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Housing shortage spooks Victoria realtors as prices spike

‘We need less NIMBY and more YIMBY’ says real estate board head as listings and housing starts tumble in face of rising home prices
More than 760 residential properties changed hands in Greater Victoria in September, leaving just 1,124 active listings, down about 50 per cent from a year earlier.|. Adrian Lam, Times Colonist

With home prices spiking as a result of low inventory levels and high demand, the Victoria Real Estate Board wants municipalities to speed up their housing approval processes, while builders say it’s time to look at a regional housing plan.

David Langlois, president of the board, said solutions to the lack of availability lie in municipal processes.

“They need to move faster,” he said.

Langlois said he is aware some municipalities have taken strides to cut red tape and reduce delays, but they could do more to approve more housing, increase density and consider new concepts.

“In terms of the way they look at how land is developed and treated, it’s taking on the idea that the single-family home preserve that occupies the vast majority of our land base needs to be altered,” he said. “That we need to allow for a mix of housing types in neighbourhoods that have traditionally been single-family homes.”

Langlois said it’s about opening up to the idea of adding duplexes and four-plexes in single-family-home neighbourhoods.

“That’s the future and the quicker we choose to embrace the future, the happier we will be,” he said. “We need less NIMBY [not in my back yard] and more YIMBY [yes in my back yard].”

Langlois said politicians need to be braver, show leadership and stop listening to the vocal minority and NIMBY people who tend to show up at council meetings.

”As a result, we will get more diverse, more walkable neighbourhoods with different age groups living there,” he said.

Without it, the board expects a further lack of inventory.

According to the latest sales figures, 761 properties changed hands last month, leaving just 1,124 active listings at the end of September, fewer than half of the 2,389 available at the end of September last year.

That lack of listings led to another month in which the benchmark sale price of a single-family home in both the core municipalities (Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay, View Royal and Esquimalt) and the entire region was more than $1 million. Last year, the benchmark sale price of a single-family home was $802,600 in the region and $879,700 in the core.

Casey Edge, executive director of the Victoria Residential Builders Association, said the answer is a regional approach.

“And the only way to establish that is to have the province step in and say: ‘This is how it will go in terms of density,’ ” he said.

August data from Canada Mortgage and Housing shows that 3,072 housing units have started in Greater Victoria this year, including 2,233 apartments, but 52 per cent of these are rentals. Only 368 townhouses have started so far this year.

Edge said ideally that would result in each municipality identifying areas to build density near transportation infrastructure, scrapping and re-doing all 13 official community plans to accommodate more housing, and forcing municipalities to act on the housing needs studies that are done every five years.

Without that mandate to change, Edge said, municipalities are simply not giving permission to build homes. He noted that Oak Bay has a ban on duplexes, while there are no multi-family apartment buildings in either Highlands or Metchosin, and Saanich has scores of development applications gathering dust.

“During a housing crisis, to have a municipality in the core ban duplexes is simply not acceptable,” he said.

Langlois said the number of sales in September gives the false impression that the market is slowing down.

The 761 sales was a drop from the 989 recorded at the same time last year and the 831 in August of 2021.

“We have seen a lot of demand for homes of all types, but very little inventory come onto the market,” Langlois said. “And, just like last month, it would be inaccurate to say that the market has slowed down and certainly an oversimplification to say the market is experiencing traditional seasonal slowing.”

Single-family home sales were down 40 per cent compared with last year, while townhome sales dropped 27 per cent in that time. Condominium sales were up 9.3 per cent from last year.

The benchmark value for a single-family home in the core last month was $1.1 million, up from $879,700 last year, while the benchmark value for a condo in the core was $545,900 last month, up from $482,000, last year.

The benchmark price of a townhome last month hit $791,600 up from $667,600 last year.