Housing: The view from Seattle

Role of foreign investment in Vancouver and Seattle real estate: analysis

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Role of foreign investment in Vancouver and Seattle real estate: analysis

Seattle has only recently started to feel the heat on its housing market from foreign buyers, in part due to B.C.’s foreign buyer tax. But this well-researched analysis from the Sightline Institute, a think tank focused on sustainability and urban issues, suggests the problem, even in Vancouver, isn’t so much offshore money as a shortage of housing. As author Dan Bertolet puts it,

In cases such as Vancouver, taxes intended to chill foreign demand may help some in the short term at best, but over the long term, the best solution for ending speculation is to build enough new homes.

That of course will run into interference from neighbourhood activists opposed to growth and change, but that is not the end of the discussion: in some North American cities, a counterbalancing movement is taking root under the slogan “Yes, in my backyard.”

According to CMHC’s National Housing Starts data released July 11, Vancouver CMA housing starts trended downward in June, driven by a decrease in apartment starts. In the first six months of 2017, there were 880 ownership apartment starts in the City Vancouver, compared with 3,290 in the first half of 2016. Visit CHMC’s Housing Market Information Portal for details.


In a recent BCBusiness interview, Vancouver’s general manager of planning, urban design and sustainability Gil Kelley noted the city has actually produced a lot of housing units, but that supply is skewed to the top end of the market and to homebuyers only.