August 29, 2008 Features & Images » Feature Story

The housing onion 

Peeling back the layers of Squamish’s residential real estate boom

click to enlarge District of Squamish planning director Cameron Chalmers. Photo by Dave Buzzard
  • District of Squamish planning director Cameron Chalmers. Photo by Dave Buzzard

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“You could have a community with those growth numbers and it could be the worst community in the world,” he says. “Or you could have those exact numbers and have incredible growth.”

He does agree that Squamish’s identity is partially that of a commuter culture. A third of the workforce earns its income beyond the district’s borders, and the highway isn’t relieving any of that pressure. But he points to planning documents like the DNP as transformative guidelines that aim to mix residential with commercial in a number of innovative and environmentally sound ways.

“What we strive for in Smart Growth is to build amazing downtowns supported by amazing neighbourhoods,” he says.

Add to that employment strategies devised at the desks of the Squamish Sustainability Corporation, where visions of a knowledge based industry are a primary focus, and the potential for significant job growth within the district seems more promising still.

It’s built, so who’s coming?

Gavin Foster is a live and work type of guy. He does both in downtown Squamish, and, while he does enjoy playing in Whistler, Foster gets recreational in town as well. A small business banker with RBC, Foster moved to Squamish to settle in the recently completed Artisan, which blends townhouses, condo units and an art gallery. He got a transfer, and LaFramboise found him the space, which, with its two bedrooms and 900 square feet, came with a $300,000 price tag,

“I like the idea of being downtown,” he says, comfortably reclined in his office chair, looking dapper in pin stripes and a three-hued tie. “I like walking to work. And I like the views. The views are awesome. I look at Atwell, and at night it’s all lit up with an alpine glow.”

According to Statistics Canada’s 2006 Census, when the population of Squamish was 14,710, there was just shy of 1,000 people who moved to Squamish in 2005 from some other municipality in B.C. Having just recently moved down from Whistler, Foster is a new addition to that category. Travel back to 2000, and that number more than doubles.

Mobility status statistics, as these are called, tell some of the story about who the new residents are and where they come from. Take the Daniels: Having moved from Ontario about a year ago, they make up three of 320 new residents from different provinces. Go back to 2000, and the same doubling effect appears.

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