Robust activity continues in Vancouver USA despite economic conditions that are less than ideal. Overall inventory levels throughout the city remain at less than two months which is still very tight, but well off the record set earlier this year at twelve days. The trend however is still moving towards a more generous inventory selection with the notable exception of urban condos which seem to remain tighter than the broader local market.
The local rental market continues to attract a wide range of renters from entry level and low income all the way up to the highest income levels renting units in the $8000 a month and higher range. It seems that demand for Vancouver’s core urban area is still very high. Vacancy rates in Downtown Vancouver are still extremely low with most buildings having more than 90% of units leased. Brand new buildings such as Coen North run by the Holland Partner Group on the west side of Block Ten obviously have a higher vacancy rate as initial leasing is still underway. But these newly erected buildings still tend to fill up fast and that is good news for all the developers finishing other large new apartment buildings in the core urban area.
There is a dynamic economic situation in Vancouver with new jobs, and demand coming from several sources. There is Portland flight that is driving a portion of housing demand as well as newcomers from outside the Northwest. Additionally I am noticing at least anecdotally a large influx of people from King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties coming into Clark County. That area to the north has become so expensive that some are choosing to move out. King County has such a blazing hot economy that they have little trouble bringing in new people from outside the area in spite of the fact it is one of the most expensive places in America to live.
I have written on other blogs about Washington’s continued status as the best place in the USA to live. Newsweek, US News and World Report, and Sperlings all show Washington as a top 3 destination in America and our state has topped US News annual list every year since 2018. Perhaps this is helping us defy the national economic trend of a slower economy.
Local politicians however can ruin success in both the private sector and government sector. All of us that live locally have watched the decline of Portland over the last 20 years in real time from our adjacent perch just across the Columbia River. Portland was America’s sweetheart city just 15-20 years ago and now it has fallen into third world status with residents fleeing like Californians. Portland did not have a significant natural disaster nor an economic disaster yet it went from being a VERY safe city with a super low violent crime rate to one of the worst cities for violent crime in the Western US. Property crimes were a long time problem in Portland but it has become an epidemic now. And of course it is no secret that Portland is completely over run with homeless people many of whom are dangerous.
Residents living here need to keep a snug leash on the Mayor and City Council as they seem to be embracing some of Portland’s failed policies. Both the private sector investment and the city investment in greater Downtown should be protected. To spend quite literally billions of dollars in investment only to allow it to be over run with crime and homelessness like we witnessed in Portland is simply foolish. Vancouver so far has done a decent job of mitigation particularly on the challenging and sensitive issue of homelessness. Violent crime in Vancouver remains low, but changes in local government attitudes could easily result in undesirable outcomes later. Often decisions made today don’t manifest the side effects until a few years later. The old adage that; “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a good one for policy makers to consider.
One last concern; the city is entertaining the idea of creating a homeless “safe stay community” on the full block of land currently owned by the Lynch Family Estate. Although the charitable estate is likely to offer the land for free, the idea is one of the worst I have ever heard. The stay safe communities are a noble gesture and it seems the city is happy with the other two already in operation. That stated, there are many reasons this is a bad idea.
- Both the City of Vancouver and the local business sector would be well served to have that parcel built to highest and best use which is a mid-rise or high-rise project that would generate millions in taxes for the city as well a millions in local economic income.
- Despite all the best efforts the stay safe communities are not attractive and will absolutely negatively effect local property values further reducing the city revenue as tax assessments fall.
- There are other nearby locations that make more sense. The city owns a 7 acre undeveloped parcel on E. 5th Street near Pearson Field. It seems carving out an acre there should be easy enough and it backs to mostly industrial areas. There are a few appropriately sized parcels or groups of parcels in private hands, west of the Clark County Government center that are dilapidated and underdeveloped. These would make an ideal location as well.
If the Lynch Family really wants to help out, and I believe they do, donating the land to a low income housing organization such as VHA and then having super affordable apartments built with income restrictions that only allow the ‘working poor’ or low income seniors to live there seems better. That block could easily support two five story wood framed structures with 150-200 units of 400 to 700 SF each. With the land donated and the city easing up on permitting and fees, the structures could be erected for $12-14 million. At $60,000 a unit and local low income subsidies already in place, $800 a month rent is doable for a non-profit or government organization. Something like that might just keep a struggling single parent or elderly senior from losing sheltered status in the first place.
We the people have to interact with our local elected officials. They are far more accessible than higher offices such as the US Senate or House of Representatives. You might be surprised to see many city and county level elected reps will actually respond to inquiries. Of course if they don’t keep that in mind when November comes around.