British Columbia

Metro Vancouver house prices not much better in the suburbs, says study

A new study from Bing Thom Architects says that while housing may seem cheaper in the suburbs, it's really not much better once you factor in transportation costs.

When transportation costs factored in, suburbs almost as expensive as Vancouver itself, study finds

Commuters drive through the Massey Tunnel at night. A new study says that higher transportation costs help to nullify cheaper housing in the suburbs. (CBC)

How much money do you save on housing by moving to the 'burbs?

A new study says the grand total is pretty much nothing.

Bing Thom Architects predicts that soon no single-family home in Metro Vancouver will be worth less than a million dollars, because once you add the cost of commuting to the cost of living in the suburbs, you may as well be buying in Vancouver.

"What we found is that 28 per cent of single family homes in Metro Vancouver are worth over $1 million," said Andy Yan, the lead researcher on the study. "But in our study we added in the average cost of transportation in that region."

"That dramatically increases the percentage of million dollar homes from 28 per cent to 65 to 76 per cent in Metro Vancouver."

Yan says his study is illustrative of just how expensive housing is in the region. No municipality is immune, he says, and when you don't deal with housing and transportation affordability, you get sprawl, which leads to migration out of a region — and Yan believes that could happen here soon.

Better transit needed south of Fraser

Yan took as an example the Township of Langley, where only three per cent of single-family homes are worth over $1 million.

But when the cost of transportation is added in, Yan says, that figure rises to between 52 and 75 per cent of single-family homes.

Of course, says Yan, people who take public transit pay much less when the costs of transportation are added in. For that reason, Yan says elected officials should look to expand public transit.

"That's really the major challenge, especially in the wake of the transit plebiscite. How do we build transit and transportation infrastructure south of the Fraser?" he said.

Yan says the big takeaways from the study are that the price of a house isn't just the price of a house — you need to look at it in a more integrated way, especially looking at transportation.

The other, he says, is that authorities need to look at developing more densified neighbourhoods that provide services to families while also being transit-friendly.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Study says cheaper housing in suburbs isn't much cheaper, really


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