Why Vancouver sucks

Pub date October 23, 2007
WriterTim Redmond
SectionPolitics Blog

Look at all the pretty condos

I’m sick of hearing San Francisco planners, the folks at SPUR and SF Weekly columnists talk about how wonderful Vancouver is, what with all of the slender downtown condo towers that provide walkable neighborhoods, bike paths and a “new urbanist” approach to housing.

Here’s a bit of reality: The New York Times reports that housing costs in Vancouver are soaring. Guess what? All those condos haven’t brought down housing costs, or even stabilized them. The more condos, the higher the prices.

And guess what? Many of those rich condo buyers aren’t from Vancouver:

Fueling the high-end market are foreign and second-home buyers, [Helmut Pastrick, the chief economist for the Credit Union Central of British Columbia] said, though not necessarily from the United States. The weak American dollar, which for the first time in decades is worth less than the Canadian dollar, has been making real estate in Canada more expensive for Americans.

Other foreign buyers make up a significant percentage of the market, according to Ian Gillespie, the president of Westbank Projects. The company is building several residential towers downtown, including the 60-story Living Shangri-La, which will be Vancouver’s tallest building after it is completed in 2009.

“This is a very multicultural city,” said Mr. Gillespie, who cited as an example a pharmaceutical executive from the Middle East, who recently bought a 1,700-square-foot $3.65 million condo at the Fairmont Pacific Rim.


To make room for some projects, hundreds of single-room-occupancy hotel rooms for low-income residents have been lost, said David Eby, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society, a legal advocacy group. High prices are pushing out middle-income renters and buyers, he added.

Gee, might there be a different kind of lesson here for San Francisco?