News / Vancouver

Vancouver council approves locals-first condo pre-sales effort

City staff will now look at ways to compel developers to give Metro Vancouver residents first dibs on condo pre-sales.

A puddle near Emory Barnes park in Yaletown marks the spot where a new luxury condo tower will soon be constructed.

Jennifer Gauthier/For Metro

A puddle near Emory Barnes park in Yaletown marks the spot where a new luxury condo tower will soon be constructed.

Vancouver city staff will examine ways to give local residents a first crack at condo pre-sales, after councillors voted in favour of a motion brought forward by Mayor Gregor Robertson.
 
Two NPA councillors who voted against the mayor’s motion said they found the proposal racist and exclusionary, and questioned whether it would add yet more layers of bureaucracy in a city already known for being difficult to build in.
 
“I haven’t seen any other city that has excluded nationals from (purchasing condo pre-sales),” said Melissa De Genova, an NPA councillor. 
 
“That includes people who had to move out of Metro Vancouver who could not afford to live here… In fact under this policy, Mr. Mayor, refugees might not be able to come here and purchase a condo if they wanted to.”
 
But the six Vision and one Green councillors who voted in favour of the motion said it was one way the city can reduce speculation on the Vancouver real estate market, where condo prices have recently skyrocketed and pre-sales assignment flipping — selling a pre-sale contract before the unit has closed — has become common.

"Surely we are in agreement we need to prioritize local people," said Green Coun. Adriane Carr, pointing out that even police and firefighters can no longer afford to buy homes in Vancouver.
 
Robertson’s motion asked city staff to look at ways the city can give locals a first chance to buy pre-sales. He gave the example of an agreement the District of West Vancouver made with Westbank to sell only to Metro Vancouver residents for the first 90 days of sales.
 
The motion only applies to new projects coming up for rezoning — not to any projects that have started the process.
 
Robertson made some late additions to the motion on the day it came before council: he asked staff to also look at ways to restrict the bulk purchase of pre-sales, and ways to prevent assignment flipping.
 
“We’re in discussions with the province about what steps they can take on that front too as they regulate the real estate industry,” Robertson said. 
 
Restrictions the province put in place to prevent flipping of real estate assignments in 2016 — a practice that came to be known as “shadow flipping” — do not apply to pre-sale assignment flipping. Steve Saretsky, a Vancouver realtor, previously told Metro he believes heated pre-sales activity is pushing up the price of resale condos.
 
The Urban Development Institute, a real estate lobby group, warned that new restrictions could have an impact on the city’s economy.
 
“The Vancouver Economic Commission has been leading a stakeholder partnership group to prepare the City’s bid for the Amazon HQ2,” wrote Anne McMullin, CEO of the UDI, in a statement. “We need to ensure that these efforts are not undermined by perceptions that the tens of thousands of skilled knowledge workers who would potentially move here would be denied fair and equal access to housing.”

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