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episode # 64

David Eby has an Axe to Grind

NDP housing critic David Eby takes a break from the campaign trail to chat with Matt and Adam about housing policies, real estate speculation, and electric guitars.

Also, congrats to Yahel for writing our 100th review on iTunes! Here is a photo of him receiving his prize:

 

 

 

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Episode Summary


 

Adam: And welcome back to Vancouver Real Estate Podcast. I’m your host, Adam Scalena.

Matt: And I’m your other host, Matt Scalena.

Adam:  Matt, today we’ve got an exciting episode.

Matt:  We have David Eby of the N.D.P. on.

Adam: Absolutely so the former MLA for Point Grey running for reelection and also the current housing critic for the N.D.P.

Matt: Yeah.  I mean anyone who follows real estate knows the name David Eby.

Adam:  For sure.

Matt:   In the last 4 years basically he’s the voice of the opposition.

Adam Yup.

Matt:  He’s basically been in the news every day

Adam:  Right.

Matt:  for years now so it was a real exciting moment here when we had a chance to talk to David about his ideas on housing.

Adam:  And the one that actually took out Christie Clark in her own riding too.

Matt:  Yeah.

Adam: I mean real coup.

Matt:  Real coup.

Adam:  Real cool.  Real cool.

Matt:  Real super cool.

Adam:  Did I say coup or cool?  I can’t remember but really cool too David.

Matt:  Yeah, super cool, David.

Adam:  Anyways so also David joined us.  We’re talking about the role of real estate in B.C.’s economy.

Matt:  Yeah.  What role it should play basically.  I mean….

Adam:  Exactly.

Matt:  That was the key question I had because you know you get a guy who seems to be very critical of the rising market here and the spin offs in PTT,

Adam:   Right.

Matt: the amount of money it’s generated for the provincial government.  That’s the key crux of the conversation.

Adam:  Well totally and we’re a real estate town so it’s obviously a really interesting topic and another thing we should mention before we get to our interview with David is we are non- partisan.

Matt:  Yeah.

Adam:  The NDP actually reached out to us.  They’re on the ground level.  They… looking for mediums to engage the people.

Matt: They knew about the podcast.

Adam: Yeah.  Exactly so we were happy to have them on but we also have sent out requests to the Liberals and also to the Green Party and if anyone out there knows anybody in the parties that want to give them a nudge and get them on the program

Matt:  Yeah.

Adam:  we’d love to have them on to talk about their housing platform.  I think it’s important that everybody in lower mainland really understands exactly what changes are being proposed.

Matt: That’s right and at the very least we’re going to have all three platforms on our website up later today.

Adam:  Yup.

Matt:  so you can go there to check it out but yeah we hope to have those guys on.  We have less than 2 weeks to do so let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Adam:   Absolutely so without further ado, here’s our interview with former MLA Point Grey and current housing critic for the NDP, David Eby.

Matt:  Enjoy guys.

 

Adam:  Okay so we’re here with David Eby, former MLA for Vancouver Point Grey, running for re-election and Housing Critic for the NDP.  How are you doing, David?

David:  I’m great.  Nice to be here.

Matt:  Yeah, thanks for taking the time.

Adam: So first of all, David, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

David:  Yeah.  I’m a lawyer by training and I started practicing law.  I was a federal government lawyer, worked for the Federal Department of Justice and then I worked for a couple of non-profit organizations, Pivot Legal Society and BC Civil Liberties Association.  I got into politics because I was working with really low income people, people who were on social assistance, lived downtown east side who were living in these residential hotels and the buildings were falling into serious decay and the city was condemning them and everyone was being made homeless  and I was trying to push city council to use this bylaw that allowed them to do repairs and bill the repairs back to negligent owners who were letting these buildings fall apart and the city wouldn’t do it and so finally I said well, I’ll run for city council if you’re not willing to do it and I promptly lost two elections in a row and then won for the first time in 2013 in Vancouver Point Grey.  I beat Christie Clark in the provincial election that year.

Adam:  Wow.

Matt:  And you’re originally from Ontario or?

David:  Yeah I grew up in Kitchener, Ontario and did my undergrad at the University of Waterloo and law school at Dalhousie so I’ve been a lot of places in Canada and settled out here because as I’m sure your listeners know it’s a great place to be.

Adam:  Absolutely.

Matt:  For sure.  Question for you, David.  It sounds like housing was almost the reason you got into politics, is that right?

David:  That’s exactly right, yeah.  I mean it was at the time it was really the very low end of housing that I was focused on was you know my clients were becoming homeless.  There was nowhere for them to go.  We were losing rental housing that was affordable to people working minimum wage jobs or who were on social assistance or disability and now interestingly in the second most affluent constituency in the province, Vancouver Point Grey, I’m still working on housing.   I thought when I get elected I could stop talking about housing for a bit but it’s still the same thing.

Matt: Yeah so that was one of my thoughts you know you’ve been in the media for a long time over the last couple of years talking about housing.  Is that something you hear from your constituents?   Is that a lot of the chatter you hear in Point Grey?

David: Yeah.  It’s really…it’s kind of an interesting thing because I sort of figured…well I got elected in Vancouver Point Grey.  There’s going to be the very wealthy people who have their concerns and there’s going to be the renters who have their concerns and the renters are probably going to be more concerned about housing than the really wealthy people in the constituency and interestingly it’s no matter which neighbourhood I’m in, whether it’s  Point Grey or on the east side of Kits or up at U.B.C. talking to students it’s housing and the people who are the winners of this housing crisis whose home values have appreciated so significantly are telling me I’m really worried.   My kids aren’t going to be able to live in the city.  I can’t actually use this money because we’re not going anywhere. I have to pay these huge additional property taxes but I’m on a fixed income so it’s actually weirdly like I feel like I’ve got less money even though my house is worth so much.  This isn’t something that’s benefitting me in any real way and I wish that we could do something about what’s happening with housing to make sure there’s a future for the city and for my kids in this place and that was a real shocker to me because I would have thought that this would be a group that would be saying you know don’t do anything.  This is great. We’re winning big.  Leave it alone.

Matt: My assumption as well, yeah.

Adam: So how did you… how did you end up focused on Vancouver Point Grey area?

David: When I ran for nomination back when Vision Vancouver was started in 2008.  I ran for nomination to be one of their candidates.  I came really close.  I think it was 17 votes or something I lost by.

Matt:  Oh God!

David:  Yeah, it was a real heartbreaker but once you run in politics and you do reasonably well people start calling you up and say we need candidates here, we need candidates there and I got a call from the Vancouver Point Grey NDP in 2011 saying Gord Campbell stepped down.  There’s going to be a by- election.  Christie Clark is running.  It will be the only election in the province.  You will be able to debate her about the issues that you care about and it will be a really great opportunity.  Do you want to come and run?  And I said, “Absolutely, I want to run against the premier.  That would be fantastic.”  I had no expectation either that l’d be close or that I would win but I definitely wanted to debate her on some of the issues that I cared about.

Matt:  Good for…yeah.  Also just from a kind of professional politician standpoint good for the profile, I’d imagine.

David: Well, it’s not great in politics to keep losing

Matt:  I guess.  Good point.

David:   but you’re right in the sense that there were some issues and there were main issues that I really care about that I wanted to debate the premier on and those issues I wanted to raise the profile of in particular and it seemed like a great way to do that.

Matt: And she’s also known as a really, really savvy politician, right, like on the campaign trail so it’s a real coup that you took her out.

David: Yeah.  She is a very good campaigner and I think the evidence of that was the 2013 general election when the NDP was up by about 30 points in most polls and we ended up losing that election.  She was a very good campaigner.  I think that one of the big mistakes she made in Vancouver Point Grey was a retail politics mistake.  She didn’t show up in the community enough.  She didn’t move to the community.  She didn’t have her office open for people to come in and talk and that’s something that is really important, not just in the community that I serve but across the province.  If you’re felt to be inaccessible as a politician it doesn’t really matter what your policy positions are

Matt:  Sure.

David:  people just say you’re not here.  We don’t want you.

Adam:  So talking about the upcoming election, can you outline some of the key points of the NDP’s election platform around housing?

David:  Yeah, so the premise of a lot of the work that I have been doing is that there is a housing crisis in particular in metro Vancouver but also in different parts of the province.  It takes different shapes in different places.  The housing crisis is driven by a couple of things: one is a real chronic shortage of rental housing with vacancy rates less than 1% in many parts of the province and escalating rents as a result of that.  And then also by I believe two different things, one is the use of our housing market in metro Vancouver by investors, speculative investors as a place to store money as opposed to a place to live.  And also a shortage of affordable housing supply.   The government used to be involved in providing affordable work force housing of different kinds and they haven’t been involved in that since about the 90s and it’s that we’ve been living on the stock that was there for a long time and it’s not there anymore.  So these two pieces the demand piece and the supply piece are driving what I think is a very serious housing crisis that really is going to dictate the future of metro Vancouver and the city of Vancouver and that’s what the platform focuses on so we have pieces I’d be glad to talk about in terms of the demand side as well as the terms of the supply side that I hope your listeners will be interested in as people may be looking for a place that they can actually afford to buy or rent.

Adam: Right and it seems like those are the big questions.  Should we be limiting demand or increasing supply right now?  So should we be doing one or the other or both?

David: Well the most famous demand side action that’s been taken is the Foreign Buyers Tax.  You know it was about 2 years that I was trying to sound the alarm with my colleagues in the NDP with the Liberals about what was happening in the housing market in terms of speculation that was taking place and they refused to acknowledge it was an issue.  They said it wasn’t a big deal and then finally they started collecting some stats and they realized yeah, it was a big deal.  Now the problem with the Foreign Buyers Tax is that it was taxing people not based on what they were doing.  They could have been living, working and paying taxes in the community.  It was taxing them based on what their passport said and from my perspective the issue isn’t what your passport is. This is an international city.  We’re welcoming people from around the world to come, live, work here.  Why are we not taxing people based on what they are actually doing which is don’t tax the people who are living, working and paying taxes here.  Tax the people that are buying properties and not paying income tax here, not contributing, not participating.  They are just buying a place to live and the story I tell is about Lawrence Fink, who is the head of the largest investment firm in the world called Black Rock and he has got 4.3 trillion dollars under management.  When he was speaking to a conference of investors in Singapore he said if you are looking for a good investment, it was a couple of years ago, if you’re looking for a good investment,  buy modern art, or buy condos in Manhattan, in London, England or in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  So this is the head of the worlds’ largest private investment firm saying buy condos in Vancouver as an investment.   Lawrence Fink is who we should be taxing and his clients who are buying condos as stocks or bonds, not this nice family of new immigrants from India where the father works for BC Hydro and did his PHD at U.B.C and

Matt:  Sure.

David:  and immigration cube.  So that’s not where we need to be going and that’s why we’re adopting…I understand you had Tom Davidoff on the podcast before…we’ve adopted a proposal he’s put forward that there is an additional property tax for people who are not paying income tax here but who are buying properties in metro Vancouver and using that money to support affordable housing initiatives.

Matt:  So it doesn’t matter where their passports from by the sounds of things.  Is income tax the defining feature there then?

David: For me, I’m open to any suggestions that other people have about good markers for indicating that you’re living and working and contributing in the community but income tax citizenship seems to be a really important one, where you’re paying your worldwide income tax, where…reflects you know where you’re working, where you see yourself as being a resident and it seems like the best marker.  When you talk about an international city like Vancouver where lots of skilled workers are on work permits the best marker for participation here in my mind is income tax.  There might be others but income tax seems to be a great way to determine you know are you here, are you contributing and if not then you’re going to have to contribute in another way.

Matt:  Right.  Thinking about speculators there’s been talk about a speculators’ tax or a speculation tax, are you…what’s your thoughts on that?

David:   Yeah, interestingly it’s as far as I know it’s Bob Rennie who’s been putting forward some of the proposals around speculators particularly in relation to people who own properties for just a short period of time, 6 months to a year.  The concern that I have is, one of the concerns that I have and I don’t know if Mr. Rennie is advocating this but is in relation to pre-sale condos.  I find it very frustrating that people can buy pre-sale condos with a limited amount of money down and then flip them driving up costs for people who legitimately want to buy them and live in them and this seems to be an issue that’s really frustrating to people who are trying to get into those pre-sale condos so I think if there is any area that was sort of low hanging fruit in terms of reigning in some of the speculative activity that’s that pre-sale condo activity is it.   But Ontario has already taken the step of addressing that pre-sale condo speculation that we are seeing and in an area of really short supply it seems like a reasonable step to take but obviously we need to be increasing supply as well.

Adam:  When it comes to pre-sale condos is it a question of terminating the ability to assign the contract or how do you go about it in a way where you’re not going to penalize people that actually have to sell assignments for life changes?

David:  Yup.  There are a couple of ways to do it.  I mean the particular legal mechanism that you ultimately use could be any number of things. In Ontario I understand that they’re using an additional tax where they deem the assignment to be a sale and so then there’s a property transfer tax type charge that applies and that takes away some of the incentive of investing in that because you lose the investment value.  I think that there are a number of taxes where we provide exemptions for different kinds of situations and one of the examples is property tax where if it’s your primary residence you might get a grant.  If you’re a senior you might be able to defer so there are certain examples of taxes where we’ve been able to carve out exemptions for people or applications for exemption to the tax and that’s something that you would have to do because I think we can all imagine a scenario where someone wants to buy a pre-sale condo and then loses a job or gets sick and has to assign it to someone else so you wouldn’t want to be applying a punitive speculator’s tax to somebody in that situation.

Matt:  So one more question here about assignments because I read in The Vancouver Sun last week-end, you had some quotes about assignments and speculators in the pre-sale market and my impression was, at least from the quotes, that speculators and especially foreign speculators are driving up prices due to speculating on pre-sales and assigning them prior to completion so they avoid the Foreign Buyer’s Tax. Is there a causal relationship there?  Do you think that the market is actually being driven by pre-sales because we have a lot of clients interested in new condos here in Vancouver and there is literally nothing to buy?  I mean and part of that is the demand but a huge component of that is that there’s literally nothing on the market right…the supply side.

David:   Yeah.  There’s nothing in my mind that suggests that what’s happening in the pre-sale condos is somehow linked to your passport status whether it’s international or domestic but there’s lots of indicators that there’s a lot of speculative activity taking place in the market and I think that one of the failures of the provincial government has been their total unwillingness to collect data about anything related to the real estate market.  We had to beat them up for a year and a half, a year and three- quarters before they finally decided to even collect information about passport status for people but they still don’t tell you is someone here on a work visa, is someone here on a student visa, is someone not here at all, or are they not paying any taxes here at all.  There’s no way to break down that group of people that might have international passports and there’s no doubt at all about pre-sales.  We have absolutely no information about that so the number one driver of the economy in metro Vancouver is the real estate market and it’s hard to think that if we had another industry that was the number one driver in metro Vancouver that we wouldn’t collect any information about it whether it was technology or if we were still a big lumber camp or whatever that we wouldn’t know who are our number one customers, who’s buying the product, what’s working in terms of marketing, none of that data and it’s quite remarkable to me the willful blindness of the government in something that could stop.  You know, if the demand around the real estate market could stop and we wouldn’t even know why or who it was who was not buying anymore. It’s a crazy thing.

Adam: So moving on to the question about supply.  So obviously there’s a lot of people right now…there’s the Yimby movement which we’ve had on this podcast and the Nimby movement as well.

Matt:  They haven’t been as well represented, the Nimby’s but they’re out there.

Adam:  We’ve asked plenty to be on the show but she’s not coming.  No on my podcast.  Anyways the point is what is the NDP’s policy for increasing supply?

David:  The core in my mind to the supply argument is not simply that we’re building more units but what kind of units we’re building and the frustration that I have is the city of Vancouver has…they have a record number of housing starts and I keep being told that you know we’re not building enough supply yet the kind of supply that’s being built whether it’s a studio apartment with an executive chef and valet parking and you know selling for a million dollars downtown.   I mean yeah, you’re building a new unit of housing but who is that housing for and who does that serve and why are we building that instead of family housing?  Is there a way that we could build housing that’s actually practical for people in metro Vancouver and so I think that the core of my supply concern is that we need to be increasing the supply of housing that’s affordable for families that live and work in metro Vancouver and there’s all kinds of ways we can do that so when you look at the west end, the rental housing in the west end that was built through a federal government program that incented the construction of rental housing.  It was called the Merv Program, built thousands of units of rental housing in metro Vancouver.  That program was ended in the early 80s.  When you look at the south side of False Creek, near Granville Island, there’s a huge parcel of federal land where the feds and the city of Vancouver got together and built mixed income community.  They built market housing.  They built social housing.  They built rental housing and they had and built an amazing community.  Now it was great for the time.  It’s not practical for now but it’s an example of using public land to build affordable housing for people so whether it’s incenting the construction of certain types of housing or whether it’s using public land to build mixed income communities this is what we should be doing and instead we’re selling off huge parcels of public land, the Oakridge Transit Barns for half a billion dollars, we’re selling off the Jericho Lands.  The province sold off half without staying involved like the federal government did to ensure affordability.  I don’t understand why the government’s not recognizing these opportunities. When you have 33 acres in the middle of Vancouver and you could be doing an amazing mixed income community.  Previous governments recognized the importance of doing that for the future of the city.  We don’t recognize that anymore and we need to change that so that’s part of the way that we can address supply is to encourage the kind of construction of supply that we actually need.

Adam:  Why don’t you think that the current government’s recognizing these opportunities?

David:  Well, I’ve got all kinds of theories about big political donors, about you know the fact that certain developers are major donors to the BC Liberal Party and that they like things just the way they are but you can also say there’s just a core philosophical difference between the BC Liberal party and the NDP and as a coalition party and that difference is that one of us believes that government can usefully be involved in producing affordable housing and one of us doesn’t.  Now the BC Liberals say the market will solve the problem for us.  It hasn’t.  The housing crisis is getting increasingly worse and yet they persist in insisting that the market will provide work force housing for us and the market is not providing work force housing for us so at some point either they have to say our belief is fundamentally flawed in some way.  We don’t know what it is but we need to be involved in providing this work force housing and they’re slowly shifting in that direction in this election.  For the NDP, we’ve said for a long time.  It’s really clear about how we’ve built affordable housing for the work force in the past.  The work force in the past, government’s been involved and they’ve facilitated and encouraged the development of really great communities and we need to be doing that again.  That’s one of our core beliefs is that government can actually usefully do some of these things.

Matt:  Do you have a sense of what…if the NDP is successful and these policies are implemented what type of impact they’ll have on the housing market? Because obviously Adam and I work with tons of people that are currently buying properties at prices where they’re stretching to get into the market.

Adam:  And they’re feeling like the housing prices have got away from them so they’re feeling the pressure to get in now because is it going to be 30% more expensive next year so I guess what do you say to homebuyers that have recently purchased, who have stretched themselves now and might potentially see a huge amount of equity or a decrease in their property value?

David:  I think that one of the things that most of us are expecting around the housing market is one of three things, right?  Either house prices are going to go down, a lot of people talk about a bubble.  Is the bubble going to burst?  What happens if interest rates go up?  Lot of people sellers, lot of people hugely in debt… the housing market is going to stay about the same…which means that housing is going to be largely unaffordable for the vast majority of people who live and work in metro Vancouver or housing prices are going to continue to increase.  The role of the provincial government in ensuring any one of these three outcomes is limited.  I mean the provincial government can do what they did with the Home Loan Program to try to encourage prices to go still higher at the entry level by giving people a second mortgage for a down payment.  They can do those kind of things to incent the market along but once it starts going downhill or what it is that triggers the market to start going downhill is… I mean there are lots of governments that have accidently started off that kind of downturn or intentionally done it but when we look at Singapore for example, here’s a government where they set as a priority affordable home ownership for the majority of their citizens and they’ve achieved home ownership for 91% of Singaporeans by being involved in the housing market and they are a small island with a huge population.  The government made that a priority and housing is still hugely expensive in Singapore…if you wanted to buy housing today in Singapore…incredibly expensive to buy housing there so government can be involved in increasing the supply of affordable housing for residents and it doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be any change in the market housing price.  I do think though that we have to address the fact that we’ve got a large number of numbered companies, offshore trusts buying property and not necessarily the kinds of properties that your listeners are interested in but in my constituency buying up houses on the west side of the city of Vancouver.  We don’t know who’s owns them actually.  We don’t know where the money is coming from.  We need to address that issue.  It can’t be a haven for dark money from wherever and Transparency International did a great report about needing to know who is actually buying our property but I mean I don’t think that any of your listeners are buying 5 million dollar mansions on the west side but maybe they are but that’s probably where there would be some impact on prices.

Matt:  So apart from just homeowners you know you mentioned that real estate is the #1 driver of the economy here, a lot of people I talk to you know that are watching this election very closely are concerned that you know it’s kind of killing the goose that laid the golden egg in some senses, right, like the Liberals have benefitted enormously from the property transfer tax windfalls of the last couple of years.  You know what we hear often is and I’m sure you hear this every day because the NDP gets attacked with this all the time but there’s all sorts of policies or all sorts of spending ideas and going after the industry that’s the #1 driver of the economy you know what are the concerns around that?

David:  Well I think you know all you have to do is look next door in Alberta, right?  They had a single industry that was driving a lot of their prosperity.  They took in a lot of money from that industry and they didn’t use the money wisely.  They didn’t put it away.   They didn’t invest in things that would be in place to make sure that when the industry wasn’t there for them that they had something to fall back on and I feel that way very much about real estate in metro Vancouver.  The real estate issue, the crisis that we’ve seen has come at a cost in other industries, whether it’s the tech industry having trouble recruiting, some of the major universities having trouble recruiting the people they need because they don’t want to come to a place where they can’t afford to live and they can get paid the same salary somewhere else and actually afford to live there.  It comes at a cost and so when we have windfalls like the property transfer tax windfall that’s come in over the last couple of years and the government has these public properties that they can sell for half a billion dollars that they wouldn’t have been able to sell for that price before we need to be taking that money and investing it in things that will counter some of the problems that come with the housing crisis like affordable housing  and also investing in other industries so that they are there for us when inevitably real estate shifts because it always shifts.  It’s a cyclical industry like many of the resource industries in British Columbia so we need to be thinking long term about these kinds of things and that’s really the thinking that I think has been missing.

Adam:  So in keeping on with the supply question, what changes do you think need to happen at a municipal level in Vancouver?

David:  Well, I’ve heard a lot of concerns about the length of time it takes to get permits approved.  I have a constituent in my community…has a beautiful basement that he wants to rent out to a student in a home that is already mostly rental housing units and he went to the city to get a permit and he wasn’t able to get approval without getting $5000.00 architectural drawings of the basement suite and he’s only going to be renting it out for $6 or700.00 a month so he’s like…

Matt:  Yeah.

David: why would I bother?

Matt:  It doesn’t make sense.

David:  And so you know, we really do need to be working with the cities to make sure that they’re facilitating and encouraging people to use that space in their homes that maybe, especially in my community, a lot of aging people who could use the income from a renter in their place and access some of the equity in their house by renting out some space and having a suite but they’re really reluctant to engage with the city on those kind of things.  I think those are places where the province could usefully make a difference and being involved in supporting cities to have faster turnaround time, to reduce some of the requirements.  A lot of the city’s requirements around permits are driven by concerns about liability that the city would be sued if someone did a renovation to a suite and then someone was injured or hurt as a result of a negligent renovation so the province could be involved and say look if you have an engineer and an architect signing off, you can’t sue the city.  You can sue the engineer.  You can sue the architect.  You can sue the contractor.  So if we can address some of these concerns the city has, maybe we can speed up permits and we can encourage people to build rental housing and actually rent out some space.

Adam:  What about zoning?

David: So zoning’s a really important question and one of the big challenges that the city has faced, I think because of what’s happening in the real estate market generally so we have now increased speculation in areas where people think the zoning is going to change

Matt:   Sure.

David:  which is driving up a lot of the costs.  One of the proposals that’s in front of us is allowing rental only zoning so there is a number of areas where there’s rental housing and because the cities are very concerned about speculation, cities like New Westminster have said, you’re not allowed to take down this rental housing without a plan to replace and resettle all the tenants that were there.  If they could rezone this area where the rental housing is then they could allow the rental housing to be redeveloped.  It would control some of the speculation people who think they can tear down the rental housing and build condos in their place and so that’s one example of using zoning as a really constructive tool.   The other one that often comes up…people look at the west side where I represent and they say oh look at all these single family homes. What a waste of space.   We need to be building more dense housing.  I think there’s all kinds of opportunities to densify in the west side and we’re actually seeing them so it’s a bit deceiving to drive down the street and see all these single family homes because actually in the homes many of them have been converted into 2 or 3 suites so when I’m door knocking, I go around the basement to the person who’s living in the basement.  Then I go to the front door and the front door actually leads to 3 doors in the house so it’s actually a small apartment building as opposed to a single family house anymore but that kind of thing doesn’t happen on the south side of Broadway.  It only happens on the north side of Broadway and so you know we need to be having conversations with the city about that and I think they are moving that along actually.  But it is an area where the city is responsible for zoning and we need to work with cities to encourage that.  The concern that they have, the concern that my neighbours have and a lot of my constituents have is if you rezone for townhomes for example will everything be torn down just like it was along Granville Street or

Matt:  Right.

David:  along Oak Street or whatever…

Matt: Right. Canby.

David:  Canby…almost overnight.  I mean there is so much pent up demand so is there a way for us to do it without bulldozing the entire neighbourhood which I think is a fair question to ask.

Matt:  Yeah.  Yeah, I was speaking with somebody last night in Grandview on the east side and I was actually surprised because it was at a soccer game for 4 and 5 year olds and it was a parent and what she said and we weren’t talking about real estate, she said I’m worried about increased density in this neighbourhood which I found shocking but her concern was we can’t get our kids in to the schools we want.  We can’t get in to the daycares we want.  We can’t get after school care.  We can’t get into the sports programs.  We can’t get in to swimming lessons and you know with increased density what’s going to happen? And I mean those are legitimate concerns but…massive.

David:  Yeah, I live in a really dense community, Westbrook Village which is the south campus of U.BC, there’s a lot of housing units there.  It’s very dense but the infrastructure is there to support it.  There’s really good community centres.  There’s really good parks and we don’t feel it.  We’ve got all these spaces we can go to and that are fantastic and because it’s dense there are services there.  There are grocery stores, restaurants and these kinds of things.  So as long as we’re keeping the infrastructure up with the density I think that’s really important

Matt:  Right.

Davis: for people and that’s an important role the provincial government like around transit, the transit conversation we’re having right now.

Matt:   Okay, David, the Liberals have taken a lot of heat obviously for taking donations from real estate developers.  This is not necessarily a question about the types of donations the NDP take but more a question about BC being considered the wild west of… in terms of political landscape.  I’m just wondering if the NDP gets in, are you thinking of making any changes there?

Davis:  This is a really important issue for me. I, it’s one that I highlight on my flyer that I drop off on people’s doors is that we will ban union and corporate donations and strictly limit individual donations.  It’s really come to a time in Canada where people don’t have confidence that governments are making decisions for them.  They believe their governments are making decisions for their major donors and we need to end that.  It’s very corrosive impact and also I mean when we look at the United States we don’t want to follow them down the road they’ve gone in terms of the big money that’s happening down there but even the U.S. has more rules than we do.  You can’t donate money to a political party if you are from outside the United States.  You can’t donate money to a political party if you are doing business with the government and in British Columbia we take donations from all over the world

Matt:  Right.

David:  huge donations from companies doing business with the government so they get taxpayer dollars to do something and then they donate money back to the government it just….we need to fix it and we need to fix it now and the resistance of the BC Liberals to fixing it is really telling I think about both how they run their political party and how they run the province.

Matt:  And what about the…and it’s in the news right now, the Ironworkers’ Union funding a couple of employees on the NDP.  Is the position that we’re both on the same field here playing a specific game and the rules need to change but until they change…?

David: Yeah.  The NDP hasn’t stopped fundraising and the NDP hasn’t stopped taking money from corporations or unions but I think if we’re talking about the scale of what’s happening I mean, the Liberals have raised about 10 million dollars in just the last year and our fund raising goal for the entire election was about one-fifth of that and so the scale of what’s happening is very different but there’s no question that within the rules that are set out the NDP will compete based on those rules but we want to change those rules.  We want to change it and we want to make sure that the government of British Columbia is there for the people and not for major donors.

Adam:  So David, as the Housing Critic of the NDP, people must be constantly asking you about your current housing situation.  So have you bought or sold in Vancouver in the last five years?

David:  Yeah.  It’s funny that you would ask that so I had a 40th birthday party and some friends did a funny speech about how because my wife and I and our son have started renting.  We used to own before and they say a lot people think you know that Dave and Cailey are renting because they need a two bedroom but really they couldn’t find a real estate agent to represent them because at the time I was raising a lot of concerns about how the real estate industry was regulated.  We rent at Westbrook Village, in a 2 bedroom.  It was one of the few 2 bedrooms we could find.  We were in a one bedroom condo in Kits and we sold and that was a really good indicator to me of how desperate the situation was for the housing market.  I think we got like 14 offers and sold for tens of thousands of dollars  over our asking price and it was to a guy who had said that he tried to buy a bunch of times previously and been outbid and he just wasn’t going to lose this one.  There was no inspection, there was no, anything like that. It’s a pretty crazy market out there and I think a lot of people are holding on to what they’ve got because there’s no other investment that pays that kind of return and it means that it’s an artificially limited supply as people kind of wait to see what’s happening in the market or hold on to it as a perceived good investment.

Adam:  Wow, 14 offers.   That’s impressive for a For Sale by Owner.

David: Yeah.  Yeah. Exactly.  Exactly.   Yeah, it was a nice little place, had a little backyard. It was great but it was way too tiny for us and a two year old.  We’re really glad to be up at Westbrook Village.

Adam: Perfect, so we got this segment called The Five Wire.  Will you stick around for that?

David: Absolutely.  Let’s do it.

Adam:  Alright so favourite area in Vancouver?

Matt:  Don’t say Point Grey.

Adam:  Yeah. Exactly. Don’t say…Exactly.

David: My constituency, yay.   We, for us with a 2 year old, Westbrook Village, where we are is our favourite place to be.   I mean all the parks are there.  There’s a little water park for Ez, for our son, Ezra in the summer and we don’t really go anywhere so the fact that there’s only like one restaurant is fine with us and we can make a big mess and it’s not a big deal.  I do miss Gas town and Strathcona where I lived for a long time.  Lots of exciting things going on, a really fascinating neighbourhood, good tight community and a wonderful place to be but right now as parents of a two year old Westbrook Village is a pretty sweet spot.

Matt:  Favourite restaurant or bar…if you’re going out that much… with a 2 year old?

David:  Yeah.  Our favourite restaurant is Fable.  Trevor, who’s the executive chef there is an amazing chef in Vancouver and quite famous for his work and he does a lot of work around local food and it’s outstanding meals and super friendly people so we love going to Fable although 9 times out of 10 you’ll find us at Beercraft, which is like 50 metres from our front door.

Adam:   So that would be your favourite bar?

David:  Yeah.  I guess that’s our favourite bar. Yeah, oh yeah…favourite restaurant and favourite bar.  Favourite bar…when we’re on the campaign it’s still an old favourite from old Kitsalano days, is The Fringe which is just up from our campaign office.  It’s grungy, the staff are often grumpy but the nachos are huge and the drinks are reasonable priced and it makes me feel like I’m in university still.  It’s great.

Adam:  Great.  First place you take someone from out of town?

David:  I think that when I bring someone to Vancouver and they’re trying to get a sense about the place what we generally do is we…it’s such a physically active city I think that it’s important for people to understand that sort of part about Vancouver.   It’s one of the big reasons people are here so we’ll go down to the beach and we go from you know we’ll walk along Spanish Banks Up or down toward Kits Beach so that…because you can see the city and you can see North Van. You get a sense of the beaches and it really does the job of selling the place as a pretty spectacular, pretty spectacular city.

Matt:  Sure.  West side mansion or downtown penthouse…you might not be the right guy for this one.

Brayden:  Nobody is.

Adam:  That question always falls flat.

David:  No, it’s a good question.  It’s a good question.  You know I think for our family the fantasy of having sort of ground oriented housing is a very real one.  Both my wife and I grew up in houses that had a little patch of grass and a nice place to play…

Matt:  Sure.

David:  I think the reality on the west side is more laneway house than mansion…something for us to aspire to or a townhome and maybe that’s …but I mean prior to having a kid, it would have been definitely a real nice condo I think is the way forward but I don’t know all my priorities are screwed up now.  I’m sorry guys.

Adam: Les Paul or Stratocaster?

David:  Oh, wow!  We’re getting into the…

Adam:  There’s still 35 questions left.

David:  I’m a strat guy.   Yeah, I love playing guitar and I love jamming with my band. Unfortunately our jam spaces keep getting torn down by either condo developments.  Our most recent one got torn down by Mac, a company that I used to really like.  They’re building their new headquarters there on Ontario and Second and our jam space was in the way.

Adam:  Yeah.   It’s hard to…It seems almost like from talking to you about all your jam…all the jam spaces that you’ve lost I feel like that may be why you’re housing critic.

David:  Yeah.  Exactly.  It’s a straight vendetta.

Matt: It seems like there’s an axe to grind here.

David:  It’s a nasty cycle, right?

Matt:  and it’s a Stratocaster.

Adam:  Yeah.  Yeah.

David:  Well done.  Well done.

Adam: Perfect.  Well, hey, maybe we’ll leave it here but thank you very much for your time, David and how can people find out more about the NDP platform?

David:  bcndp.ca is where the full platform document is.  It’s about a hundred pages and feel free to visit my website.  Its davideby.ca

Adam:  Excellent.

Matt: Thanks for your time, David.

David:  Thanks guys.

 

Matt: So there you have it folks, our discussion with NDP Housing Critic, David Eby.

Adam:  Super interesting conversation with David.

Matt:  Yeah.  He’s a really interesting guy.

Adam: He is.  He is and we covered a lot there but what was your biggest take-away, Matt?

Adam: Well I think the big takeaway for me and the way we tried to shape the conversation was to see how the NDP plans to tackle affordability in this city

Adam:  Right.

Matt:   while not over managing the market.  I mean, one things for sure it’s a tight line, or a tightrope to walk.

Adam:  Right.  And that’s the thing, right?   And I mean there are people that are concerned about government intervention in the market and I think it’s often…people think about the people that own their houses, clear title on the west side who have a lot of money in their homes…

Matt: Or somebody from out of town who drives up in a Rolls Royce and throws a bunch of money.

Adam:  or out of the country…

Matt:  I mean there are these images out there, right?

Adam:  But that’s the thing.  I mean, I think what we were also trying to get at is what about the people who have bought in the last couple of years who have really stretched themselves financially to get into the market and if there is a big change or a shift in affordability, what happens to them?  The last line of people that have purchased.

Matt:  Yeah.  Exactly.  I mean, it’s one thing…I mean there’s always risk in real estate, everyone knows that but if government is actually actively trying to deflate the market, and we’ll see a number of our clients potentially be under water and that’s something you definitely don’t want to see.

Adam:  Exactly and Matt, on a less serious note, it turns out that David Eby like Brady D whales on the guitar.

Matt:  Yeah and he’s pretty good.  You can actually find some of his tunes out there.

Adam:  Really.

Matt:  Yeah.  Braden and I actually were listening before he

Adam:  Oh

Matt:  he graced us with his presence over at Strathcona.

Adam:  I missed that.

Braden:  It’s pretty chill stuff.

Adam: Is it?

Matt:  It’s pretty chill stuff.

Adam:  I heard it was like…is it Indy rock?

Braden: Yeah.  What did he say…garage, garage?

Adam: He said warehouse rock

Braden:  Yeah.

Adam:  because he used to jam at warehouses until they got torn down

Braden:  Yeah.

Adam:  and bought by developers.

Braden:   Right.  Right.

Matt:  Yeah. We were trying to think of who David Eby’s guitar stylings most resemble and I was thinking you know John Mayer, definitely not a Slash.

Adam:  Yeah.  No, definitely not a Slash.  I was actually thinking …do you remember G.E.Smith and The Saturday Night Live Band?

Matt:  I do.  Yeah.

Adam:  E.B. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band.  He’s a bit of an E.B.Smith.

Matt:  He’s got to grow out his hair.

Adam:  He’s got to grow out his hair.  But yeah, he could be the front man.  Anyways Matt, how can people reach you?

Matt:  Give me a call anytime 778-847-2854 or matt@vancouverrealestatepodcast.com

Adam:  Or you can try me at 778-866-4574 or adam@vancouverrealestatepodcast.com

Matt:  We also got the Live Wire on our site.  Go check it out. vancouverrealestatepodcast.com

Adam:  Hold up.  Non-partisan episode, non-partisan line…

Matt:  Oh, oh, oh, oh.

Braden:  Yeah, come on Matt.  Geez. info@vancouverrrealestatepodcast.com

Adam:  Thanks, Braden.  And last, Matt.  You had one last thing you wanted to say before we cut for the day.

Matt: Absolutely.  Just wanted to give a shout out to Jahel.  He was the 100th review on i-Tunes.

Adam:  Thank you very much Jahel.

Matt:  We met him yesterday and man…what a gift.

Adam:  Yeah. What a gift, eh?  He’s going to be … that guy’s going to be drunk for weeks.

Braden:  Showered him in booze.

Adam:  Showered him in booze. Anyways it’s a celebration…the 100th episode.

Matt:  It’s a celebration.  So hey, there’s more to come.

Adam:  If you want to be showered in booze, rate us on i-Tunes.  Anyways have a great week, guys.  We’ll see you next…well we’ll see you on Sunday with the Short.

Matt:  Absolutely.  Take care guys.

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