing can get done. They don’t know what they are doing”. The City of Vancouver makes it so hard to get things done, that builders are going elsewhere.  Have you noticed all the construction cranes are in Burnaby, Coquitlam, and Surrey?
No builder wants to speak out because they are afraid of getting blackballed from ever doing a project again in this city.
There’s a site on the 100 block of Keefer that got shut down. I guess the city would rather see it as another vacant lot, just like the 15 acre site on 37th off Main St that has been vacant for years! There are many sites like this around town. What about the Wall site in Kerrisdale?  The Church site would provide a 40 unit condo building and 32 affordable rental units, plus restore the church for the community.
Basic economics say price is directly related to supply and demand. When you have a growing City  like Vancouver, and the city restricts supply, prices will increase. Everyone is affected from renters; first time buyers  to downsizers. There’s no supply and it’s not going to change soon! Instead the City of Vancouver points fingers diverting the problem.  Taxing foreign buyers, Vacancy Tax, and even talking about not letting non residents buy.  What about everyone else in Canada that wants to move here? How about companies like Amazon? How can Vancouver accommodate job growth. Instead of finger pointing, the City of Vancouver needs to effectively manage development.
If the city really wants to create affordable housing, they need to give builders incentives and make it easy for them to build! I would like to see places like Oakridge, that have transit, shopping and public services. Allowing 80 story towers and community services, such as schools, in these towers. We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend this town isn’t growing. It’s time for a change. 


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