"It’s part condo-marketing campaign, part social-media info-war, and it’s getting a bit uncomfortable for condo-dwellers that have joined the campaign with a Vancouver developer.
Developer Wesgroup launched a social-media campaign called #DontNeed1Million, according to Beau Jarvis of the firm, because they believe organizers of a popular housing-affordability campaign are misleading the public.
Eveline Xia, a 29-year-old Vancouverite, started her #Donthave1Million campaign about a year ago to protest the disconnection of Lower Mainland wages from housing in Vancouver. Xia and the young professionals who have rallied behind her campaign see an unfair housing market where most people who work for a living in the Lower Mainland are increasingly being pushed down the property ladder as “global capital” and absentee owners flood Vancouver with investment.
Xia points to reports that predict Vancouver’s average single-detached home price will exceed $2 million by 2030, with condos following closely behind.
Starting with a speech from influential Vancouver condo-marketer Bob Rennie in May, Vancouver developers have pushed back. They argue that entitled Millennials must accept that single-family homeownership is a thing of the past in Vancouver. The protesters would do better to stop their whining and jump into the condo market before they get left behind, Rennie and his colleagues argue.
“I don’t know why we allow the conversation, ‘I want a single-family home in Vancouver and I can’t get one,’” Rennie said in his speech to the Urban Development Institute in May.
Apparently, following that line of thought, Wesgroup interviewed a number of young professionals who have made the choice to buy condos for under $500,000 — and campaign participants have shared their stories online.
“I can’t deny there are foreign buyers in some of our developments, but what we’re talking about here is the (#Donthave1Million) campaign is misleading,” Jarvis told The Province. “You can buy a home in Vancouver for under $1 million. Why is it that we think we should have a single-family home?”
Jarvis acknowledged that part of the Wesgroup campaign is about selling its current developments, but said the main motivation is to promote “a rational debate.”
He said he’s been disappointed that some of the people sharing their stories in the campaign “are being torched online” by those who believe Vancouver homes are outrageously unaffordable.
David Walmsley, a digital marketing strategist who has done work for Wesgroup but says he isn’t being paid for his participation in the #DontNeed1Million campaign, says he signed up because he too once believed a Vancouver property was out of reach. Walmsley said critics are slamming some of his posts online and attacking the fact that the Wesgroup campaign has paid for a news story-like ad on the website Vancity Buzz, but he truly believes in his own choice to buy a $340,000 condo in Chinatown.
“Whenever you bring up real estate and developers there is a lot of attention if not pure negative backlash,” Walmsley said. “But real-estate professionals have a lot of information to offer.”
Alison Mazurek — who lives in a Vancouver condo with her husband and two-year-old child and writes about her lifestyle on the blog “600sqftandaBaby” — said she doesn’t yearn for a single-family home and doesn’t question whether offshore investors have been a driving force in boosting the prices of Vancouver condos.
“I think we are so blessed living in Vancouver with the mountains and ocean and lifestyle,” Mazurek said. “I really find the #Donthave1Million campaign involves being upset rather than looking at other ways of living.”
However, Xia says Wesgroup’s campaign misses the point, and “clearly involves a lot of spin.”
Even if young professionals can shoehorn themselves into Vancouver’s condo market today, by 2030 projections are that tiny Vancouver condos will cost about $1 million, Xia says. She points to Hong Kong, where 50 per cent of residents live in subsidized “affordable” housing because investors have dominated condo purchases and forced prices skyward.
“(Wesgroup) are saying it is not too late to get in, but the trend is not sustainable,” Xia said. “We’re not saying everyone should have a single-family house. We’re saying people should have space to raise a family. If global capital has its way with Vancouver, the entire middle class will be living in small condos.”"
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