Percentage of single-family homes in Metro Vancouver worth more than $1 million in 2016 widens from 28% to 43%: Andy Yan

BY JOANNE LEE-YOUNG

In his latest snapshot of housing unaffordability, researcher Andy Yan shows the percentage of Metro Vancouver homes valued over $1 million rose from 28 per cent to 43 per cent in 2016.

Marked in red are homes over $1 million for 2016 and 2015.

For the past five years, Yan’s so-called “million dollar line” looking at home values based on data from B.C. Assessment has been a visual way to capture the geographical divide in housing prices.

At first, the symbolic measure sat around Main Street between Vancouver’s west and east sides before drifting eastward beyond Fraser Street. Last year, for the first time, it fanned out as Yan accessed data to include rising prices for homes across Metro Vancouver.

For 2016, which is based on assessments at July 2015, Richmond, Burnaby, Vancouver, North Vancouver and West Vancouver all had over 60 per cent of homes worth 1 million or more — with West Vancouver at the highest with 97 per cent.

Said Yan: “I’m guessing this rise is probably not due to increases in local wages and incomes. I think it’s likely a convergence and combination of constrained supply for single family detached housing, low interest loans, property speculation, and global capital with a sprinkle of trying to secure adequate family-oriented housing for many households with children.”

There doesn’t seem to be an abating of this trend in close sight despite softening real estate prices for some parts and categories of Metro Vancouver in 2016.

B.C. Assessment has warned that single detached homes in Metro Vancouver will be assessed 30 to 50 per cent higher for 2017 taxes than in 2016. It said that these properties went up the most in Vancouver, Surrey, Richmond, Burnaby, the North Shore, Squamish and in the Tri-Cities from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2016, which is the date on which yearly assessments for 2017 taxes are set.

Yan, who is director at Simon Fraser University’s City Program, also looked at the impact of transportation costs on housing affordability.

In the City of Vancouver the average cost of transportation over 25 years — assuming two per cent inflation per year and that nothing changes to improve the current situation — works out to be $298,459, according to Yan.

By comparison, if you live in the Township of Langley, the 25-year cost of transportation would be $563,755.

Across the Metro Vancouver region, if you add in amortized 25 year average annual transportation cost estimates, the percentage of homes with a cost of over $1 million rises significantly from 43 per cent to 92 per cent.

In areas such as Vancouver, the North Shore, Burnaby and Richmond, adding in such transportation costs increases the percentage of home values, but it’s in Coquitlam, New Westminster, Surrey, Delta, Port Coquitlam and the township and city of Langley where the contrast is most pronounced. In Coquitlam, the percentage of home valued over $1 million goes from 22.4 per cent to 97 per cent if you account for estimated amortized transportation costs. In the township of Langley, the percentage rises from 4.8 per cent to 90 per cent.

“This is only looking at the (straight) cost of transportation, not even the time,” said Yan.

He continued: “There is ‘phantom affordability’ too, if you will. This idea that you can drive (further from the city) until you qualify (to buy a home) doesn’t take into consideration that as home mortgages (cost less) transportation mortgages (in some areas) go up.”

Yan said this is precisely the direction seen in some U.S. cities, where the areas hardest hit by affordability woes have been the outskirts and suburbs rather than the city centres even when they have seen some of the highest home prices.

30,000 BC Hydro customers remain without power

More heavy rain forecast Monday night after 500,000 customers lost power during weekend storm

By Mike Laanela, CBC News

About 30,000 customers are still without power following a massive weekend storm that hit Metro Vancouver and British Columbia’s South Coast, at one point leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity.

Power outages continue in Surrey, Burnaby and Vancouver, but BC Hydro says it expects to have all larger outages restored by the end of Monday.

According to BC Hydro, more than 320 power line technicians are out working to restore power. Repair crews from all across the province have been brought in to help with the work.

BC Hydro has also announced that many planned maintenance outages in the Lower Mainland and at Langford, near Victoria, will be postponed.

Earlier, crews were able to restore power to another 100,000 customers, including in downtown Vancouver, overnight Sunday.

Capilano University in North Vancouver will be closed for the day because its IT system is not working properly.

Power remains out at many intersections in Metro Vancouver and drivers are reminded to use the four-way stop procedure, which means treating all malfunctioning traffic lights as stop signs.

Environment Canada is warning more heavy rain is expected on Monday night as a cold front stalls over the region.

“The highest amounts will be over northern parts of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley near the mountains with up to a total of 50 mm expected. Amounts for Howe Sound may reach 80 mm,” said the Environment Canada alert.

Worst outages ever seen

An estimated 500,000 customers lost electricity after high winds knocked trees and branches down onto power lines on Saturday.

Traffic lights were still not working on Monday morning at many Metro Vancouver intersections, following Saturday’s windstorm. (Farrah Merali/CBC)

“It was unlike anything we have seen before,” said BC Hydro spokeswoman Simi Heer.

Vancouver’s deputy city manager, Sadhu Johnston, said it could take weeks to fully clean up after Saturday’s vicious windstorm. Johnston said the region’s severe drought likely played a factor in the high number of trees that were blown down.

Arborists have also said many trees came down in the wind because they still had all their summer leaves.

The BC Hydro website was only partially functional as of 6 a.m. PT Monday, but customers can get updates on Twitter from @bchydro or by calling 1-888-POWER-ON.

A spokesperson said the website crashed because of the high volume of users on Saturday and the company has been working all weekend to restore the service.

911 jammed with unnecessary calls

After the BC Hydro website went down, many people called 911 looking for information, jamming the emergency service with unnecessary calls.

“911 can’t answer questions about outages. Pls call 1-888-POWERON; follow @bchydro Help keep lines free for emergencies,” said a tweet from @E-Comm911info.

Vancouver’s director of emergency operations Daniel Stevens said if an even bigger catastrophe hits, everything could go offline so individuals should make plans to be self-sufficient for at least 72 hours.

“In a large event, the fire department and other first responders will be overwhelmed and will only be able to respond to priority calls, and all of the services that we get day to day from the less priority calls will be triaged. so it could be days until we get that kind of response,” said Stevens.

“So the message is take care of yourself, plan and have some supplies. Develop a plan at home, where are you going to meet your family and put some supplies together, make a grab and go kit.”

The city’s deputy manager said it will review how it handled the storm and update its emergency plans accordingly.

“We ramped up quite quickly. We had the emergency operations centre fired up within minutes of the extreme wind coming in,” said Johnston.