More density won’t drive housing costs down


Re: Not dense enough, Murphy’s Law, June 6

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The gist of editor Ted Murphy’s lament for the “left behind” would-be home buyers of the Gen Y and Gen Z cohorts is that more density would drive down the cost of housing. Let me provide some statistics from personal experience -- three comparators, all single-family dwellings.

A tear-down view property overlooking East Beach in White Rock on a 30-foot lot that I bought in 1978 for $33,000 was assessed in 2015 at $927,000. In 2017 that number had jumped to $1,486,000, a 58 per cent increase in just two years.

A 30-foot lot salt-box house at Trout Lake in East Vancouver we bought in 1989 for $179,000 was assessed in 2015 at $948,000. In 2017 its value was pegged at $1,628,000, a 72 per cent increase.

Our current rancher in NW Tsawwassen we purchased in 1997 for $330,000. In 2015 it was assessed at $713,400 (roughly a 100 per cent increase in 18 years). In 2017 its value was pegged at $1,237,100, a 74 per cent increase in but two years.

These increases all occurred because of unrestricted limits on capital gains exemptions for private residences. At the time, no laws prohibiting sales of residential real estate to any but citizens, landed immigrants and/or approved refugees to Canada. Same today.

All of this is but “supply and demand,” some would say. But that argument is just a play on the age-old myth that land has a “best and highest use.” Fact is, only a change to federal taxation rules on capital gains would likely drive housing costs down.

Because while White Rock’s population -- thanks to its condo and high-rise building mania -- has grown 25 per cent from some 16,000 to 20,000 in the past 20 years, Tsawwassen has grown by only 1,000 souls or so in that same period thanks to a “slowth” philosophy preferred by residents and Delta council both.

Yet by comparing the housing values there has been zero “saving” in White Rock despite its 25 per cent growth in available housing units. Same relative real estate value increases here with less than a one per cent population growth in that same period of time.

So, what Southlands three years back predicted would cost $600,000 or so for a detached house there a few years from now will likely be closer to $900,000 by 2020 if assessed values continue at the current rate.

Fact is more is not only not better, more won’t drive housing costs down by a dime.

Wm Baird Blackstone

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