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Around The City: is home ownership in Metro Vancouver still a good bet?

Last Updated May 30, 2019 at 9:11 am PDT

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – NEWS 1130 and CityNews Vancouver have teamed up with G&F Financial for Around The City, a series of town discussions that explores some of the hot button issues impacting our region.

It is an opportunity to join the conversation, as a panel of experts tackles the issue affordability. In the first Around The City, we looked at housing in Metro Vancouver.

While home ownership has long been considered a rite of passage and a smart way to plan for your future, housing prices have made it out of reach for many Vancouverites. We are also starting to see prices come down, creating uncertainty.

That is why we ask, “Rent or Own? Is real estate in Metro Vancouver still a good bet?”

Panelist Anita Huberman is the CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade and has been with the organization for 25 years. She has a demonstrated history of working in the civic, business, and social organization industries.

“I think as we look into the future of our city, we’re going to be the largest city in British Columbia by 2040,” Huberman said on Monday. “We’re growing by 800 to 1,000 people a month — there does need to be a shift towards a discussion around workforce, rental housing and making it economically viable for developers.”

She stressed the importance of working with local governments on things like expediting approval processes, and to ensure the federal government does its part, too.

“To make sure that, for example, with the federal government, we’re removing GST on the development of new homes or new towers to make it economically viable for developers,” Huberman added. “I think, in the short term, home ownership — whether it’s condos or single-detached homes — is going to be, always in the foremind of everyone. But I think we need to start thinking long term, especially as we have 1.3 million more people moving into Metro Vancouver by 2050.”

Planning was a key point made by the panelists, who took part in a one-hour live streamed town hall.

Former Delta Mayor and current City Councillor, Lois Jackson, has lived in Delta for more than 50 years, and has been in politics since the early 1970s.

She pointed out the importance of acknowledging that each community is different, and has different needs.

“We all have our needs, we all have our niche,” Jackson said. “I think, for Delta, North Delta particularly has been what we’ve called for many years as a ‘bedroom community’ of Vancouver. A lot of the housing stock is now getting tired, but what we’re doing is we’re dividing a lot of the lots into two, and helping in that way.”

The majority of the units available in Delta are single-family homes and duplexes, with limited rental and apartment living. There is an increased need for rentals.

Jackson said rental accommodation is increasing around that city in some of the newer developments.

“I guess if you look at the numbers — and there are many variables relative to ‘should I buy or should I rent?’ It depends very, very much on your own individual circumstances,” Jackson explained. “Do you have two incomes? Are you a single person? Are you an elderly person? What are your own financial abilities? Do you have enough to be able to pay a mortgage? There are many, many financial decisions that you’d have to make, including ‘What kind of lifestyle do I have?'”

Michael Atkinson is the Senior Vice President of Wealth and Advice for G&F Financial. He also stressed the importance of looking at your own financial circumstances when it comes to deciding whether it’s the best time to consider buying a home.

He, however, did point out that there are benefits to both renting a home as well as owning one when you’re trying to build equity.

On how consumers can protect themselves while trying to build equity through home ownership, Atkinson also noted the importance of getting expert advice from someone like your realtor, financial advisor, or mortgage broker, for example, and to try and get more than one opinion.

Stephanie Richardson, a realtor with the Robles Real Estate Group, said having a discussion around home ownership is important.

“I think what we want out of it is [for] people to understand that it is a complex issue and it’s a personal issue,” she said. “Everyone has their own individual situation, so it might give people enough information to prompt them to continue to dig and ask more questions to see what options would be best for them.”

In order to protect yourself while considering the purchase of a property, Richardson said it’s important to look at things like depreciation reports and contingency funds to see if the home you’re looking to buy is a good fit for your personal circumstance.

When going into a development, she stressed the importance of doing so with a realtor who knows the area, as well as the developer behind the project.

So which, in her mind, is better — renting or owning a home? That depends on what you are looking for, and what you’re comfortable with at the time, she said. However, Richardson does believe home ownership is a good investment.

“If you own, you’re kind of your own tenant,” she said. “You pay yourself.”

Huberman also said while the value of owning a house will “always be positive,” she did admit that renting has to be seen as a viable option.

When it comes to building wealth, Atkinson said having a plan is key.

“Determine what you’re saving for, what your priorities are,” he said, adding that starts with saving “any amount.”

The next Around The City town hall will take place on June 24th.

-With files from CityNews Vancouver