Douglas Todd: Vancouver land assemblies come with a range of difficulties
The detached house looks almost comical — a drab Vancouver Special sitting forlornly on an overgrown lot, squeezed between two under-construction apartment buildings.
The odd scenario on Southwest Marine Dr. is becoming more common in Metro Vancouver, though, as realtors busily try to put together land assemblies for new condominium complexes by convincing a row of adjacent homeowners to sell.
Land assemblies are expanding in the midst of some debate — and not only because they present thorny situations for homeowners who refuse to sell, either because they like things the way they are or want more money. Housing specialists say land assemblies can also break up existing communities and in the long run raise house prices.
The pressure to find land to build housing on has been heightening in the core of Canadian cities. “The Greater Vancouver Area is growing while effectively sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains — there simply isn’t anywhere to go,” says FCT, a Canadian company that specializes in property deals, in some cases by providing insurance for land assemblies.
“Because land price is at a premium in cities, property owners with houses grouped together can command much higher prices than they could by selling individually,” says an advisory on FCT’s website . “Any contiguous group of properties can become part of a land assembly, but most often land assemblies include properties along or near a major transport conduit.”
University of B.C. geography professor emeritus David Ley, author of Millionaire Migrants , says municipal councils have been rapidly rezoning land throughout Metro Vancouver to respond to increased demand for housing, either to live in or as an investment . The rezoning encourages land assemblies, which can inspire argument.
“In part (a land assembly is) controversial because its major output has been luxury condos, which are not serving local affordability needs. And the cost of land assembly is forcing up land prices more generally, because it raises a homeowner’s expectations of what they will receive.”