Unreal Realestate

My first thought was: there is somebody else in our seats. I looked at the back of a short-cropped grey head and only after a second look did I realize it was Campbell, or Camp for short, who was looking out over the tranquil Gibsons harbour with his back to me.

“Holy shit Camp, what happened to your hair? Is this in sympathy to Muriel’s ‘hair on fire’ and subsequent re-styling from last week?”

Campbell swivelled around and he now looked like an army general. “Yes and no,” he said. “Apparently respect is also in the eye of the beholder and my new look improves my public appearance both at the book store and in council. Short hair is in these days. Haven’t you noticed? On the other hand Muriel has pointed out to me that I looked like a cross between Einstein and Beetlejuice and was in serious need of some grooming. I aim to please in such trivial matters; it gives me an edge on the important stuff,” Camp explained.

“Wow, I guess it’s my turn next, except I only have to please Clare who doesn’t much care about my hair. It’s my weight she is more concerned with. My diet plan of: drink more beer and eat less is not having the desired effect.”

“We all have our cross to bear,” Camp said cryptically and with a nod to Vicky ordered us two pints of the foamy beverage.

“Nice haircut Camp,” Vicky said, lending credence to his argument.

“To change the subject, have you seen the latest stats on homelessness in Vancouver, over 3500 as of the latest count and the corresponding rental housing crisis? According to the latest census over 25’000 empty homes and 800’000 empty bedrooms, based on a study by Paul Smetanin, president of the Canadian Centre of Economic Analysis. All this in a housing market where the average house price is north of a million bucks,” I pointed out. “Shocking, to say the least, it’s a real estate casino where the renters are the losers.”

Camp just shook his short cropped head which was much less dramatic then when he shook his former lions head of curly white hair. It will take me a while to get used to it. “Yeah, and the government is spending more money on taxpayer election subsidies, $ 2.50 per vote, to replace the corporate and union donations, and nothing for daycare or rental subsidies but a few million defending the new premier’s public sliming of a senior bureaucrat.”

“I guess it is politics as usual in BC,” I said. “ Would it really be that hard to improve affordable housing and encourage more rental housing investments?”

“I guess there could be preferred tax rates for investors and developers in building and maintaining rental stock or there could be direct investment by the government in building and acquiring rental units. Something the CMHC (Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp) used to do before they became an insurance company or subsidies for co-ops.”

I thought this over while our beer arrived. “As long as there is extensive money laundering through real estate and offshore investors, flipping paper properties and mortgages and getting away without paying capital gains taxes, there is little incentive to invest in long term rental units. Add to that the tendency to take rentals out of the market by turning them into Airbnb’s. It’s a real detriment to affordable housing from Barcelona to Vancouver, from New York to Paris. More and more people rent out anything from the empty nest bedrooms to whole apartments via Airbnb. They can make as much as a month’s regular rent in ten days daily rentals, without the added worries and responsibilities of renter’s demands and problems.”

“This makes it difficult for Universities as well as business’s to attract young brains and talents. I have a good friend who was offered a coveted job at UBC but couldn’t afford to make the move from Halifax into the Vancouver real-estate market. What you pay for a house in Halifax you can barely buy a one bedroom apartment for in Vancouver. We should be happy to live on the tranquil Sunshine Coast,” Camp said.

“I guess we’re talking about popular destinations. I’m sure this maxim doesn’t apply to Detroit or Milwaukee,” I said.

“Yeah, but the word is out about the beautiful Sunshine Coast I believe. Mass tourism has arrived here as well. Like in that small town in Switzerland’s Ticino. Somebody posted a u-tube video on the idyllic hamlet, which received a million hits and resulted in hundreds of tourists descending in cars, trains and automobiles on the unsuspecting and unprepared town and it’s denizens. It could happen here.”

“It already has,” Camp pointed out, “multiple coaches, sometimes three or four at a time, have taken up all the parking across from Winegarden park this summer and disgorged a couple of hundred thrill seekers onto our main street. Most of them were looking for a bathroom and photo ops of local curios, myself included,” Camp said.

“With your new hair style you’ve eliminated that problem,” I said.

“Hey, that’s a benefit I hadn’t even considered,” Camp laughed. My descent into anonymity. “That calls for a celebration !” With a flourish he raised his arm, making the V sign to Vicky who efficiently replaced our empty glasses with two full ones.”

“I’m not so sure if we can celebrate much these days. The lunatic in the white house is ready to flip the switch and hurricanes and earthquakes are devastating entire regions like Puerto Rico, the Florida keys and parts of Mexico. A volcano is about to erupt in Bali and add to that the half million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh fleeing ethnic cleansing by the Buddhists in Mayanmar. On and on goes the list. It’s a crazy world out there,” I lamented.

“On the contrary my friend, there is lots to celebrate. Take a look at the Invictus Games, currently going on in Toronto or how about McCain, even though he is diagnosed with brain cancer he seems to think with a clearer mind then all the other republicans, or closer to home we now have a third micro brewery and distillery in our small town. That’s real progress I dare say.”

“I suppose you’re right Camp, celebrate the small victories since we can do little about the big picture. Cheers.”


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