Sunday, June 5, 2011

New York Real Estate vs. Vancouver Real Estate, Part 1 AFFORDABLE HOUSING

New York has gently intruded into many of my conversations of late. Sandy, a girl from Burnaby Central Secondary whom I have worked with, is heading off to a prestigious art school in Manhattan come September. She just gave me a lovely example of her work for my office wall. Over the March Break a group from Burnaby South High School toured New York and returned wildly enthusiastic about their experiences. I got the same-day copy of The Village Voice I had requested, and Chloe, a South student, gave me a very detailed trip report which included video recorded in Times Square and the Jazz band which played in the hotel restaurant. Kids today have got it made!

New York is also in my thoughts because recently we were told that Vancouver has rolled past the Big Apple, taking the dubious position of posting higher real estate prices. It's a good time, I think, to take a peek at a few comparable scenarios. It might do us to start with "Affordable Housing," a favorite topic with municipal politicians here in the urbanized S.W. corner of B.C.

THE MELODY is an eight storey co-op at 853 Macy Place in the Bronx. It has 63 units, including 6 1BDRM, 47 2BDRM and 10 3BDRM apartments. 14 units have been reserved for the New York chapter of Habitat for Humanity, who require their buyers to put in a few weeks of volunteer labour to defray some of the cost.

I have discussed taxpayer-funded housing initiatives before. New York politicians share Vancouver's "vision" of a future where the lion will lay down with the lamb. Both like to mix "market housing" with subsidized housing, although New Yorkers give no thought to protecting forestry jobs by erecting wooden apartment buildings. If you don't catch the reference you might check out a Blog I wrote one month ago INFERNO OBLITERATED CONDO PROJECT IN RICHMOND
The more obvious comparable to THE MELODY is the False Creek Fiasco in Vancouver which saw the Moorlocks of Vancouver City Hall mating their affordable housing concept to the 2010 Olympic Games Athletes Village. The "social housing" component of the billion dollar project was originally estimated to cost 320 per square foot. That ballooned to roughly $400 per square foot, and ultimately the City apportioned (you can't say "paid" with a straight face) $110,000,000 of the debt to 252 social housing units. These apartments are, I hasten to add, far cozier and better located than any apartment I ever put my family into. But then I have never registered with B.C. Housing. I always used the Classifieds.

The New York Times reports that THE MELODY cost just $18 million to develop, the money raised through a bond issue initiated by the Borough Council and the State of New York. Granted, the False Creek behemoth is a more complex site mix, but the New Yorkers have to contend with far more. There land is just as expensive, they deal with far more militant community activism and their unions are far more dangerous. New York planners followed Vancouver's Olympics greed-fest in the pages of the New York Times, and they are doing a better job of assisting the working poor and lower middle class families to revitalize historic neighborhoods.
THE MELODY - A nice touch are the blue window bars in the form of a musical score at sidewalk level. (There is a Vancouver policeman who crafts this type of ornamental security grill. An example of his work is the window of the Community Police Station at Joyce Skytrain Station.)

As of last week THE MELODY was just over 40% sold, with prices ranging from a low of $104,435 for a one bedroom unit, and climbing to $219, 997 for a three bedroom unit. Those prices are bargain basement compared to what working families face in B.C.


In Vancouver it is simply impossible for the working poor to ever consider buying a co-op property in the downtown. Even businesses have been evacuating the towers due to ferociously high taxation and gridlock during the sunshine hours. So what do the working poor have to pay for "affordable" units in the former Olympic Village, (now grandly renamed Millennium Water)? According to an article published last year in the National Post, "In Vancouver 'affordable" housing means $1,600 a month" it's $1,601 per month for a 640 sqft 1BDRM and its $1,902 per month for a 902 sqft 2BDRM. What's the criteria for winning the downtown rental lottery? "To be eligible, workers can not earn more than five times their annual rent..."

Here is the view from one of the first "affordable" units rented out at Millennium Water on False Creek. (The Post made a crack about the rent being so high the tenant had reverted to an old typewriter.) In Vancouver the planning goal is to force incoming Chinese condo buyers hungry for short term investments, to live side-side-side with less fortunate locals. In the New York's Bronx, the media made a big deal out of the fact that THE MELODY has design features which encourage tenants to exercise more, but the goal is to revitalize a depressed neighborhood by offering incentives to two classes of local buyers who have inhabited the area for generations, and who were being held back by skyrocketing property values.

The South Bronx is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States and badly in need of projects that offer hope to working parents with small families. Adults living at THE MELODY will have access to the building's fitness centre, and their kids are provided with a playground facility at ground level, behind the eight floor lowrise.


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Neowebz said...

I felt a little homesick for my birth place Hells Kitchen in NYC
What do they call it now?
Anyway - moved to Tampa Bay Florida many years ago. Many of the calls and buyers are from New York..but it appears Canadians make up about 50% of the buyers now...mostly for investment condos
They find my web site and pick and choose and fly in

Neowebz said...

Curious to know what they call Hells Kitchen in NYC now - area 8th ave to Hudson River...42nd to 57st streets. My birthplace

Dont miss the traffic...moved to Florida. Dealing with many New York and Canadian buyers looking for investment condos.