Friday, February 3, 2012

Greedy teachers, the Vancouver Real Estate Bubble, and painful lessons for a young teacher with a family who fled Vancouver in '84

Adrian Raeside, B.C.s wittiest editorial cartoonist, managed to skewer both the grossly overpaid education workers of the BCTF, and the Bazooka Joe chewing real estate promoters who are manipulating the Greater Vancouver market. This Raeside broadside was published Feb. 3, 2012, but you can find much more on Raeside's website and in his many books.

Raeside's witty linkage of two disasters now afflicting B.C. residents - the failing public school system and the dangerous real estate bubble, helped me recall a time when conditions were better or worse, depending on your financial fragility. Freshly graduated from an East Coast university, I first moved to B.C. in 1981. We didn't know a soul in Vancouver and started life in an appalling basement "apartment" in Oak ridge. It came "furnished" with junk store cast off furniture, including dual-hotplate burners instead of stove. Grey unpainted concrete walls... open ceiling with exposed joists, and a single 1 x 3 foot window allowing zero sunlight. It was a great example of middle class retirees sticking-it-to the working poor, just because they could. There was absolutely no chance of qualifying for a loan to buy something decent... I was an account holder at the BMO in South Vancouver. This was their posted mortgage rate, published in the SUN on Sept. 1, 1983. A few days later I started in the Education program at UBC, planning to work in public schools. By the following spring the government was laying off teachers. Nobody in my classes expected to find work after completing the program. In the summer of 1984 I moved to Taiwan and took teaching positions in two colleges in Taipei.

Posted mortgage rate of 13 3/4 per cent (BMO) published in the Vancouver SUN, on September 1, 1983. And people think they have it tough today?

Had I been able to qualify for a mortgage at my BMO branch in 1983, what kind of bargains were available? Here is a photo I retrieved from an online photo archive. It shows a stucco bungalow built in 1962 and offered for sale in mid-1981 by a salesperson from Cathay Pacific Realty of Vancouver. Note the "13% MORTGAGE" sign pasted inside the front window. Here is the listing data: "A BARGAIN: $165,000 1,150 square feet of living space on 46-by-92 foot lot. Three nice br. Only 19 years old. You can't beat the price."
Perhaps not, but the mortgage was a killer, and in 1983-84 I was too young to die. So we left Canada and when we did return, it was for a job in Alberta. It was ten full years before we had saved enough to return to buy on the ruthless property market in B.C. I thought I was insane to buy in 1994 - it was all sky high prices and extremely arrogant sellers. Life experience takes some of the sting out of life's cold reality. You just have to jump in the river of life and start swimming.