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Bob Sethi, BComm

RE/MAX Westcoast

604-273-2828

bob@bobsethi.com

 
 
 
2010 a better year than 2009 -- except in Tsawwassen

 

Housing starts nearly double in number over the same period last year, while residents of Delta community reject densification

 

By Peter Simpson, Special to the Sun

 

December 18, 2010

 

Two weeks ago, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. released its Metro Vancouver housing-starts summary for the January-to-November period. Vancouver Sun reporter Brian Morton filed a fine story, but the statistics-laden media release was spiked by other news outlets, never to see the light of day.

 

Perhaps the newshounds were chasing reaction to the increase in gang violence, or analyzing how NDP politicos actually managed to out-self-destruct the Liberals. Anyway, a good-news story slipped between the cracks.

 

So, for all you housing junkies out there, here's some positive news. Housing starts reached 13,502 in the first 11 months of 2010, nearly double the 7,329 starts recorded during the same period last year.

 

Granted, 2009 was a brutal year for housing activity, and the region came within a whisker of recording the worst one-year housing-starts total since the 1960s. But the improvement this year, although still below the previous five-year average, is cause for a few high-fives, nonetheless.

 

In fact, CMHC predicted 13,000 starts this year -- single-detached homes, town houses and apartments. So, here we are, 500 starts ahead of the prediction, with one more month still to count.

 

Why am I so stoked about these numbers? It's all about people and their livelihoods. The additional 6,173 starts this year generated 17,284 more full-time direct and indirect jobs, with more to come.

 

Not only are there more workers on the construction sites, but Vancouver-area manufacturers of products such as windows and doors ramped up production and hired more workers. This season will no doubt go down as one in which celebrations for Christmas and Hanukkah, among others, were happier.

 

CMHC's 2011 forecast is for modest growth throughout Metro Vancouver (15,000 starts comprised of 4,400 single-detached and 10,600 multiples). Who knows: those numbers might end up higher if mortgage rates remain at current low levels. And it seems more first-time buyers are out looking. Not surprisingly, pundits predict real-estate prices will rise as this awesome region continues to attract folks from other provinces and abroad. Here's a fun fact: Condo marketer Bob Rennie says more than 60 per cent of homes priced above $1.7 million on Vancouver's west side are sold to buyers from Mainland China.

 

Developers and builders are looking ahead to 2011 with confidence, as many new-home projects are planned throughout the Lower Mainland.

 

In stark contrast, reports are surfacing that there are more than 10 million unoccupied homes in the U.S. Entire communities have become ghastly ghost towns, and industry insiders believe a meaningful recovery in the U.S. housing market is at least two years away. Political hullabaloo and a variety of prickly issues notwithstanding, we should all be very thankful we live here.

 

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One group's good intentions often bring out the worst in people. This is particularly true when NIMBYISM -- the not-in-my-backyard minority cabal -- raises its voice to shrill levels.

 

In Tsawwassen, resistance to change has progressed past NIMBY. It has even surpassed BANANA -- Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. It is now NOPE -- Not On Planet Earth.

 

A contingent of vocal Tsawwassen residents packed a public hearing last month to protest a proposed Tsawwassen Area Plan that called for higher-density housing, such as town houses. The residents expressed fears of decreased land values and a loss of neighbourhood character.

 

Here's the thing. I believe Tsawwassen is more than just the gateway to Point Roberts. It is a wonderful community where many of my friends and colleagues live. But as fellow columnist Bob Ransford warned in his Sun column on Nov. 13, Tsawwassen, without more housing diversity, will inevitably experience a decline in infrastructure, amenities and community fabric.

 

Last week, I wrote to Delta Mayor Lois Jackson and council. I lamented the unfortunate outcome of the public meeting, which was the scrapping of the area plan. It's like the snakes and ladders game, where you climb the ladder, then with one roll of the dice you slide down the snake, and start again.

 

For residents to insinuate that new town houses would lower the value of their single-detached homes is both unfounded and unfair. Twenty-five studies of affordable housing in Canada and the U.S. concluded there was no impact on property values. The province of B.C. undertook seven studies, and in no community did property values decrease. In some cases, property values actually increased.

 

In the letter, I also pointed out the residents' allegations that their community would be "destroyed" or "destabilized" by new residential development are groundless.

 

Managed growth enhances the opportunities for all residents and creates the capacity for governments to invest in important public services.

 

Growth leads to vibrant communities, a talented workforce, quality public services and a healthy, sustainable environment.

 

Growth also creates the conditions necessary to attract and retain investment and the brightest people, and it creates a better-performing economy and higher standard of living.

 

Where's the foul in all that?

 

Some of the young people at the public hearing wore T-shirts pronouncing support of the proposed area plan. Those brave souls were outnumbered by a large margin. I hope we hear more from these young people, from new families and new Canadians -all of whom require housing that is affordable.

 

Those people need confidence that Delta council will deal with this important issue based on sound urban-planning rationale, not on self-serving, negative assumptions from a vocal minority.

 

And we should all ask ourselves this important question: Where will our children live?

 

It has been a pleasure sharing my thoughts with you this year. My column will return mid-January. Best wishes to you and yours.

 

 

Peter Simpson is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association. E-mail peter@gvhba.org.

 

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

 

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Bob Sethi, B.Comm
Office:604.273.2828
Fax:604.273.0685
RE/MAX Westcoast
#110-6086 Russ Baker Way
Richmond, BC
V7B 1B4 Canada

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