Census shows apartment growth, but supply remains main problem in British Columbia: experts


According to experts, demand for housing in British Columbia still far outstrips supply, even though the latest census figures show that the growth in the number of housing units has exceeded the increase in population across the country.

Statistics Canada reported Wednesday that the growth of apartments in a building of five stories or more has far outpaced other housing types across the country, although single-family homes remain the dominant form, accounting for about half of all housing.

There are 866,340 single-detached houses in British Columbia, representing 42.4% of the housing distribution and a 1.7% increase since the last census in 2016.

There are also 221,850 apartments in buildings with five stories or more, which in total represents 10.9% of all dwellings in the province. This number has increased from 177,830 such units in 2016, which then represented 9.4% of all dwellings in British Columbia.

In Canada, there are nearly 1.6 million apartments in buildings with five stories or more, or 10.7% of all homes, up from 9.9% in 2016.

Andy Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University, expected the rise of condominiums. He said he expected the trend of young people not “climbing the property ladder” to continue, largely due to space and the price of land.

“Everything is expensive now,” Yan said. “(Millennials) may not be able to afford the cost of the land, but want to buy something, so it’s mostly in the form of a condo.”

Nathanael Lauster, associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, said housing is a “major barrier to growth” but also noted that the census does not measure demand or need.

“We’re just not building any more new, additional single-family homes, which is going to become an increasingly distinct and luxury type of market here,” Lauster said.

Leo Spalteholz, housing analyst with Homes for Living, a group of community volunteers trying to make Greater Victoria more affordable for renters and landlords, noted that the influx of people moving to Canada’s shores during the pandemic has also stimulated competition in the real estate market.

“It doesn’t take a lot of people to invade the accommodations. Even before the pandemic hit, inventories of properties for sale in Canada were actually quite low and then all of a sudden these people moved. »

Statistics released by the BC Jobs Ministry earlier this month show more than 100,000 people moved to the province in 2021, the highest annual total since 1961.

Aliya Griffin, 38, has lived in the same basement apartment in East Vancouver since 2010. She said her landlords sold the property and the new owners served her with a two-month eviction notice, saying that a family member was planning to move in. Griffin said she was “blindsided” by the news that she was due to move out in June.

“The rent was very reasonable and now we are looking at a market that is double or more of what we are paying now for less than what we have now,” she said. “It’s pretty scary, honestly. I’ve never been in this position before.

She said she was paying $984 a month before her husband moved in and the rent rose to $1,025. She said they might now be forced out of town.

“I am one of those people who did everything right. I have no debt, I went to school, I got a decent job and I’m in this position because rents have gone up much faster than wages,” she said.

“For my generation, home ownership, without super-rich, supportive parents, is just not possible.”

Spalteholz said he expects strong population growth across the province, not just in urban centers like Vancouver.

“Some of these smaller markets have just been completely overwhelmed with new entrants and have kind of put the market in crisis mode on both the rental side and the end of property prices.”

A Vancouver Island Economic Alliance trends report found that between 2014 and 2021, more than 89,000 people moved to Vancouver Island. The housing stock, meanwhile, only increased by 28,000 units, he said.

Housing affordability and availability affects people of all age groups and demographics, said George Hanson, president of the alliance.

Seniors’ advocate Isobel Mackenzie said only about half of homeowners over the age of 65 lived in single-family homes. The other half live either in an apartment, condominiums, townhouses or modular homes.

The census shows that 504,475 people aged 65 or over in British Columbia live in a detached house, an increase from 418,145 in 2016. It showed that 73,930 live in apartments in buildings over five stories high. , compared to 58,310.

Mackenzie said the move to condos makes sense for seniors because it’s often cheaper than owning a home, often requires less maintenance, and has fewer or no stairs.

But, with around a third of older people living on less than minimum wage, she said she was worried about the elderly tenant. She noted a recent trend of long-term tenants being evicted, sometimes illegally, for living in rent-controlled apartments as market values ​​skyrocket.

“When that happens, (the elderly) face a catastrophic shock about the new rent they’re going to have to pay,” she said. “At the end of the day, they often cannot afford the increased rent; they just don’t have the money.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 27, 2022.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of Meta and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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