News / Vancouver

Houses worth over $1M now the norm in Lower Mainland

73% of single-family houses in region are valued above $1M

Single-family neighbourhoods are increasingly unaffordable for the average household in the Lower Mainland.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro

Single-family neighbourhoods are increasingly unaffordable for the average household in the Lower Mainland.

An urban planner who has been charting the spread of million dollar houses in Vancouver over the last decade says the map is looking increasingly crowded these days.

SFU professor Andy Yan used the most recent BC Assessment data to create maps that show which homes are worth seven figures.

The ‘million dollar line’ traditionally moves eastwards every year, but recent data shows that trend has effectively ended – 99 per cent of single-family houses in Vancouver are now worth more than $1 million.

“I’ve stopped making one for the City of Vancouver because it’s pretty much done,” said Yan, who teaches at SFU’s Cities program.

"What used to be a few cluster – West Vancouver, City of Vancouver, South Surrey and Richmond – has now pretty much taken over the rest of the region,” said Yan.   

In fact, BC Assessment data shows 73 per cent of single-family homes in the Lower Mainland are now valued at over a million dollars per property. Two years ago, only 43 per cent of single-family homes were worth that much.

Housing experts say families will inevitably opt to buy condos as the detached-house market moves farther out of reach.

But Yan’s data shows that may not be so feasible either: detached-house values went up by 2 per cent in the City of Vancouver, while condo values increased by 24 per cent, according to BC Assessment.

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It’s a challenging situation for families, data analyst Jens Von Bergmann acknowledged.

“It used to be that families were quite happy to move on to the suburbs and further out. But more and more, people want to stay in the centre.”

The most recent census data shows the share of children in the population in Vancouver’s greater downtown area is growing. Both Von Bergmann and Yan say the trend means governments will need to invest more funds into building family-friendly amenities in the city centre.

More than half of single-family houses in Metro Vancouver are worth between $1 - $2 million (represented by light pink) in 2018.

Andy Yan/SFU

More than half of single-family houses in Metro Vancouver are worth between $1 - $2 million (represented by light pink) in 2018.

But the rest of Vancouver – 80 per cent of the land – is still zoned for single-family houses, Yan pointed out.

"The function of these vast areas was to raise families. What happens when that intention has changed but grown children still want to live in the community they grew up in?"

Von Bergmann says authorities urgently need to think about what to do with those neighbourhoods that are unaffordable for the average household.

“Whatever correction we get in the real estate market, those single-family homes are not coming back to a [price] where young families can realistically live in them.”

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