Way Out of Balance: Housing Supply and Demand During the Pandemic

Vancouver, BC – October 7, 2021. The British Columbia Real Estate Association (BCREA) has published a report quantifying the imbalance between supply and demand in the BC housing market during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BCREA’s recent Market Intelligence report, Way Out of Balance: Housing Supply and Demand During the Pandemic, estimates at the peak of market activity in March 2021, 67,000 buyers were searching for homes across BC while only 24,000 listings were available. Put another way, that experienced significant relocation demand.

“The conditions we saw at the peak of market activity earlier this year were unprecedented,” says the report’s primary author, BCREA Chief Economist Brendon Ogmundson. “Record-low mortgage rates and the work-from-home environment driving buyers into rural areas were both factors that fueled demand disproportionately as it relates to supply. With sellers looking to stay put in an environment where space at home was at a premium, it made for quite the imbalance.”

In the Fraser Valley, buyers outnumbered sellers by as much as seven-to-one at the height of the market in the spring. This resulted in prices rising nearly 30 per cent, double what was seen in the Greater Vancouver area during the same period. Markets in the interior as well as Vancouver Island saw similar trends, with Victoria earning the title of most undersupplied with a nine-to-one ratio of buyers to sellers.

To be able to reach these conclusions, Ogmundson used a model framework recently developed by researchers at the US Federal Reserve.

“This type of data shows how hard it is for supply to keep up with rapidly changing demand,” Ogmundson adds. “The issue of supply is not a new one in BC, but seeing just how much worse it can get during these types of events highlights the need for a coordinated strategy to significantly increase supply.”

To read the full report click here.

Kelowna hospitality industry hit by cancellations due to smoke and recent COVID-19 outbreak


Smoke/COVID double hit

It’s like being kicked while you’re down.

Kelowna’s hospitality industry was looking forward to bouncing back this summer after suffering through pandemic restrictions, but now they’re dealing with cancellations and a drop off in visitors because of the wildfire smoke.

The smoke and fire threat has not just left a haze over the valley, it has closed highways and cancelled flights. On top of that, several restaurants in downtown Kelowna had to shut down through the BC Day long weekend and beyond because of staff testing positive or being exposed to COVID-19, during the current outbreak in the city.

“Obviously this is discouraging for many that were hoping this would be a summer that we gain a lot more than we lost over the past 16 months,” said Dan Rogers, Executive Director, Kelowna Chamber of Commerce.

Hotel Zed on Abbott St. confirms to Castanet News, smoke, airport disruptions and increased COVID-19 have been the root cause of most of their cancellations.

Mark Burley, Executive Director at Downtown Kelowna Association was asked for his assessment of the summer so far.

“I don’t know how to feel about it because it started out super hot. I mean we were up in the 40s and we were setting up Meet Me on Bernard at that time and it was insanely hot, but it was also super busy down here. Then the fires started, and then the smoke moved in and it was still hot, but we still seemed to have a fair amount of traffic.”

Rogers, though, said some sectors are struggling and the recovery is going to take a bit longer than anticipated.

“We’ve reinforced that to government, that the supports, particularly for those hard-hit sectors like the hospitality sector, need to continue. I appreciate the federal government has extended some of those to late October, but we’ll continue to monitor and government needs to be there to help particularly those that are hardest hit right through to the fall.”

B.C. to determine which essential workers will receive Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Who’s essential for vax?

British Columbia’s top doctor says the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and essential workers, but the province still needs to determine which industries will be included.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the first shipments of the recently approved vaccine are expected in the province next week and they represent an “added bonus” that will allow B.C. to run a parallel program to its age-based vaccination strategy.

However, she noted essential workers and first responders are a “very broad group,” and the B.C. Immunization Committee is now reviewing who should be prioritized to receive the vaccine and when.

“We’ve come to recognize through this pandemic how many people absolutely are essential workers, are people who cannot work from home,” she said at a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday.

The committee is the provincial equivalent to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and uses public health principles, vaccine science and an ethical framework to reach decisions on vaccine distribution, she said.

Henry said she expects the plan will be finalized around March 18, and in the meantime, the initial supply will be used to address ongoing outbreaks that are leading to rapidly increasing case numbers in some communities.

She also apologized to long-term care residents and health-care workers whose second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was suddenly postponed this week after B.C. decided to extend the gap between the first and second shots to four months.

“I know that came as a shock for many people. I regret that our communications weren’t able to keep up as fast as the decision-making,” she said.

Henry said the decision was not taken lightly, but it needed to be made quickly last weekend because the province was approaching a time when tens of thousands of second doses were scheduled to be given.

That would have left the province with very little vaccine to protect other community members, she said.

“That dose you didn’t receive on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or today, is now being administered to a community member, to another member of our family,” Henry said. “Ultimately it will bring us all closer to getting to our post-pandemic world.”

Henry reported 564 new COVID-19 cases and four additional deaths, pushing the death toll linked to the virus to 1,376. Two of those who died had variants of concern.

There were 46 new confirmed cases of variants of concern, bringing the total to 246. The majority of those cases, a total of 218, are the variant first found in the United Kingdom, while 28 are the strain first detected in South Africa.

Public health officials can’t identify transmission chains for 25 per cent of the cases involving variants, Henry said.

A private school in Port Coquitlam has shut down for three weeks after exposure to a variant. Fraser Health said it was working closely with Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary School and it will reopen March 29.

The province also released Thursday a written strategy on rapid testing, which says the tests will continue to be used in community settings, in situations where quick results are needed to guide immediate public health action and in areas with increased risk of transmission or outbreaks.

Henry said B.C. started to receive rapid tests in October, but it needed to do quality assurance in November and December before starting to use them. Since then, the province has done 39 pilot projects, including in long-term care facilities and rural and remote locations, she said.

Rapid tests have also been used to supplement the gold-standard polymerase chain reaction tests in schools, for example when a variant of concern was detected in Garibaldi High School in Maple Ridge, she said.

She said health officials have learned that rapid tests are less useful for screening people without symptoms, and more useful in areas where there is an outbreak or community transmission is higher.

The rapid tests are low-cost, but they need to be done in a health-care environment and are also less accurate than the gold-standard tests, she said.

As the province moves into a time when it is vaccinating more people and starting to open things up, it’s looking at which industries might benefit from having rapid tests available, such as food processing plants where outbreaks have happened, Henry said.

“We are in a new place right now in our COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “We’re getting our regular supply of vaccines and more vaccines are on the way.”

Dentists, teachers, bus drivers want Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in B.C.

Workers seek AZ vaccine

Dentists, teachers and bus drivers are among the essential workers who hope to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British Columbia, as a provincial committee determines who should be prioritized for the shot.

BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring says her members should be included in the plan expected to be released by the B.C. Immunization Committee by March 18.

Mooring says teachers have put in the second-highest number of COVID-19-related claims to WorkSafeBC, behind only health-care workers, and have faced difficult conditions in schools with some of the most lax mask policies in Canada.

The BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely, they work in very close proximity to the mouth and often use aerosol-generating procedures.

Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, says his members should receive the vaccine because passengers come very close when they enter and exit the bus.

BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle, meanwhile, says he represents both long-haul truckers and local drivers who return home every night, so he wants to hear from the province about where the COVID-19 hot spots are in the transportation system.

A new study shows Okanagan cities are in a good position to weather the COVID-created economic storm

The resilient Okanagan

Okanagan and Southern Interior communities are in good shape to weather the economic storm created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That according to a new survey put out by BC Business.

The survey, ‘most resilient cities in 2021’ is a different take on the best cities to work report published each year.

It also used a different set of data points and expanded the list to include the top 50 communities in the province.

The survey places three Southern Interior communities in the Top,10, Salmon Arm at six, West Kelowna at Number 8 and Kelowna 10.

Four other communities, Summerland (15), Vernon (18), Penticton (22) and Kamloops (23) all ranked inside the Top 25.

This year, BC Business focused on four key points, demographics, workforce composition, real estate and employment trends to explore resiliency factors and early signs of recovery.

“We are arguably in the single greatest socio-economic experiment in history,” says urban planner Andy Yan, director of the city program at SFU.

Yan says the pandemic is not only reshaping the economies of our cities but is reorganizing the human geography of our province.

Several experts were consulted to reveal the pandemic’s uneven impact on industries and regions. The state of the tourism and real estate sectors and the shift to working from home figure prominently in their evaluation.

Survey authors say a return to the Top 10 for cities such as Kelowna (5th in 2020) and Salmon Arm (6th) underscores their resilience across a range of metrics, while a generous take on the definition of “bedroom community” allowed West Kelowna to rate high within the Top 10.

The survey also showed Vancouver Island as a whole as the most resilient region in the province with six cities ranking in the Top 10. Authors attribute this, in part, to a higher-than-average share of residents working in the public sector, which is particularly true throughout the Capital region.

It also showed the Metro Vancouver area has suffered the most when it comes to job loss with Vancouver, Surrey, North Vancouver, Richmond and New Westminster all ranking in the lower third of the survey.

On the flip side, Salmon Arm actually added more than 100 jobs, while Kelowna and West Kelowna have lost fewer than 100 according to the survey.

All three ranked high in housing sales per 10,000 people, while West Kelowna was sixth in the province with 108 housing starts per 10,000 people.

Confirmed COVID-19 exposure at Westside Learning Centre

COVID exposure at school

Central Okanagan Public Schools and Interior Health have confirmed a COVID-19 exposure at the Central Programs and Services Westside Learning Centre.

The exposure was confirmed Sunday. Those affected are currently self-isolating with the help of local health teams. Interior Health will follow up with anyone potentially exposed to the virus through contact tracing.

“The safety and well-being of students, families, and staff remains our highest priority. Central Okanagan Public Schools will continue to implement the strict health and safety protocols and procedures that are in place so students and staff can continue to attend school as safely as possible,” reads a statement from the school district.

“Central Okanagan Public Schools will continue to work closely with Interior Health to determine if any additional actions are required, and to support ongoing communication to the affected school community. As always, we remind people to stay home from school if they show any symptoms.”

Westbank First Nation managing uptick in community cases

WFN sees uptick in COVID

Interior Health has confirmed as many as two dozen exposures to COVID-19 have been registered within the Westbank First Nation community.

The exposures have come to light as positive cases across the Central Okanagan rose over the past week.

A membership meeting Monday revealed 25 cases of COVID-19, with 69 members in quarantine or isolation as a result.

In an email to Castanet News, Interior Health says this is not an outbreak.

IH says it is supporting the band with testing, contact tracing and other supports to ensure “isolation of cases and contacts.”

“We are confident that their response will be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” Interior Health says in a brief statement.

“Interior Health wants to thank the Westbank First Nation for their leadership and remind everyone not to stigmatize or judge others who seek testing or test positive for COVID-19.

“COVID-19 continues to circulate in all communities and everyone needs to continue following COVID-19 precautions and using their layers of protection: stay home when you are sick, avoid social gatherings and keep to your household, practice physical distancing, wear a mask, and wash your hands often.”

WFN officials say no new cases have been reported within the community since Monday.

Recent data from the BC Centre for Disease Control showed 77 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the entire Central Okanagan between Jan. 24 and Jan. 30. This is up slightly from the 65 cases found in the region the week prior.

On its website, WFN says while a positive result can happen to anyone, anytime, anyplace, it states these happen most frequently when public health measures are not followed.

Breaches of provincial health orders should be directed to WFN law enforcement at 250-717-6147, or the West Kelowna RCMP detachment at 250-768-2880.

Early data suggests B.C. headed towards ‘baby bust’ due to COVID-19

BC headed for ‘baby bust’?

Data available on the provincial government’s website suggests a decline in British Columbia’s birth rate not seen in at least a decade.

Monthly totals collected from the province’s birth by local health area numbers average around 3,600 births per month across the province. December 2020 though saw a more than 20 per cent decrease from that average with a decade record low of 2,774 births. While cautiously awaiting more data, experts agree this decline is both a direct result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and a consistent global trend in nations heavily affected by the virus.

Applying similar historical trends

Kate Choi is a family demographer, inequality scholar, and quantitative sociologist who is currently working as an associate professor of sociology at Western University in Ontario, Canada. Choi believes this trend is not unique to Canada having seen birth rates decline in the United States and East Asia due to COVID-19.

“It is following a pattern that is consistent with historical patterns that fertility tends to decrease when there is in fact a longer lasting and deadly catastrophe,” Choi said in an interview with Vancouver Is Awesome.

Choi noted it would be helpful to see the numbers as the months progress to give a more detailed analysis but so far the falling birth rate does follow historical examples. For instance, Choi mentioned there was no such birth rate decline during the 10 hour blackout New York City experienced in 1965 as opposed to the decline seen following the Spanish Flu of 1918.

Couples spending more time indoors… surely that would make more babies?

Again, more numbers will have to be seen in order to make any certain claims as to what the birth rate will do in the coming months but Choi says this could feed into a slowing birth rate worldwide.

“Already fertility is steadily decreasing for most of the developing countries,” Choi said “It’s more likely the case that the trend toward smaller families is being accelerated rather than a baby boom-like surge right after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The reason for the decrease Choi says is put simply, a great deal of uncertainty. Additional data will point more directly to which issue most affected B.C.’s birth rate but Choi says there are a number of issues that affect birth rates that have already been identified in other countries.

Chief among those reasons was uncertainty with the economy and job security coupled with the already rising costs of child rearing. Closely related to the economics point is housing security, followed by personal safety or safety of the baby.

While empirical evidence says pregnant women were no more likely to catch COVID-19 than others of a similar age, if they did catch the virus they were more likely to contract more severe forms of it.

“They’re more likely to end up in the hospital, they’re more likely to be in a ventilator,” she said. “In this particular pandemic women may actually fear becoming pregnant given the consequences towards their health.”

Choi went on to say there have been studies that have shown that infants who contract the virus at the time of delivery can also become susceptible to severe forms of the disease.

Who and what this has the biggest impact on

Nathanael Lauster is a sociologist and demographer working as an associate professor at the University of British Columbia. Speaking with Vancouver is Awesome, Lauster said going forward he wouldn’t be surprised if the downward trend continues for B.C. but can’t say definitively.

“It’s quite possible that we’ll end up with a significant dearth, a drop in births throughout the whole year,” Lauster said. “For some people this may end up being a bit of a inequality story.”

Lauster explained that if people were able to work at home their job security remained relatively unchanged, meaning they could afford to have children. Those who worked in the hospitality sector for instance may not be so lucky.

As to how this information affects the daily lives of British Columbians, it might not have that much of an impact at all Lauster says.

“Certainly it affects at a very pragmatic level things like planning for how many kids are going to be in school. We want to know how many kids are coming in order to plan ahead and this will I think disrupt that,” he said “We may end up with school projections and understandings of how many kids we have to plan for that are significantly off.”

Lauster also said the numbers came as no real surprise to anyone who studies demographics or sociology.

“If we really thought that spending lots of time with your partner would increase people’s sexual appetites then maybe that would change,” he said.


More cases of new variant of COVID-19 can be expected in B.C.: Health Ministry

More variant cases expected

More cases of a new, highly transmissible COVID-19 variant strain are expected in B.C. in the coming weeks, after the first incidence was reported on Vancouver Island over the weekend.

“While everything is being done to prevent spread to other people in the community, we do expect to see more cases of this variant in B.C. in the coming weeks, just as other jurisdictions are seeing,” a Health Ministry spokeswoman said Monday.

It’s for this reason that health officials are asking British Columbians to keep to their household members, avoid all non-essential travel, and use layers of protection including physical distancing and masks. “All British Columbians have to remember the virus spreads quickly but shows up slowly,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a joint statement.

A pre-symptomatic person returned to B.C. on flight AC855 from London to Vancouver on Dec. 15 and developed symptoms while in quarantine, Henry and Dix said.

The Health Ministry won’t say how the person travelled to the Island or where specifically they are located.

Flight AC8265 that arrived in Nanaimo from Vancouver later that same day is also on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s list of COVID-19 exposures.

On Dec. 19, the person on the Dec. 15 London-Vancouver flight tested positive on Vancouver Island for COVID-19.

The person’s test sample was sent to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control on the Lower Mainland for whole genome sequencing and on Dec. 26 it was identified as positive for the U.K. variant.

Whole genome sequencing is complex and take on average five days to complete, the Health Ministry said.

Ongoing reviews may identify additional cases in the coming days, Henry and Dix said.

On Dec. 21, Henry said “to date, we have not seen this variant here in B.C..”

The Health Ministry confirmed Henry “was not aware of a case of the variant in B.C. at the time of her Dec. 21 media availability.”

The variant, which researchers say is more contagious than previous forms of the COVID-19 virus, has caused record numbers of infections in the U.K., accounting for more than 60 per cent of cases in London. It prompted Canada to suspend flights from the U.K. Dec. 20 to Jan. 6, 2021. Other countries have taken similar action.

Alberta has also confirmed a case of the variant.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, in her first news conference since before Christmas, said the infected person recently arrived in Alberta from the U.K. The person did everything they were supposed to upon arrival, staying isolated from others, and there is no evidence their illness has spread, she said.

Health officials in Alberta are working with the Public Health Agency of Canada to obtain a list of people who were sitting near the infected person on their flight to Alberta, she said.

The variant has been ­confirmed in three people in Ontario — a couple from ­Durham Region who had been in contact with a recent traveller from the U.K. and a person in Ottawa who had recently ­travelled from the U.K.

“B.C. continues to support the Canada-wide travel ban on all flights arriving from the U.K. until Jan. 6, 2021, and urges all British Columbians to continue to avoid all non-essential travel to keep people and communities safe,” Henry and Dix said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so does the province’s response, but “greater restrictions are not being considered at this time,” the Health Ministry said.

“What has arisen in the U.K. is a new variant with a number of mutations, as many as 17 mutations, different changes in parts of the virus,” said Henry.

The variant strain can transmit more quickly and easily but does not seem to cause more severe illness, nor interfere with the effectiveness of vaccines, nor affect the ability of testing for the virus, she said.

Neither the province nor Island Health has updated the number of new COVID-19 cases since Dec. 24. An update is scheduled for 3 p.m. today.

Real Estate Professionals Urged to Stop Open Houses: Regulators and Provincial Association Recommend Virtual Tools

Vancouver, BC – November 05, 2020. The regulatory agencies overseeing real estate professionals in BC and the provincial association representing REALTORS® are calling on real estate professionals across the province to protect public health and safety by temporarily discontinuing open houses. With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in BC, the Real Estate Council of BC (RECBC), the BC Real Estate Association (BCREA), and the Office of the Superintendent of Real Estate (OSRE) are together strongly advising real estate professionals not to hold open houses for properties for sale or rent, to limit face-to-face interactions and to use virtual tools whenever possible.

“RECBC, BCREA, and OSRE share the position that open houses should not be held at this time,” said Erin Seeley, CEO of RECBC. “Protecting the public during the pandemic remains our top concern. Real estate professionals in BC have been very successful in using virtual tools to limit in-person interactions with clients, and we encourage them to continue those innovative practices to keep themselves, their clients, and community members safe.”

The recommendation to temporarily end open houses follows the issuing of an order last week by the Public Health Office limiting the number of attendees at an event in a private residence to six. Real estate professionals must follow the guidance from the public health office when conducting any in-person showings. Real estate professionals are advised to continue discussing the risks of in-person showings with their clients, and to recommend that their clients use virtual tools to show and view properties.

Darlene Hyde, CEO of BCREA, said “BC Realtors rose to the challenge of the first COVID-19 wave by embracing innovative virtual technologies to serve consumers while helping keep communities safe. With transmission rates increasing, Realtors can continue to show leadership in their communities by reducing in-person interactions, wearing masks and adapting to new public health guidelines and orders.”

Micheal Noseworthy, Superintendent of Real Estate, noted “It is important for the real estate industry to maintain public trust and confidence by continuing to work in a manner that protects the public. By following the advice and recommendations of the regulators, public health officials, and government, we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19, while continuing to provide essential real estate services that British Columbians rely on in their daily lives.

Information for real estate professionals and consumers on the use of virtual tools and on how to safely conduct in-person showings is available at www.recbc.ca and www.bcrea.bc.ca.