Not one of BC’s 20 most populous housing markets is affordable any longer, a recent study from a Canadian real estate brokerage suggests — but a couple come close.
Zoocasa, which published the study earlier this month, looked at median incomes from Statistics Canada and July benchmark home prices, care of local real estate boards, to calculate a price-to-income ratio for each market.
The top market in terms of affordability was Prince George.
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For a single-income household, the price-to-income ratio was nine, which is how many years it would take someone earning the median income to buy the average-priced house in Prince George, supposing they saved 100 per cent of their income annually.
“Obviously, for a single-person household, Prince George is still three times the recommended affordability, so while it is the most affordable option, it is not an affordable option if you’re making the median single income for the province,” Penelope Graham, the managing editor of Zoocasa, tells Livabl.
For a double-income household, the market was closer to the affordability threshold of three times the median income. It would take a median-earning couple four years of saving every penny to purchase an average-priced home in Prince George, where the benchmark price was $347,470 in July.
“We absolutely are affordable,” says Leah Mayer, vice president of the B.C. Northern Real Estate Board, in an interview about the Prince George market. “We’re farther away from those [less affordable] markets,” she notes.
The market’s relative affordability has attracted “lots” of investors from the Lower Mainland, she tells Livabl.
This is part of what has driven Prince George property values in recent years. But growth has remained “slow-and-steady,” as home prices have typically climbed between 3 to 7 per cent annually, says Mayer.
“We’ve got lots of industry that drives our prices,” she adds, noting the forestry and mining industries as well as Healthcare provider Northern Health and the University of Northern British Columbia are major employers in the area.
“You can afford to buy and live instead of just working to pay your mortgage, so it’s a great place,” says Mayer.
To the south, Kamloops — with a benchmark price of $406,768 — matched Prince George in terms of the double-income ratio. But it was considerably less affordable for single-income households at a price-to-income ratio of 12.
Vancouver had the worst affordability of any city in the province, according to the study.
The single-income ratio measured a jaw-dropping 32, while the double-income ratio was 14. The benchmark price of a Vancouver home was $1,229,400 last month, while the median one-person household income was roughly that of Prince George.
In the wake of tougher qualifying rules for all uninsured mortgages that were introduced at the start of the year, Zoocasa’s Graham doesn’t see affordability improving in the province’s major markets, at least not in the near future.
“It doesn’t look like a trend that’s going to reverse any time soon,” she says.
Check out the full 20-city infographic Zoocasa prepared below: