February 5, 2016 11:44 pm
Updated: February 6, 2016 12:15 pm

As Vancouver real estate debate boils, even prices in Langley surge

WATCH: Even municipalities like the Township of Langley Township are seeing homes selling for sky-high prices. As Jennifer Palma reports, never mind the starting prices – the winning bids are through the roof.

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Home sales were up 57 per cent last month, the strongest January since 1997. Open houses are booming. Realtors say they aren’t sure how high to price properties.

Vancouver? Try further east.

Langley is booming, say real estate agents, because of young families trying to find comparatively affordable housing in Metro Vancouver.

“There was a house listed in Langley the other day that was listed for $849,000, and sold for $1,003,000 in a matter of days,” says Stephen Major of Planet Group Realty.

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“When I went to the open house, there was 100 people in the house, 50 cars outside, and it just continued all day long.”

The Fraser Valley Real Estate Board says detached homes in the region have gone up 20 per cent in the last year, with a benchmark of over $689,000. Townhomes are also up 11 per cent to $326,000, while apartments are up 8.5 per cent.

“Some of them are moving from the city, others are actually children that have grown up in the valley – they’ve been through university, started families of their own, and are buying out here,” said Jorda Maisey, the Fraser Valley Real Estate board President.

“But we do have people who are finished with the city business, or they were in condos downtown and are selling.”

WATCH: High housing prices could turn Vancouver into economic ghost town

The fact more and more young people are deciding to live outside Vancouver is concerning business leaders.

“This lack of affordable housing has reached a crisis point,” wrote Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, in a column this week for the Financial Post.

“Vancouver risks becoming an economic ghost town: a city with no viable economy, other than a service industry catering to wealthy residents and tourists,” he wrote.

“Unaffordability is emptying Vancouver of one of its most valuable assets — young people who grew up in the city and who are invested in it. As well, qualified newcomers who could bring talent, drive and vision to Vancouver are looking elsewhere.”

It’s an outlook seconded by Jeff Abram, President of the recruiting firm SearchWest.

“People come here and look at the cost of housing, and get right back on the airplane and leave,” he says.

“People who are used to a four- or five-bedroom house in Calgary or Toronto, they come here for the same money and [can only afford] a two-bedroom condo in the Fraser Valley, it doesn’t work for them.”

The provincial government has indicated a strategy for tackling affordability could be coming in this month’s budget. Until then, people like Abram will continue to worry.

“People want to live here. Companies take that into consideration and ask people to move here and live here, but after a while, the polish of the apple wears off. People say I like living here, I can’t afford to live here, so they end up returning where they came from.”

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