June 23, 2017 (Friday)

by Yule Heibel on June 22, 2018

Cloudy, cloud-marbled sky, like fatty tissue, a cut of meat photo-shopped to look like mother of pearl. It could still all be red in claw and tooth, of course, at least down below.

Yesterday W. alerted me to a Wall Street Journal article extolling the real estate values of Victoria. The piece focused exclusively on the luxury high-end (of course – it is the WSJ), but it’s relevant for the entirety of the market. And it’s an amplification of a by now decades and decades old pattern, one which actually does a kind of disservice to the urban fabric.

Recently Richard Florida had a good article in MIT Tech Review where he puts his finger on a key problem today. As tech companies embrace the urban setting (versus the suburban campus), they’re unleashing what Jane Jacobs (not mentioned by Florida, but surely in mind) called catastrophic money into these economies. Jacobs thought of it in terms of building stadiums or huge, huge, huge one-off infrastructure projects or things like that. But it can be an industry cluster combining its formidable muscle into a superpower that turns the existing markets of a place upside down and inside out. This is what has happened in San Francisco, Boston, even New York City isn’t immune from “silicon” fever. Normal people with normal jobs, especially service jobs, are priced out. But at least there’s an actual industry pumping up the real estate bubble and froth.

In Victoria, there isn’t. There, it’s mostly rich lifestyle-seekers, free-floaters with gobs of money (often retirees), who come in and buy the best properties, then promptly cocoon themselves further in worlds that involve far away philanthropic interests, friends, and business dealings not grown or nurtured in Victoria. Furthermore, many of these people buy isolated properties in Saanich or North Saanich, yet it all gets counted as “Victoria.”

Victoria counts funny, it adds pluses and minuses creatively.

The kids who graduate from Oak Bay High, or Victoria High, or Mount Douglas High, who go to UVic or UBC, can’t come home to Victoria and make ridiculously high salaries to compete with the wealthy retirees buying choice properties and driving the real estate market higher. The problem is even worse in Vancouver, of course, because off-shore – read: Chinese – money has inflated house prices in Vancouver even more insanely than in Victoria, which seems to be mostly off the Chinese radar.

In San Francisco or Boston, however, a Boston University grad or a Simmons grad can get a job in her home town that, while perhaps not immediately, but eventually, pays really well, and she or he can buy a house a bit more on the outskirts. Okay, San Francisco has hit escape velocity; it seems no longer possible. But for a while it was – and maybe the market will change or correct itself. In Victoria, it’s all driven by rootless wealth, a kind of class provincialism. Anyway, the article was annoying. Rich people and their “problems”… Sniff.

Sometime yesterday morning, I decided to see what’s up on Facebook – nothing, except the first thing to show in my stream when I opened the site was a post from Steward Butterfield from June 18, Father’s Day, announcing that David, his father, had died the night before. Not sure if I wrote about it here, but just a few days ago I was googling Loreto Bay and came across his promotional materials from the early 2000s in which he tells how Loreto Bay came from a wish to find an answer to his and Norma’s quest to find an ideal retirement place (and community). I had discussed it at length with W., and now I read he died. Looked up the obituary in the Times-Colonist and saw that he was only 69. Kidney cancer. I remember him well when we all crammed into Gene Miller’s apartment for an ex-pat pro-Obama 2008 election night party. Seems like yesterday. I sent Stewart a message of condolences.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: