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March 27, 2023 | Everything is a Choice

Steve Saretsky

Steve Saretsky is a Vancouver residential Realtor and author behind one of Vancouver’s most popular real estate blogs, Vancity Condo Guide. Steve is widely considered a thought leader in the industry with regular appearances on BNN, CBC, CKNW, CTV and as a contributor to BC Business Magazine. Steve provides advisory services to banks, hedge funds, developers, and various types of investors.

Happy Monday Morning!

Many of the issues we are facing today are policy decisions. They are choices made by elected officials. While I believe most policy makers are well intentioned it doesn’t mean we should not hold them accountable when mistakes are made. After all, elected officials are put in place to serve the best interests of its citizens, this is why we go to the polls every four years.

And so it is worth evaluating some of the data this week to discuss where we could be going wrong.

Let’s start with inflation. A global pandemic emerged and our elected officials made the decision to shut down the global economy. It turns out it’s easier to turn off the economy than it is to turn it back on. Governments panicked and the floodgates opened. Massive deficit spending.

Too many dollars facing too few goods. And while spending has slowed, it’s still 11.3% higher than pre-pandemic levels on a real per capita basis. This is only making the Bank of Canada’s job even harder! Please keep this in mind when the federal government unveils their budget this week.

While inflation is now slowing, it remains elevated, and largely self inflicted. Data out this past week noted headline inflation cooled to 5.2% year-over-year, and the Bank of Canada’s preferred core measures grew at an average of 3.5% annualized rate over the last three months. Down from nearly 8% last year. Ironically, one tenth of inflation right now is from rising mortgage interest costs.

While we’re on the topic of policy decisions, one can’t help but discuss the elephant in the room. Immigration.

According to Stats Canada this past week, Canada’s population grew by a record 1.05 million people in 2022. It was the fastest rate of growth since 1972.

Remember, the Federal government set a target of 430K new permanent residents in 2022, with the goal of raising immigration to 500K in the coming years. However, their immigration targets do NOT include non-permanent residents (temporary workers and foreign students). And so a million peopled flooded into the country, putting strains on critical infrastructure, and of course, housing.

The Federal Government opens up the immigration floodgates and then tells the provincial and municipal governments to figure out the housing supply side. As you can tell, it’s not going so well.

We are currently averaging about 200,000 new housing completions per year. Not even remotely close to keeping pace with the current run rate of immigration. Furthermore, new housing starts are turning lower as economic conditions deteriorate and the sudden surge in financing costs renders many projects no longer financially feasible.

On the resale market, new listings are running at 20 year lows across the country and rental vacancies remain incredibly tight. Despite Canada’s purpose-built rental housing stock growing at its fastest pace since 2014, vacancy rates sit at two decade lows.

And despite the introduction of empty home taxes, foreign buyer taxes, speculation taxes, mortgage stress tests, rent controls, and now outright foreign buyer bans, Canada’s housing crisis remains unresolved. According to RBC, affordability sits at its worst levels in 31 years.

Not sure where we go from here but its a mess. Whatever we’re doing, it ain’t working. Perhaps we should consider slowing immigration until we can figure out how to adequately house our existing citizens. Or maybe policy makers need to step aside and let the entrepreneurial spirit of the free market solve this. Ease zoning, reduce permit times and get building. Everything is a choice.

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March 27th, 2023

Posted In: Steve Saretsky Blog

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