Anyone living in Greater Vancouver knows that $500,000 doesn’t buy much of a home these days. Lucky if your abode was acquired before home ownership became an almost prohibitive expenditure.
I am fortunate to be living in a South Surrey townhouse, worth a bit more than five hundred thou, with windows looking at pleasant views; a small backyard packed with greenery and, from the front, trees and a glimpse of the North Shore Mountains. Very pleasant, especially compared to homes with just a view of the adjoining building or a bleak yard. But still, when it comes to looking out a window, nothing beats a water-view - the sea or lake - with the feeling of peace and relaxation it seems to convey.
My wife and I are both old enough to consider the not-too-distant necessity of downsizing to an apartment and have, for a while, been looking at all our possessions with an eye to what we could do without. Well, we could be quite comfortable in about 1,200 sq. ft of living space, half of what we now have. And if we were to move to an apartment, wouldn’t it be great to have the water-view we both love?
Millennium Water, the fabulous residential development on False Creek that was home to the athletes of the 2010 Winter Olympics began marketing units to the public and invited all to open-house viewing of several layouts.
So, we decided to make a day of it and go have a look.
We joined the hordes of similarly interested folks who traipsed through the gorgeously display-furnished units and were stunned by the beauty of a huge three-bedroom unit with unobstructed views of the bay and the high-rises of the West End, all framed in the North Shore Mountains. Yep, we could live here.
When I asked the attendant for the price of this unit, her answer of “four-and-a-half” was the abbreviated version of what I had to mentally append with the word “million.” And that’s before taxes, she said. All right, I thought, there must be something more affordable.
The next unit we entered had the love-at-first-sight heartbeat recognition of “this could be it” with a view just like the previous, two bedrooms and a total of 1,150 sq. ft. plus generous balcony space.
“Two-and-a-half,” said the attendant.
“Anything under a million?” I asked politely.
“Oh sure! Several units.” And she directed us to another building.
Ground floor, street view, one bedroom and bath, 650-square-foot total area, which is just large enough to swing a cat, and somewhat of an insult to the meaning of “home,” as such small (and even smaller) apartments are called in promo literature nowadays.
The attendant quoted, “Only 850 for this unit,” and I was relieved that it meant thousand - but for a small apartment? What planet are we on?
Among the people mostly shaking their heads over the cost of proposed ownership, there was a sprinkling of buyers. Why was I not surprised to see that a large number of them were foreign visitors, some with translators doing their negotiation?
So, sour grapes maybe? Not really. There are plenty of other places I couldn’t afford to buy - not just here. I know the City of Vancouver is on the hook to pay off the cost of construction, and buyers of any nationality should be a good thing, right? Yes, in an economic sense. Emotionally, no way!
This was to be one of our major Olympic legacies and to find it priced even higher than comparable properties of the area, so out of affordability to the vast majority of the host city is an affront to us all. But perhaps not so surprising after the way-too expensive ticket prices to major Olympic venues we had in the first place.
Bottom line? I will not be enjoying the view from any window of Millennium Water, only the cost-free spectacle of its architectural beauty from the outside. I will have to be satisfied with its legacy to the community and, for my own, the Olympic coins and red mittens will have to suffice.
AUGUST 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND
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