Like everywhere else in Vancouver, housing prices have increased in the West End.
But while homes now cost a lot more, realtor Adam Major notes that properties in the neighbourhood are still relatively cheaper than in surrounding areas.
“It’s hard to imagine anything affordable in Vancouver, but it is a pocket of affordability compared to everything else around it,” Major, managing broker of Holywell Properties, told the Straight in a phone interview.
As he noted, the West End is its “own unique little area right in downtown Vancouver”.
As a neighbourhood, the West End prides itself on its diversity. It is the home of the largest LGBT community in Western Canada. People of all ages, ethnicities, and incomes live in this charming locality.
The area features a range of housing types, from rentals to co-ops to privately owned homes of different forms, like condos, townhouses, and detached homes.
The West End hosts about a third of Vancouver’s purpose-built rental housing units.
As for ownership homes, Major cited figures from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) to demonstrate how housing has become more expensive over the years.
In 2005, the median price in the West End was below $300,000. In 2021, the median price has increased to $689,000. Major said that’s 130 percent more than it was 16 years ago.
However, this rate of increase is lower compared to all of the markets covered by the REBGV, which does not include Surrey and North Delta.
Across the region, the median price of homes increased 173 percent from 2005 to 2021. Roughly, it was from $320,000 to $870,000.
For its reporting purposes, the REBGV divides the downtown Vancouver peninsula into four areas. These are the West End, Downtown, Coal Harbour, and Yaletown. The three other downtown neighbourhoods beat the West End (which covers the area west of Burrard Street) in terms of rate of increases in median prices.
Major said that the median price in Coal Harbour went up 190 percent from 2005 to 2021; Downtown saw a 198 percent increase; and Yaletown rose 208 percent.
Based on 2020 median prices, the West End is the cheapest per square foot.
Major noted that the median price per square foot in the West End last year was $959. Compare this to Downtown at $1,040, $1,145 for Yaletown, and Coal Harbour at $1,238.
He also wondered why neighbourhoods right next to each other have such disparity in prices.
“I think it has to do with the nature of the buildings in each neighbourhood,” he said in response to his own question. “Yaletown and Coal Harbour were developed more recently, so they have newer buildings and they were marketed to be high-end,” he said.
Older buildings are part of the reason
As for the West End, many of the district’s residential buildings were developed much earlier, decades ago. In addition, a number of these homes are leasehold properties, which generally do not command as much price as freehold properties.
One example is unit 1906 at the Surfcrest condo high-rise at 1251 Cardero Street. The one-bedroom, 443-square-foot unit recently sold for $299,900. It’s a leasehold property, and the lease has been prepaid until December 31, 2073.
This sale is likely one of the cheapest across Vancouver, and it was tracked by Zealty.ca, a real-estate information site operated by Holywell Properties. Major serves as CEO of Zealty.ca.
Another thing that Major noted about the West End is that although it has older homes, they are typically bigger compared to “shoebox apartments” in Downtown. Based on the REBGV’s delineation, Downtown is the area east of Burrard, extending to Main Street.
“Back in the 1970s, developers weren’t looking to cram as many units per floor into a building as they do now,” Major said about the West End.
The executive noted that the neighbourhood has an average of 600 annual residential sales over the last 16 years. In 2020, Major said, the West End saw 567 homes sold.
Although the neighbourhood has maintained a level of affordability, it is also home to some of the most expensive properties in Vancouver. One example is unit 3101 at the Emerald West condo tower at 717 Jervis Street.
It was listed on May 19 this year, advertised as the biggest penthouse downtown. The two-storey penthouse measures 9,100 square feet and features five bedrooms and nine baths. The asking price is a cool $14 million.
“The West End has something for everybody,” Major said.