Monday’s Olympic Village city council meeting felt like a case of over-promise and under-deliver. I’m probably let down by my own hype. I hoped for new revelations. Maybe some fisticuffs. There was none of it. A handful of councillors gave debate despite being in agreement on the motion.
The best line of the afternoon came from David Cadman. He was going on about the completion guarantee when he said something about “the marble and German fridges” having been ordered. It hit me in the gut. All sorts of shiny lifestyle crap — literally thousands of appliances, countertops, faucets, chrome-this and stainless steel-that — all of it shipping, taxpayer-paid, to the fiasco at False Creek.
I’m increasingly worried about the expectation of a “bounce back” in the Vancouver real estate market. As VHB writes at Housing Analysis, many people who are supposedly well informed aren’t getting the memo about the real estate decline. At council, we had Mayor Gregor Robertson touch on the possibility of a market “rebound” in 2010. Suzanne Anton told reporters the Olympic Village could turn a profit.
There’s little challenge from the press on these assumptions. In fact, Global’s Keith Baldry in his news report said “when the market goes up” as if it’s a given. In another story, reporter Ron Bencze said “timing may be on the city’s side” because the economy is “expected” to go up. (I turned off the TV when Helmut Pastrick showed up.)
I remind our city officials to be cautious. No Olympic Village plan should rely on achieving high selling prices. It must be understood that the prices at the peak of the market do not reflect the baseline of the market’s “true” value — they are the indicators of speculative excess. In a declining market, the predictable direction of housing prices is toward historical norms in line with rents and local incomes.
Photo credit: Steph Lim