Land Speculation and Land Development – The Real Reason For The Expo Line Expansion

It is a no-brainer why SkyTrain light-metro is being extended to Langley and it is the same for the Broadway subway, with a combined cost of $7 billion.

Three guesses and the first two don’t count.

It all about land speculation and land development.

SkyTrain acts as a driver for municipal councils to relax zoning (up-zone) properties along the light-metro route. Assembled lands that are up-zoned for development means huge profits for land speculators and developers. Huge profits for developers means large politcal donations for the “right sort” of civic politicians at election time.

Those who support SkyTrain expansion are amply rewarded.

So the tiresome circle of building SkyTrain → land speculator profits → developer profits → demovictions → politcal contributions → higher fares → reduced transit service → more SkyTrain planning → building SkyTrain → land speculator profits → developer profits → demovictions → politcal contributions, and so on, and on, and on.

And to think the taxpayer and the transit customer is paying for this $7 billion grift!

Better transit for the Fraser Valley? Er no, just new condos at Whistler, Mexico or Hawaii for the privileged few, paid courtesy of the taxpayer.

Property sales near proposed Surrey-to-Langley SkyTrain corridor higher than in surrounding areas

It’s difficult to compare how land prices in areas around the Surrey to Langley line will increase compared to what happened in other SkyTrain corridors.

Joanne Lee-Young

Jul 14, 2021

Presale condo sales near the proposed Surrey-to-Langley SkyTrain corridor are growing faster than in surrounding areas, according to real estate experts.

“We have noticed some additional activity in the City of Langley, where the line will terminate, as well as along parts of the line in Surrey,” said Michael Ferreira, managing principal at Urban Analytics, which tracks presale condo projects.

The tricky part, he said, is figuring out what can be attributed to the SkyTrain as opposed to the lift of the “crazy pandemic” real estate market.

Based on Urban Analytics’ own data, said Ferreira, there has been “an approximate 15- to 20-per-cent increase in sale values of condos and townhomes in these areas from 2020 to 2021 compared to a 10- to 15-per-cent increase in neighbourhoods of Surrey and Langley not influenced by the SkyTrain line.”

When it comes to land sales, the interest is more stark. Connor Edinger, manager of land and asset data at Urban Analytics, looked at sites with multi-family development potential along that future Surrey-to-Langley SkyTrain corridor.

He compared the average price per square foot land prices from 2016 to 2019 for these properties with 2020 to May 2021, and found that prices for lots designated for medium- and high-density multi-family development, such as apartments up to and above six storeys, increased 24 per cent while prices for low-density sites, such as townhomes and row houses, rose 32 per cent.

Total sales for multi-family development sites sold in Langley City in 2021 are on pace for about $73.4 million, based on sales of $30.6 million between January to May, said Edinger.

That would be slightly down from the $90.1 million in 2020, although still a significant jump from $33.8 million in 2019 and $35.2 million in 2018 — and even from the boom years of 2017 and 2016, when sales were $57.4 million and $31.9 million, respectively.

Last week, the federal government officially committed $1.3 billion to fund the SkyTrain extension from the King George station in Surrey along Fraser Highway to 203rd Street in the City of Langley.

For now, it is a corridor marked by a lot of older car dealerships, some vacant land and strip malls in the Surrey portion, with more patches of bare land as it heads into Langley.

It is impossible to predict how surrounding land values will escalate compared to the way they did for commercial properties and single-family home lots when the Canada Line was built along Cambie Street in Vancouver or the Millennium Line by Brentwood Mall in Burnaby.

“It’s quite difficult to quantify,” said Kevin Murray, a senior sales associate at CBRE’s national apartment group. “Even the Broadway corridor (in Vancouver) is still up for speculation. Ultimately, the driving factor for land value is the rezoning potential and the change in the official community plan allowing for increased density due to the planned SkyTrain. If a property is in close proximity to the SkyTrain, but it doesn’t allow for an upzone, the value won’t change all that much.”

He said only properties that allow for major development potential, such as building a high-rise, will see a significant increase.

He pointed to the properties on Fraser Highway that have been owned by Bucci Developments since the mid-1970s. One is assessed at around $6.5 million and the other at $9.6 million, but they are “worth a lot more based on their density and development potential.”

In recent years, Bucci has been planning a major redevelopment just east of what is being presented by TransLink as a future SkyTrain station near 160th Street. The vision includes condo towers that are 30 storeys high and an extensive, mixed-use hub. But for now, the Bucci sites are occupied by a pair of small, low-slung, used-car dealerships.

“Overall, any properties that are on the corners of the SkyTrain stops will probably see the largest increase and demand from prospective investors/developers,” said Murray.

Bucci Developments hopes to get shovels in the ground in two years, said Peter Kiidumae, Bucci Investment Corp.’s director for asset management.

“There is no doubt (the SkyTrain) will impact real estate values and encourage more intensive development as evidenced by the increased interest of investors and developers enquiring about purchasing our properties.”

Langley City Mayor Val van den Broek said a final draft of its new official community plan and zoning bylaw updates was signed off in June, and these will go to a third reading for approval.

“This will be an entire revitalization,” she said. “We want (our transit-oriented developments) to be pre-planned. We want to say to developers, ‘This is what we want here.’”


2 Responses to “Land Speculation and Land Development – The Real Reason For The Expo Line Expansion”
  1. Dan says:

    Speculators and developers licking their lips over huge profits they will make should be the ones funding this not the over tapped tax payer.

  2. Canon says:

    Another made up store with no truth. Development has been ongoing along fraser highway for decades. It is caused by low interest rates. Low interest creates demand for home. Learn economics.

    Skytrain to Langley is now fully funded. $1.6 billion to take it to fleetwood and another $1.3 billion to Langley. Total. $2.9 billion. It will be completed this decade.

    Zwie replies: Sunshine, I guess you cannot read, the full cost is $3.95 billion to extend the Expo line 18km to Langley. According to your own calculations, you are $1 billion underfunded.

    Your deliberate attempts to use alternative facts is telling. Enjoy gridlock, because surrey will have traffic gridlock for decades to come.

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