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Top Vancouver real estate stories of 2015

The economy has been in the dumps, oil prices plummeted, and the Canadian dollar is in the tank, but the housing market still remained red-hot throughout 2015. The most recent statistics from the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver indicated that sales in November were 46.2 percent above the 10-year average for that month. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the hot housing market tops this year’s list of the five most significant real-estate stories of the year in Vancouver.

High housing prices

The REBGV says the benchmark price for all residential properties rose 17.8 percent between November 2014 and November 2015. It reached $752,000, which is chump change compared to the benchmark price for a detached property: $1.23 million. Optimists point out that the REBGV doesn’t include North Delta, Surrey, and Langley, which are all in the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board’s jurisdiction. But it still means that homeownership has gotten too expensive for many first-time buyers unless they have some help from the relatives. One of the biggest deals announced this year was the $51-million sale of high-tech tycoon Don Mattrick’s Point Grey mansion on Drummond Drive. It was one of several eye-popping prices paid for detached homes on the West Side of Vancouver.

Brian Jackson’s retirement

When Vancouver’s general manager of planning and development announced this summer that he would leave by the end of the year, it took a lot of people by surprise. Jackson had been on the job for less than three years—a period marked by intense friction between some neighbourhoods and city hall. But it was also a time when important area plans were completed in the West End, the Downtown Eastside, and Marpole. Jackson’s declaration came shortly after a group of retired planners and urban-planning experts wrote a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson and city council condemning a proposed crystal-shaped glass tower to the east of Waterfront Station. One of Jackson’s parting gifts was recommending that council designate First Shaughnessy as a heritage conservation area. This move reduced the value of the neighbourhood’s homes by up to $1 billion.

New bridge coming

This month, the province announced that a new 10-lane, $3.5-billion tolled bridge will be built to replace the George Massey Tunnel. This will likely turn into a windfall for the real-estate industry as pressure increases to pave over more farmland in Delta and Richmond. Don’t kid yourself: this bridge will transform the region. It will also boost the business prospects of Ivanhoé Cambridge and the Tsawwassen First Nation’s new shopping mall. Tsawwassen Mills is a 1.2-million-square-foot colossus under construction off Highway 17A and 52nd Street. It’s scheduled to open in 2016 with 200 stores, all of which are hoping to draw traffic from across the region and from shoppers coming over from Vancouver Island.

Transit plebiscite

When voters across the region put the kibosh on the regional mayors’ proposal for $7.5 billion in transit and transportation improvements over 10 years, it set back plans to develop the region in a more cohesive manner. Light rail in Surrey still shows no sign of life, despite Mayor Linda Hepner’s promise to deliver three new lines by the 2018 election. There’s also no money from the region for a new tolled Pattullo Bridge. All of this takes a bit of the shine off the housing market in North Surrey. That’s not to mention how it has undermined the city’s efforts to turn King George Highway north and south of Surrey Memorial Hospital into a magnet for high tech and arts and culture.

Telus Garden

It’s rare that a downtown office tower creates a major stir, but Telus’s head office has set a new standard for green buildings. The building by Westbank Projects obtained the highest LEED scorecard ever submitted to the Canada Green Building Council. With 288 rooftop solar panels, continuous fresh-air ventilation, and district energy connected to the company’s data system, Telus Garden goes far beyond any other tower in the city. It also captures rainwater and has a vegetable garden. This will up the ante on all other Vancouver office developers in the future to push a little further with their designs on behalf of the planet.

Source: Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight

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