Your Two Bits

By V Adams

In Canada, the average home price is $508,000; in Victoria, the average price of a single family dwelling is $684,900 (an increase of 17 per cent over April 2015). In fact, over the past decade, home prices have literally doubled in BC’s capital city.

Bidding wars among multiple buyers are now pushing prices higher, often $200,000 to $600,000 above the asking price. One Victoria realtor recently stated that half of his prospective homebuyers were from outside the Capital Region, including those who cashed out of million-dollar properties in Vancouver, as well as wealthy investors from Alberta, the US, and overseas.

What is even more startling is a recent report by Christie’s International that, “Canada’s Pacific waterfront city Victoria took third place in this year’s rankings with exceptional year-on-year growth in luxury sales.” One need only look at the posh Uplands neighbourhood in Oak Bay to find three multi-million dollar homes listed, one for a mere $14,999,000.

Here in James Bay, we also have an enviable selection of premium-priced pieces of paradise. Of the 42 current real estate listings in the neighbourhood, 12 are priced between one and five million dollars. They represent 28 per cent of all the neighbourhood properties currently on the market. (Source: The Mark Imhoff Group – Caldwell Banker Slegg Realty in James Bay).

A further break-down of James Bay real estate listings reveals that almost 60 per cent are priced over $600,000. Six are listed between $400,000 and $600,000; seven are listed between $200,000 and $400,000, with only four properties priced below $200,000. Single-family dwellings account for 26 per cent of all the listings, while townhouses represent 12 per cent, and a whopping 62 per cent are condominiums (almost one third of which are priced over a million dollars).

Victoria gloats over the fact that its two billion-dollar technology sector is now ranked in first place, ahead of its traditional rival the tourism industry, valued at 1.8 billion dollars. However, this city, like Vancouver, is now unaffordable for thousands of households.

While the Greater Victoria area can take credit for luring families with school-aged children who have outnumbered the incoming retirees for over a decade, James Bay is not benefitting from an influx of growing families.

At a recent meeting of the James Bay Neighbourhood Association, many residents questioned why a new high-density micro-condo development project near an elementary school has no provision for families. Apparently this precedent-setting residential project is being designed to attract single individuals prepared to spend $300,000-$400,000 for a 500 square foot unit with Juliet balconies and very limited on-site parking.

Some might say an invisible moat is being built around James Bay to attract only affluent residents. It is fast becoming an exclusive enclave for those willing to shell out over a million dollars on average for a single family dwelling, or more than $650,000 for an older townhouse. Lest you think a condo is an affordable option, almost 60 per cent of them cost between $600,000 and five million dollars.

So yes, count yourself lucky if you can still afford to live in this picturesque Victoria neighbourhood. Its transformation into a platinum playground promises Airbnb perks for well-heeled tourists, palaces for double-income homeowners with no kids, and convenient pads for financially secure professionals who enjoy walking or biking everywhere.

On the other hand, if you live in an apartment, like 59 per cent of James Bay households do (in a city where the vacancy rate is almost zero and rents are hiked substantially after cosmetic renovations) you fear being homeless. If you are an elderly tenant on a modest income living in a low-rise wood-frame apartment or vintage bungalow, your days are also numbered. These “quaint” vestiges of days gone by are being demolished in favour of more hip “lifestyle” dwellings for those with deep pockets.

Surely, in this overheated, speculative real estate market, all levels of government should be working together to find a solution to the housing affordability crisis. What will it take to resolve the growing income disparity that leaves many without the prospect of being able to put a roof over their heads?

Is James Bay, the City’s oldest residential neighbourhood, reserved only for the “beautiful, rich and hip”?

The Star, April 3, 2016 – Cool Victoria is no longer just for the ‘newlywed and nearly dead’


Times Colonist, May 15, 2016 – Victoria the beautiful, rich and hip. Or not.