BC Business Magazine - - Contents - Nick Rockel, Ed­i­tor-in-chief bcb@canadaw­ide.com / @Bcbusi­ness

The B.C. that hous­ing built

In 1999, my wife and I bought our first house, a fixer-up­per off Main Street in Van­cou­ver. Like the young cou­ples in Frances Bula's “Prop­erty Lines” (p.30), we had a tod­dler; for us, home own­er­ship felt like the next step to­ward be­com­ing grownups. The price of ad­mis­sion: $252,000, a for­tune for two work­ing peo­ple with less than $20,000 to put down. The day we got the keys to what would be­come the home reno ver­sion of The Blair Witch Project, we promptly fled to a bar to drown our buy­ers' re­morse.

How silly that re­gret seems now—and how grate­ful we are for dumb luck. Thanks to an ac­ci­dent of birth, we've climbed the Van­cou­ver real es­tate es­ca­la­tor as prices surged be­yond the reach of doc­tors, lawyers and ex­ec­u­tives, let alone teach­ers and fire­fight­ers. (If there is a crash, no one should feel sorry for us.) Mean­while, ren­ters have be­come no­mads, liv­ing un­der con­stant threat of evic­tion in a re­gion where the bench­mark price of a de­tached home is al­most $1.5 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Real Es­tate Board of Greater Van­cou­ver. This sit­u­a­tion isn't just un­fair; it could gore the econ­omy by driv­ing young peo­ple away from the Lower Main­land. No won­der af­ford­able hous­ing was a hot topic in the re­cent pro­vin­cial elec­tion cam­paign, where the B.C. Lib­er­als ap­peared to side with first-time buy­ers while the NDP and the Green Party cham­pi­oned ren­ters.

In our cover story, Bula tack­les one of her favourite sub­jects, per­sonal fi­nance, by look­ing at how the prop­erty mar­ket has di­vided Bri­tish Columbians. The split be­tween real es­tate haves and have-nots has left the first group with what might be an ex­ag­ger­ated sense of net worth—and those in the sec­ond feel­ing hard done by, even if they make a good liv­ing. This dy­namic is es­pe­cially no­tice­able in the Van­cou­ver area, but the so-called wealth ef­fect is play­ing out across the prov­ince as peo­ple spend more than they prob­a­bly should. We couldn't have done this piece with­out re­search part­ner En­vi­ron­ics An­a­lyt­ics, whose trove of data on Cana­di­ans' fi­nances shows that B.C. beats the rest of the coun­try for house­hold wealth but falls short in pen­sion as­sets.

On a brighter note, “Tak­ing On the World” (p.38) pre­views #Tradetalks, a new event pre­sented by the BC Cham­ber of Com­merce. For this fea­ture, I in­ter­viewed two 18-yearold en­trepreneurs with big plans to go in­ter­na­tional, plus five B.C. com­pa­nies that are ex­port­ing their prod­ucts or are about to take the plunge. It also marks the launch of what I hope will be a long and pro­duc­tive part­ner­ship with the BC Cham­ber. To­gether, we will de­liver sto­ries that hit home for you.

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