Vancouver's biggest real estate stories of 2012


Vancouver’s housing market endured lower sales volumes in 2012, but prices held steady, according to monthly reports issued by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. Despite the relative lack of transactions, there was no shortage of significant news stories related to this sector, particularly within Vancouver’s city limits. Below, I’ve listed my top five real-estate stories in order of importance.

1. Jim Flaherty reduces the amortization period
Since becoming federal finance minister in 2006, Jim Flaherty has been playing a game of yo-yo with the amortization period. At first, he jacked up the maximum length of time to pay off a mortgage to 40 years. Flaherty then drove it down to 35 years in 2008, 30 years in 2011, and 25 years last June, citing the hot housing market as justification. The final reduction was accompanied by other restrictions: Canadians could borrow only 80 percent against the value of their homes, down from 85 percent, and 20-percent down payments were required for homes valued at more than $1 million. In subsequent months, sales volumes plummeted in this region to record 10-year lows. Financial institutions put the squeeze on developers seeking to finance projects. And as we look toward 2013, it’s clear that building a project in this city is no longer a licence to print money.

2. City moves toward scrapping the viaducts
City of Vancouver staff presented a concept plan in the summer to remove the downtown viaducts, which would allow West Georgia Street to connect with Pacific Boulevard, and Dunsmuir Street to reach Rogers Arena. The idea has generated opposition from PavCo, which manages B.C. Place, and Strathcona residents who fear for the future of their community garden. But the prospect of more parkland, increased housing development, and higher land values without viaducts will likely be too much for council to resist. This is being presented as a win for the environment, but the real pot of gold lies in future residential real-estate developments in False Creek Flats east of Main Street and south of Prior Street.

3. Brent Toderian is fired
In late January, less than three months after Vision Vancouver won the election, the city canned planning director Brent Toderian. It was done without cause, sending a scary message to the rest of the managers at Vancouver City Hall. The dismissal threw the future of the Cambie corridor into doubt and reinforced perceptions that the real role of the planning department is to generate income for city coffers.

4. Marine Gateway sells out
On a Saturday morning in March, Rennie Marketing Systems sold all 415 units within four hours at the Marine Gateway project. This PCI Group project is next to the Canada Line’s Marine Drive Station—and this rapid sale reflected the appeal of rapid transit for condo buyers.

5. Council approves Mount Pleasant rezoning
City staff maintained that Rize Alliance’s proposed 19-storey high-rise and retail development on the southwest corner of East Broadway and Kingsway was in keeping with the area’s community plan. That didn’t mollify the critics, who turned out by the dozen to express concerns about shadowing, the building mass, and traffic. In the midst of the public hearing, the Vision Vancouver–controlled council fuelled more suspicion by voting to amend the procedure bylaw to prevent speakers from resuming comments later if they exceed their five-minute time limit. Council ended up approving the project after staff recommended that the developer pay $6.25 million to the city for future amenities.

Honourable mentions
Earlier this month, Onni informed City of North Vancouver mayor Darrell Mussatto that it would withdraw an application for a large mixed-use project at the Safeway site on Lonsdale Avenue. In October, Burnaby council granted approval in principle to the master plan for Brentwood Town Centre, which calls for 11 residential towers and two office buildings. In July, Vancouver city council voted to approve Aquilini Development and Construction’s application to develop three high-rise rental towers near Rogers Arena.

Comments (7) Add New Comment
There were 149 people who spoke out of 289 speakers on the Rize rezoning Public Hearing, over a period of 7 days and nights from Feb 27 - April 17th (please check the numbers in the post). The overwhelming majority were opposed to this project, yet the Vision-NPA council voted 9-1 to approve. Only Green Party Councillor Carr was opposed. Coincidentally the Green Party was the only one in council that did not receive political contributions from Rize. We need campaign finance reform now.
Rating: +7
I don't understand the protests against the Rize. It is exactly what that location needs. It will be a much better use of the space than what was there (which was hideous) and it is totally in keeping with the neighbourhood. I am not surprised at all by the high City Council vote for this project. Broadway and Kingsway is not healthy for park space or community gardens if that is what those opposed feel it should be. (Food should never be grown next to concentrated traffic.) Plus this is a major intersection of two main arteries so not exactly a safe park play space for families which makes something like the Rize the only suitable use of the space. Now to rebuild Kingsgate mall next... one can dream!
Rating: -6
For those opposing development. Where do they really expect people to live?
Rating: -9
Just a Voter
We need good planning and an appropriate approach to managing development. The Rize project included some very deceptive visual representations of the project that should never have been accepted by the City. And I don't recall anyone suggesting this location should be a park or a community garden - residents were opposed to the developer's request for increased density and a perception that the City was not enforcing its own community plan. If we are going to build support for "density done right" (as coined by the now fired Mr. Toderian) we need to abandon the current approach of "let's make a deal planning" which has resulted in increased densities (and profits) at particular sites but has done little to address the critical housing issues noted by Vision Vancouver. Once these projects are built, we live with them for a century, so let's work a letter harder to get them built right.
Rating: +4
Spin spin spin. Here comes the Vision attacks on residennts.
When council is tone deaf to residents concerns the should be ready to be tossed ou soon.
Bring in Campagn finance limits as promised Visionistas
Rating: -1
I attended the public hearings on the Rize development wanting to see what all the fuss was about. I went with an open mind, thinking I might be able to see some merit to the proposed development. It was an eye-opener, and not in a good way.

A couple of things became immediately clear: Residents opposed to the development gave thoughtful well planned presentations. Not a single person who appeared suggested that nothing be built at the site at all. Instead, residents were advocating that something more suitable for the small lot size be constructed. Valid concerns were raised about congestion & snarled traffic in an already busy corner. Other concerns about the impact on neighborhood affordability, and the aesthetics of the development were discussed.

The next thing that quickly became apparent, was that the development was already a done deal before the hearing even began.

This was made obvious by the complete disengagement of City Council. They were dismissive of residents concerns, and overly solicitous toward supporters of the development. (The sole exception was Councillor Carr, who asked intelligent questions of both sides). Councillor Reimer added insult to injury by pronouncing the development "ugly" and voting in favor of it anyway. Thanks Councillor!

I second the suggestion posted from Andrew above. We need to take a hard look at campaign finance reform. I'm not opposed to new development, but a city where developers run amok and residents have no say in how their communities are shaped is not a healthy one for renters OR home owners.

Rating: +4
Character Matters
Hannah and Jeff, it is the untoward excessive scale and ugliness of the development and the devious processes that bring this excess and ugliness to fruition that people object to. Noboby would oppose an eight-storey building with a design that was made by humans rather than Rize's robots.
Rating: +7
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