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Councillors raise concerns about housing as investments

Speculative investment is one main concern city councillors have about the Housing Vancouver Strategy.

Gil Kelley after the city council meeting on Nov. 28. Photo by: Laura Brougham
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Reported Lisa Tanh

The practice of purchasing property to turn a profit was a main concern for several city councillors during the Housing Vancouver Strategy presentation.

Speculative investment, the purchase of property based on anticipated price growth, has the biggest impact on housing costs in the city, according to Dan Garrison, a senior planner for the City of Vancouver. Some councillors feel this problem isn’t adequately addressed in the Housing Vancouver Strategy.

“There is significant evidence of speculative investment in our housing market that is driving housing costs,” Garrison said.

Many people in the market buying a home as an investment

Gil Kelley, general manager, planning, urban design and sustainability for the City of Vancouver, said a lot of it has to do with excessive amounts of local and global capital from small and large investors looking to shelter their money and grow their equity.

“Vancouver is a very attractive city [as] a safe harbour for both B.C. residents and foreign investors,” Kelley said. “That coupled with low interest rates make for a pretty fierce speculative demand.”

Mayor Gregor Robertson asked senior planner Garrison what the top priority should be in terms of asking the federal and provincial governments to curb speculation.

“A lot of speculative interests is driven by high value that’s associated with strata [and] condominium developments,” Garrison said. “When you are able to shift areas of the city through zoning to be for rental, you do remove that speculative value or that feeling investments in stratas or condominiums are going to go up.”

Rental only zone for show

Councillor, Melissa De Genova, said she feels the rental only zoning is an ‘advertising campaign.’

“I’m not necessarily sure that this rental only zoning is going to be more affordable,” De Genova said. “We’ve seen from Rental 100 that the rents are too high. We’ve seen line-ups at the door for public hearings where people have told us they can’t afford these units.”

Kelley said the strategy will add up to a major reset in more than just housing policy.

“We’ll have sort of a new table set decades going forward in terms of city building in Vancouver,” Kelley said.

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