Pete McMartin has an editorial over at the Vancouver Sun about the ‘amenity paradox‘ – that is that the attributes that make a city attractive to live in eventually erode liveability.

“It’s funny that you should mention the Amenity Paradox,” said author and urban planner Lance Berlowitz. “I was thinking about that very thing last month when I was in Barcelona. It’s one of my favourite cities and I’ve been there many times, and local people I know there were complaining that they can no longer afford to live in the city, that it has become too tourist-oriented, that, like Paris, it has become a caricature of itself.”

That is not the case in Vancouver. As much as our Chamber of Commerce would convince us of our global significance, we are not anywhere near being in the league of Barcelona, Paris, or even Toronto, for that matter. And we have a long way to go in terms of becoming truly urbane.

Wrote Bob Ransford, consultant and bi-weekly columnist for The Sun on urban design:

“We are quite delusional about what we are in Vancouver. We’re a small regional city that has seen a population spike, changing quickly some of our old ways. Those old ways were not that impressive. We’re like the 14-year-old — neither an adult nor a child, but we think we’re pretty special and we pretend we’re more gorgeous than any other teen — yet we’re terribly insecure.

So what do you think? Is Vancouver getting better as it grows more mature or are we still an adolescent insecure city in many ways?

Read the full article here.

Friday Free-for-all Fall Edition!

September 26th, 2014

Hey! You made it to the end of another work week and into the autumn. It’s another sunny day in paradise as the air turns crisper.

Lets do our regular end of the week news round up and open topic discussion thread for the weekend – Friday Free-for-all time!

Here are a few recent links to kick off the chat:

-Another housing bubble alarm
-2 million east of Fraser
-Petronas threatens LNG cancelation
-Conference board knocks high prices
-Absent homeowners fee
-Free money to jumpstart economy

So what are you seeing out there? Post your news links, thoughts and anecdotes here and have an excellent weekend!

Harper: No Bubble in Canada

September 25th, 2014

Getting tired of the word ‘bubble’ yet?

With all the news stories and predictions of an Canadian real estate market crash, it’s time for the leader of this great nation to chime in with his opinion:

…Harper told a New York business audience that he did not anticipate a housing crisis in Canada, and that that there was no comparison between the Canadian housing market now and the U.S. market before the crash of 2008.

He said only  small percentage of Canadian households would be vulnerable to interest rate hikes or a downturn in prices.

On the flipside of the argument is a securities analyst with a book to sell and a negative message:

In an interview published in the Globe and Mail today, MacBeth predicts a serious crash in house prices as soon as this coming spring, and advises people with large mortgages to sell, and rent.. His book, When the Bubble Bursts, forecasts a drop of up to 50 per cent in housing prices.

Read the full article here.

Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouver

September 23rd, 2014

A group of about 20 concerned west side residents have started posting a photo collection of vacant abandoned homes in Vancouver.

For some of these homes the term ‘beautiful’ is a bit of a stretch, but it’s interesting to see the growing resentment of abandoned and vacant properties in a town with high house prices.

There’s an article in the Province about that site as well:

The blog is “a documentation of what happens when Vancouver real estate enters the global real estate market,” but there may be factors other than absentee owners that contribute to the rubble-strewn yards and the decaying homes it showcases, Yan said.

As aging baby boomers begin downsizing to condos in other parts of the city “perhaps a good number” of their single-family homes are sitting empty between real estate deals, Yan said.

Still, this phenomenon could be the “edge of the new normal,” as Vancouver becomes a “resort city” where people from around the world invest their money in home ownership.

Regardless of why they are emptying, these neighbourhoods were centred around public schools and built for families, Yan said.

Read the full article here and visit the site here: Beautiful Empty Homes of Vancouver.

 

The CEO of the CMHC is saying that although some Canadian house prices are certainly too high, they aren’t worried about a market collapse at this point.

One option they are considering as a way to help cool an overheated market is sharing mortgage loan risk with the banks that are handing out loans.

The mortgage insurance that CMHC and its two competitors sell repays banks when consumers default on their mortgages. At the moment it makes the banks whole. The OECD has called for changes to the system to ensure that lenders take on more of the risk. In other countries with mortgage insurance, the product tends to only cover 10 to 30 per cent of the losses. In his speech, Mr. Siddall said that CMHC is evaluating “risk-sharing with lenders to further confront moral hazard” and is advising the government about its thoughts.

Read the full article here.

Hat-tip to southseacompany.

It’s the end of another work week and you know what that means…

Friday Free-for-all time!

This is our regular end of the week news round up and open topic discussion thread for the weekend, here are a few recent links to kick off the chat:

-World warns of Canada risk
-Fed renews zero rate, hints at hike
-BC too laid back for China business
-HAM a myth?
-How locals afford homes
-Slackers are Debtors?
-FIPA is coming

So what are you seeing out there? Post your news links, thoughts and anecdotes here and have an excellent weekend!

Ed Clark is the CEO of Canada’s 2nd largest lender: TD Bank, but he’s heading out in November.

He has some interesting things to say about mortgage lending in Canada:

“It’s just not realistic in a competitive marketplace to say, ‘Why doesn’t one bank lead the way and change the rules?’ It won’t happen. This is a responsibility of the government,” he told Reuters.

“I get why they keep worrying about doing it. But I think you have to just keep touching this brake. As long as you run low interest rates, you then should be continuously leaning against asset bubbles.”

Why is it not realistic for an individual bank to change lending rules? Because they would be the chump to leave money on the table.  If your business had an oppourtunity for income which the government would insure against loss, how much sense would it make to not take advantage of that business?

And you’ve got to love this seemingly prerequisite paragraph that comes next in all of these articles:

Canada’s Conservative government has stepped in four times since 2008 to tighten mortgage lending rules to cool a real estate market that flourished as the financial crisis ebbed.

It is accurate to say that the government has stepped in four times since 2008 to tighten mortgage lending rules, but it omits the change before 2008. For those of you just tuning in they look something like this:

•March ’06: CMHC change to allow 0% down, 30 year Amort.

•June ’06: Allow 35 year amort & interest only payments for 10 yrs

•Nov. ’06: Aw heck, lets go all out and allow 40 year amorts!

•April ’07: Insured min. down payment moved from 25% to 20%

•Oct. ’08: 5% down allowed, amort moved back to 35 years

•April ’10: Require approval at 5 year fixed rate

•March ’11: Drop back down to 30 year amorts.

•July ’12: Drop back down to 25 year amorts.

Shouldn’t we take into account how much gas was applied before we started tapping the brakes?

This is probably the first housing editorial in The Province that most readers here can agree on.  Well, the headline any ways:

Politicians shouldn’t meddle with the housing market.

Imagine a world where the government didn’t meddle with the housing market.  There would be no CMHC insuring close to $600 Billion in mortgages, instead lenders would loan based only on their own assessment of risk.  There would be no HBP, no HOG. In 2006 there would not have been the rule change that allowed zero down 40 year mortgages with interest only payments for 10 years. After 2008 the CMHC wouldn’t have purchased $69 billion of mortgages off bank books.

But of course you’ve probably figured out that this Province editorial isn’t about that. No, this editorial is about someone suggesting we should levy a tax on vacant properties, likely the tiniest possible example you could find for ‘meddling’ in the housing market.

Wong is not alone in unfairly blaming foreign investors for Vancouver’s high housing prices. The reality is that real estate is a commodity whose price is set in a free market, appropriately, through the forces of supply and demand. No one has a “right” to own a house in a particular city or neighbourhood, and it’s about time that people like Wong and her COPE and NDP pals stopped promoting such notions, especially when it involves taking money from one group and giving it to another. You want a house? Work hard and buy one — or move somewhere cheaper.

Read the full editorial here.

 

Household debt near record high

September 15th, 2014

Southseacompany pointed out this article in the Chicago Tribune:

Canadian household-debt ratio nears record as mortgages grow

“Home sales and prices have shown unexpected strength as the lowest mortgage rates in decades spur demand. ”

“With mortgage debt rising, the economy will be exposed when interest rates rise, said Andy Nasr, senior portfolio manager at Calgary-based Middlefield Capital Corp. which manages about C$4 billion ($3.6 billion), including real estate stocks.

“The misconception is that ‘Well it’s OK because people can somehow afford it,’” he said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office Friday. “They can’t.””

Friday Free-for-all!

September 12th, 2014

Well well well, you made it to the end of another work week!

That means it’s time for our regular Friday free-for-all post. This is our regular end of the week news Roundup and open topic thread for the weekend. Here are a few recent links to kickoff the chat:

-Canadians feel financial squeeze
-Growing number lack emergency funds
-Fitch: Canadian market 20% overvalued
-CMHC could force banks to pay deductible
-Van & Toronto: Record building permits
-How to go broke on $400k a year
-Live with renters to help pay mortgage
-Complaints over monster homes
-Rejection of Chinese steel delays bridge
-Can China end BC school strike? (1:45)

So what are you seeing out there? Post your news links, thoughts and anecdotes here and have an excellent weekend!

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