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See why multi-unit starts are outpacing detached homes in Metro Vancouver

Multi-family housing starts in Greater Vancouver will continue to outpace those of detached housing in the foreseeable future, largely because of affordability concerns, said the recently appointed head of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association.

“The trend toward multi-family is driven by many factors, including lifestyle, but the single driving factor has to be affordability,” said GVHBA president and CEO Bob de Wit in an email interview.

Last fall, the 44-year-old South Surrey resident took over the helm of the GVHBA, the second largest home-builder association in Canada, following the retirement Peter Simpson.

“With land prices at near all-time highs, the only way to provide affordable housing is to create smaller housing forms, and more of them.”

De Wit, who predicts 2013 will see a similar number of housing starts as last year — there were about 18,000 in 2012 — noted that “the only way to provide adequate housing stock is to increase density in neighbourhoods that have the infrastructure to handle it, such as along rapid transit corridors”.

He said building activity is robust in Coquitlam, “where new homes near the future Evergreen SkyTrain line are coming up quickly.”

Also strong, said de Wit, are Vancouver (“still king when it comes to housing starts”), Surrey and West Vancouver.

The Richmond native, who studied business at SFU, has spent the past 15 years starting, mentoring and investing in technology-based start-up companies.

“I joined GVHBA because I wanted to contribute to improving housing affordability in our region,” he says.

“GVHBA and our members, by the nature of our industry, can have a strong positive impact on housing affordability, especially by working effectively with local government, and I wanted to contribute my efforts toward helping to make that happen.”

The industry, which he said generated about 54,000 direct and indirect jobs throughout the region last year, remains strong, de Wit said.

“We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet and, as more people move here, the demand for land and homes is inevitably rising.

“In that context, our industry is innovating by creating newer housing forms that enable density and help make housing affordable by fully utilizing the available land base.”

Source: Barbara Gunn, Vancouver Sun