Value of premier's home up $160K as housing affordability woes deepen
Published Wednesday, January 6, 2016 6:58PM PST
Last Updated Thursday, January 7, 2016 9:16AM PST
B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s Vancouver half-duplex surged $160,000 in assessed value this week to $1.73 million, and she's just one of several government members to see significant increases.
The six-digit rise in Clark's home value – totaling $674,000 since 2009 – is prompting critics to worry that a market in the hands of those profiting substantially in real estate may not be fairly regulated.
“When you find out the premier’s got almost $700,000 in equity since she purchased it, it’s going to make you cynical about the political process," said NDP Housing Critic David Eby. "I don’t get why there’s been so little interest in this government in this housing market."
Eby said the values are a sign the BC Liberals are insulated from the “affordability crisis” and may not feel there is a need to act.
“I don’t believe for a second that they are refusing to act on the housing prices because their own house might take a hit. But I think this informs the depth of their concern,” he said.
Data from B.C. Assessment show a staggering surge in assessed values, with growth as high as 30 per cent in some areas, adding some $90 billion in wealth across the province.
It has been a windfall for homeowners but a huge disappointment for those hoping to buy.
Vancouver’s mayor and other politicians said it was evidence of an overheated market that needs intervention in the form of a luxury tax or a speculation tax.
The premier wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, but she has consistently said she is not interested in any measures that would lower prices.
“We’re thinking really hard about those solutions. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t chip away at the equity that we have in our homes,” Clark said late last year.
The premier's staff said she is not letting the wealth gain influence her decisions, however.
“Her own circumstances have not affected her views on it,” said the premier’s spokesman, Ben Chin. “The main focus is to move prudently on ways to support entry into the market without compromising equity that homeowners have built up into their homes.”
Clark's remarks from last year prompted CTV News to examine the stake various politicians have in housing. Clark’s property was the largest jump in those whose records were viewed by CTV News.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong’s Abbotsford home jumped $15,000 to $247,000. Housing Minister Rich Coleman’s Langley home went up $35,000 to $664,000.
On the NDP side, Eby’s Vancouver home dropped slightly in value, down $1,400 to $322,600, while his Victoria property rose $3,300 to $196,500.
Finance Critic Carole James’s residence rose $15,000 to $535,000. A home she co-owns rose some $27,000 to $553,000. And John Horgan’s Langford home rose $7,000 to $376,000.
The fact that all of these politicians own their residences is a sign that government is being done by homeowners, for homeowners, which hurts young people, said Paul Kershaw, a UBC Professor who has started a movement called Generation Squeeze.
“I would like to think it doesn’t play a specific factor,” he said. “It cannot but reflect that homeowners are oriented towards a market that serves them. We cannot make the assumption that ongoing home price increases are a good thing.”
It is taking longer for young people to save for a down payment than ever before, he said. In 1976, it took an average Canadian 5 years to save for an average down payment. Today, that figure has risen to 12 years for the average Canadian down payment. In Toronto, it's 15 years, in BC, it's 16 years, and in Vancouver, it's 23 years.
"That means in order to have a home as a young adult you need to be saving for it before you were conceived," he said.
He proposed a tax on wealth that would reduce property taxes for heavily mortgaged young people.
Vancouver city councillor Raymond Louie suggested that the province will pay out some $40 million less in homeowner grants as prices rise -- a significant sum provincial budgeters may be less willing to drop.
Andrew d'Estrube, a 37-year-old looking for a three-bedroom townhouse for his wife and six-month-old son Leopold, said it's frustrating to try and get into the market.
"We were looking for a little while but we had almost given up. Over the period we've been looking prices have increased dramatically," he said, adding they were around $750,000, but now in the $900,000 range.
He said he supports an intervention to cool the investors who may be profiting from the high prices. But he has a backup plan.
"At some point this bubble bursts, and my fingers are crossed for that," he said.