Category Archives: debt

Housing Affordability deteriorates to new low

Thank goodness we don’t have a housing bubble in Vancouver!

Otherwise one might start to worry about these latest numbers on housing affordability.

The housing affordability index takes local family income and then looks at what percent of it would would be required to service the debt on an average benchmark bungalow.

The entire province of BC is at 69.7% and blows away the rest of Canada for overpriced houses. Only Ontario starts to come close with an affordability index of 43.9%. Even Toronto can’t compete in the overvalued housing arena, coming in at 54.5%.


According to RBC Vancouver is the champion of overpriced houses. To buy the benchmark bungalow here it would take 91% of a local families pre-tax income to service the debt.

From Macleans magazine:

Nothing, of course, could persuade condo king Bob Rennie that the Vancouver housing market is in a bubble (or, worse yet, a bubble that’s starting to let the air out).

For everyone else, take a look at this chart RBC put out today with its latest survey of housing affordability in Canada (which is deteriorating in most provinces, by the way)

No problem, just arbitrarily knock 20% off those Vancouver numbers and we’re not much worse than Toronto.

If you look around the world, you may be able to find a few markets that have an even worse affordability index than Vancouver, with lower incomes or higher house prices. But for some reason, most of those places seem to be able to pull in higher rents than Vancouver.

Time to cut our losses on Olympic Village?

The City of Vancouver still owes lots of money for the Olympic Village condo development.

They aren’t saying how much but it looks like it’s currently at least a couple hundred million.

Is it time to cut our losses?

Developer Michael Geller thinks so. In this Province article he says it’s time to cut the prices and get out while we can.

As Vancouver’s real estate market cools, losses on the troubled Olympic Village development could soar above $225-million unless condo king Bob Rennie quickly drops prices on unsold units that have languished on the market for too long.

That’s the view of developer and architect Michael Geller, a former NPA council candidate, who suggests flawed pricing and weak marketing is turning the fiasco on False Creek from bad to worse.

Read the full article here.

What do you think? Does the city stand to lose more by holding out for ‘maximum price’ or by selling quickly at a discount?

Team Ben! Ben is wrong!

Real estate markets move slowly.

Really slowly.

So let’s entertain ourselves with some bear fights.

A couple of days ago Garth Turner came to town with his traveling bear show from Greater Fool.  In that presentation some are saying he used charts from The Economic Analyst Ben Rabidoux without any attribution.

This kicked off a twitter snark-fest as seen below:

Now I didn’t see the presentation, so I don’t know if there were charts used without attribution, but in any case: BEN IS WRONG!

No, not wrong in this twitter war – Ben is correct to ask for attribution for his work and Turner is a jerk for neither clarifying nor denying the charge.

The reason I say Ben is wrong is because of what he says in this article about new record debt levels for Canadians:

“You can not have everyone in Canada pay off their debts at the same time because that will drag on the economy,” he said. “It is a strange dynamic. How do you pay off the debt when paying off the debt itself becomes an economic headwind?”

OK, maybe wrong is not the right word, more like incomplete.  As Patriotz points out:

I think Ben’s scenario is slightly off the mark. Crunch time will happen not when people decide to start paying off their debts, but when they simply can’t borrow any more.

And as Fixieguy points out it should read something more like this:

“… it shows the extent to which our economic growth is based on debt instead of fundamentals, a scenario which can’t be sustained for long before the jobs created evaporate…”

So mark your calendars, for here is one thing that Ben is wrong about and that is remarkable because Ben is never wrong.

Mortgage rates rise at RBC, more to follow?

Looks like RBC just upped two of it’s mortgage rates by one fifth of a point.

What will we do without our record low mortgage rates?

It’s probably just a minor fluctuation, but other banks are expected to follow as bond yields have edged up in the last month.

So if you want to do a rate lock in now might be the time.

Helmut Pastrick of Central One Credit Union explains:

“Sentiment has improved with respect to Europe and the economic outlook,” Pastrick said. “The economic news was quite negative for a period of weeks and now it is somewhat less negative.”

RBC’s posted rate for a three-year, fixed-rate mortgage will go up 0.2 percentage points to 4.05 per cent. Meanwhile, an RBC special-offer rate for five-year closed mortgages rises to 3.69 per cent.

The rise in the cost of funds for banks will mean other lenders will probably also raise their rates, or absorb some of the cost increase to hold onto or gain market share,” Pastrick said.

Read the full article over at the Vancouver Sun.

 

Village starts to dig itself out of hole

Good news! Now that shops and restaurants have opened up in the former Millennium Water Olympic Village housing development it’s no longer the creepy ghost town in the middle of the city!

Not only are there signs of life down there, the city actually looks like they’re starting to shrink the big ball of debts they acquired when they took responsibility for the project.

This progress is hard won and comes thanks to a number of efforts including:

-The city lowered property tax for businesses
-In February 2011 prices were dropped 30%
-In August an additional $5k in incentives offered to buyers

The city isn’t saying how much they still owe on the village, but the debt at the end of 2011 was $462 million.  Most of the extra expenses are from repairs for building deficiencies and marketing costs.

It looks like there is now just over 25% of the condo stock that remains unsold, but the receiver has put a block of rental units up for sale.  The buyer will be required to maintain those units as rentals for 20 years.

“The purpose and benefit of the sale of the rental buildings is to generate cash to repay the loan payable to the secured lender [the City of Vancouver],” said a statement from Ernst & Young. “It is particularly advantageous to undertake such now while interest rates remain low, the rental buildings at The Village on False Creek are fully leased and there remains an active pool of potential and interested buyers.”

The receiver also got permission from the court to put the project into bankruptcy, if needed, a move that it says is not being contemplated right now but “gives … the flexibility to consider the option of generating value from SEFC’s operating tax losses.”

Read the full article in the Globe and Mail.