Writing for The Globe and Mail
, consultant and private developer William McCarthy argued that the housing industry in British Columbia is unique among Canadian provinces, and not for the right reasons.
“In British Columbia, both the centre-right provincial government and the centre-left City of Vancouver share the same group of fundraisers and ‘advisers’ from the real estate and development industries,” McCarthy explained.
This insular quality is what makes the province’s real estate sector vulnerable to irrational steps fuelled by groupthink, like the continuous “dumbing down” of licensing requirements for aspiring professionals.
“Real estate promotes itself as a profession and career, but in 2003, the requirement that you had to be employed solely as a realtor was waived. It can now be a part-time endeavour” McCarthy wrote.
“Other legislation, such as members adjudicating complaints between fellow members and the public (instead of member disputes only) favour the industry, not the consumer,” he added.
Such decisions have led to an alarming decline in standards that could inflict irreversible damage upon the industry, McCarthy warned.
“The real estate industry, financial institutions and governments together have forgotten basic housing metrics which worked efficiently for generations: markets and prices aligned to local incomes and financial stability,” he said. “It should be no surprise that lowering the threshold to enter the housing market has seen a simultaneous rise in personal debt as well as housing prices.”
In the final analysis, McCarthy said that realtors’ interests should not override those of the public and the industry as a whole.
“Politicians do not seem to understand what they have created,” he lamented. “Jurisdictions which truly aspire to be ‘world class’ do not follow the wisdom of condo sales people.”
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A politically charged environment combined with an alarming decline in industry standards have led to the seemingly out-of-control affordability situation in Vancouver—and realtors share much of the blame for the city’s predicament, according to the former president of the Real Estate Institute of Canada.