Housing Construction in Seattle and Vancouver a Study in Contrasts

Planning is only one ingredient of the cocktail that produces new housing, but planning should bear in mind all the other factors influencing the process. Vancouver and Seattle provide case studies and sharp contrasts in housing outcomes.
August 17, 2017, 2pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"When it comes to condominium development, Cascadia’s two largest cities couldn’t be more different," according to an article by Margaret Morales.

"Last year nearly 60 percent of new housing starts in the city of Vancouver, BC [pdf], were condominiums; meanwhile, Seattle saw no new condominium buildings open. And that’s not changing anytime soon: less than 10 percent of all building slated for downtown Seattle in the next three years will be condos," explains Morales.

The question posed by the article is why the cities are building such drastically different additions to their housing stock.

The short answer is economics. In Vancouver, apartments are saddled with an unfavorable tax code, making condos the more lucrative multi-family housing investment even despite high rental demand. In Seattle’s skyrocketing rental market, one that’s climbed even faster than the condo market in recent years, apartment buildings are much more financially attractive, while condos come with bigger risks and, typically, lower returns.

Morales doesn't stop with the short answer, by any means, going into much more detail to examine the differences between the two cities. Thus the article serves as an in-depth examination of the cocktail of variables that influence the housing that comes out on the other side of regulatory schemes and market dynamics.

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Published on Monday, August 14, 2017 in Sightline Institute
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