Interprovincial migrants and international immigrants drive B.C. housing markets

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      This is the time of year when we start hearing the forecasts of real-estate doom in the Lower Mainland.

      According to a story on the CTV website, "all hell is going to break loose" next year, according to one forecaster.

      In the same article, an expert at UBC's Sauder School of Business also offered a pessimistic outlook.

      Who knows? They might be right.

      With oil prices creeping upward, we might see a substantial outflow of British Columbians to Alberta and Saskatchewan, driving down demand for housing.

      It could be that the local market absorbed three or four years' worth of demand in the torrid market of late 2015 and early 2016, leaving a shortage of buyers in the coming year.

      There's also the prospect of U.S. interest-rate hikes, which would force the Bank of Canada to follow suit to stave off a collapse in the Canadian dollar.

      This, too, could wreak havoc on the housing market.

      Shrinking demand caused by a 15 percent foreign-buyers tax in Metro Vancouver may not be offset by a stampede of first-time buyers lured into the market by Premier Christy Clark's five-year interest-free loans.

      Then there's the federal government's recent tightening up of mortgage rules. That's also widely viewed as having a dampening effect on demand for homes.

      But one thing never seems to change—and that's the desire of people to live in British Columbia, no matter how much housing prices have increased.

      According to B.C. Stats, the provincial population grew by 21,733 in the third quarter of 2016. That's the largest third-quarter growth since 2009.

      Over a 12-month period ending on September 30, the provincial population rose by 59,584. Four out of five of those people were interprovincial migrants or immigrants, with the rest being the net increase of births over deaths within B.C.

      In that 12-month period, there were net increases of 20,503 interprovincial migrants and 29,924 immigrants. That's slightly less than the population of the downtown area of Vancouver in 2011 moving to B.C. in a single year.

      That's a lot of demand for homes, both rental and ownership.

      You don't often hear about international and interprovincial migration numbers when people are predicting that the bottom is going to fall out of the housing market.

      It doesn't mean that these forecasters are wrong. But as long as people keep moving here in the same numbers, it might be wise to take these guesses with a grain of salt.