April 12, 2017

New Westminster: Next Boom Town for Commercial Real Estate

VIA VANCOUVER SUN: New Westminster is poised for a real estate investment boom over the next 10 years thanks to its relatively affordable housing costs, SkyTrain connections, and its comparatively low commercial development fees, according to new research by the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN).

The report, produced independently by REIN, said New Westminster is growing in several other key ways that suggest it is ripe for new residents and investments. The city’s labour force participation is up, along with its GDP and population of young families, who are fleeing other, costlier municipalities in the region.

New West is “one of those cities that — you don’t want to say missed the boom — but it didn’t get the impact that the other cities in Metro Vancouver did,” said REIN senior analyst Don Campbell.

“New West is going to be coming alive,” he said. “This next decade for New West is going to be very strong.”

New West’s three largest employers — TransLink, Royal Columbian Hospital and Port of Vancouver — remain its economic drivers.

The hospital generates roughly $377 million in total output and employs more than 3,800 workers. The port contributes $290 million annually to the city’s GDP and supplies 3,100 jobs. Another 6,300 people work at TransLink, according to the report.

Campbell said, though, that the findings suggest that more affordable homes and commercial development fees is making the city a good place for small business and families.

Those savings could help many small businesses add staff, he said. “There are much more affordable light industrial bays in New West … and it’s easier to get staff in New West because of the SkyTrain.”

As for residential property, the report showed that average benchmark prices for all types of homes — apartments, townhouses and houses — have been increasing over the past year.

More than 27 per cent of the city’s population is now comprised of young families, Campbell said.

“Homeowners and investors who have been paying close attention over the last few years have done very well to position themselves in this transportation hub city,” he said. “Vacancy rates have dropped, demand has increased for home and condo purchases and we are, in fact, just witnessing the beginning of a strong upward demand curve.”

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote said the city needs to welcome growth, but also has to handle the rising property and housing costs that will undoubtedly follow more investment.

“On one hand, we work really hard in this city to see the revitalization of our historic downtown and are happy to see the city reaching its potential,” he said in an interview. “But the other side of that coin is the impact that has on affordability. We do have concerns about the vacancy rates for rentals. It’s extremely low and putting pressure on our rental housing market.”

He said the city’s rental home vacancy rate is around 1.4 per cent.

The REIN report predicts that New West’s population will climb from just over 70,000 now to more than 90,000 by 2030.  Cote said many new residents are migrating from Vancouver. “I think the reason for that is that we share some of the urban qualities of Vancouver, but from an affordability perspective, there’s definitely some relief here.”

To read the full article in the Vancouver Sun, click here.

Evan Duggan