A house too far


A new study of housing prices across Canada found that the average price of a single family home had breached the $300,000 mark for the first time ever, coming in almost 13 per cent higher than the previous year.

Being in the market myself – if you can really consider the Whistler Housing Authority’s inventory a ‘market’ – it was nice to know that I’m not the only Canadian about to be hitched to a mortgage I can’t really afford without making some considerable sacrifices.

B.C. has the highest housing prices in the country according to the report, with Vancouver homes selling for an average of $518,176. And Whistler, we are constantly reminded, has the highest market housing prices in the country.

The irony of it is that all the people who moved to B.C. over the years for the lifestyle will no longer afford to live it up, as paycheques go out as fast as they come in.

Some experts are crying ‘bubble!’ which basically means they believe that many homes are substantially overvalued and there’s a good chance a lot of people will wake up one day to find they’re paying a $518,176 mortgage on a home with a resale value that’s substantially less. Housing prices usually bounce back over time to ensure the homeowner at least a small profit, but nothing is guaranteed anymore as the world and economy change.

However, that hasn’t stopped people from continuing to invest heavily in property. Oil money keeps Calgary and Edmonton booming, Toronto is taking a leaf from Vancouver’s book and filling its skyline with condos, and Vancouver – people get into bidding wars over small two bedroom apartments because they’re within 20 blocks of Stanley Park.

For all the uncertainty I can understand the desire to own something. Paying rent does not build your equity, something you’ll need in this life if you ever want to retire.

Ownership also provides a measure of certainty and security. Nobody can kick you out, sell a place out from under you, or suddenly decide to hike your monthly payments (except of course for the bank that actually owns your home until it’s paid off, and mortgage rates are climbing).

Rational reasons aside, I think most people just like the idea of owning a place of their own. A home represents so many things; a nest to raise a family, a space to remake in your image, a safe place to keep your money, and, for people who are tired of moving every few years, a measure of stability.

Affordable housing in Whistler can only be maintained through a mix of concessions and incentives, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that buyers can no longer consider these properties to be a guaranteed investment. You’ll no doubt save some of the money you would otherwise be spending on rent, but in order to keep affordable housing affordable for the long term – and Whistler is all about long term thinking – it was necessary to further cap the amount that your house could grow in value each year.

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