I was sad to miss the movie night earlier this week, as it sounded like a real blast. Hopefully something to be repeated in the future! I have had pretty good weather in Vancouver – although this is the best time of year to be here, apparently in winter it rains a lot.
But anyway, as my trip here is not just for holiday purposes, but also to assist in my studies (and fuel me with ideas for blog posts once I return to NZ and have better computer access) I have also learned quite a lot about a variety of matters which are likely to be of some interest. Here they go, in no particular order:
Firstly, house prices are scary – even by Auckland’s standards. Vancouver is close to having the least affordable housing in the world on average, however that simple statistic masks the truth to an extent. That truth comes through a bit clearer in looking at some recent real estate trends here. The massive gap between average prices for detached housing and attached/apartment housing is what one might expect in a place where the real value is sitting in the land. Attached houses and apartments use the land more efficiently and therefore have a lower cost. What’s really interesting here is that improving housing affordability in Auckland by building more apartments and attached houses is often dismissed in favour of more sprawl – for a number of reasons, including apartments and other attached housing being too difficult, too expensive and too unpopular to build in a way that’s affordable. I’m not entirely sure how Vancouver is getting around these issues, but clearly they are.
Secondly, it’s quite clear from travelling around Vancouver that – unlike Auckland – Vancouver is building houses. Though once again what is mainly being constructed are apartments and other attached housing types. Again from the same source as above: Looking back a bit further it becomes clear how Vancouver’s managed to really ramp up the number of dwellings (mainly apartments) over the past few years. This is shown in the table below (from here):
Like most places, housing starts in Vancouver declined hugely in 2009-2010 due to the economic situation, but Vancouver experienced a big resurgence in 2011 and the stats in the graph above show this trend has only accelerated in recent months. This shows that it is possible to quickly increase the supply of housing without having to resort to urban sprawl. Hopefully over the week or so I have left here I might get a bit more of an understanding around how Vancouver has done this.
Thirdly (and finally for now) I have been impressed and interested by how unfocused on the city centre Vancouver’s public transport (or “transit” as they call it) system is. Many of the busiest Skytrain stations aren’t actually downtown, the transit modeshare of trips to the city centre is quite possibly less than Auckland – but elsewhere is much much higher. It seems as though this is largely because their transit system is actually useful for these other trips, highlighting the enormous latent potential of Auckland’s PT network to better cater for trips beyond peak time commutes to the CBD.
After all, Vancouver’s Skytrain system is roughly similar in lengthy and station number to Auckland’s rail network – yet carries around 14 times as many annual trips. This suggests that we haven’t even tapped a fraction of rail’s potential market in Auckland.