As Metro Vancouverites debate and vote on transit plans, key issues such as impact on housing affordability and land prices are being largely ignored

Will New Transit Push Up House Prices?

Over the long term, most industry watchers agree housing prices will continue to rise throughout Metro Vancouver due to its geographical constraints – there is simply nowhere to go except up. And there are plenty of precedents to suggest they rise more rapidly when improved transit arrives – good news for people who already own property or are looking at long-term investment value, problematic for first time buyers. According to an Urban Analytics report commissioned by the Onni Group just after the Canada Line was built, land values along the Cambie Corridor rose 19 per cent – almost double what most people had predicted – in the months leading up to completion. They climbed an additional 14 per cent in the first six months after the Canada Line was operational – an astonishing 33 per cent increase in approximately one year.

The Evergreen Effect

Further east, where the Evergreen Line is under construction, the Tri-Cities have shown steady but more moderate price increases across all types of housing, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. The rapid spike in prices many predicted would accompany the new SkyTrain line has failed to materialize.

What About Immigrant and Offshore Buyers?

Offshore immigration, a major driver in BC’s booming residential construction industry, considers proximity to transit a must have. “Offshore markets are light years ahead of us in the way they look at transit,” says Bill Szeto, president of Otezs Project Marketing. “In any major Asian or European city transit is the dominant way people move around. In London, England, you can’t even drive a private vehicle downtown [without paying a fee] unless you live or operate a business there.” Proximity to transit, he notes, also helps attract a better quality tenant – an important factor for the investment market. “And consider student housing. If students can get to UBC easily using rapid transit, it opens up other, more affordable rental options which could, ultimately, make on-campus housing more affordable as well.” However, Rolf Neufeld, managing director of credit structuring with Bank of Montreal, believes the vote will have little long-term impact on prices or appeal to new markets. “Vancouver land values are going to keep rising regardless because it will always be a city that people want to live in,” he says. “And there will be some transit improvements coming even if the vote is no.” So while Metro Vancouver awaits the results of the transit vote, Szeto makes a final comment. “Even 15 or 20 years ago, people often asked why anyone would want to live next to the SkyTrain… now they ask why wouldn’t you want to live there?”

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