In search of nail houses in Lotus Land

Vancouver’s real estate market is pretty shitty, but until now there’s been some kind of safeguards against rampant gentrification. At the very least, the law used to require that in the event that a property developer wanted to by a strata property (aka condo building), there had to be unanimous consent of the owners to dissolve the corporation and sell the land. This prevented property developers from convincing a majority, though not all, owners to sell – which would likely otherwise leave owners who had bought and paid for title to property in the lurch. This is an excellent protection, especially in a city that seems hell-bent on tearing everything down every couple of years and constructing new stuff in its place.

Well, at least it was an excellent protection.

I was alerted today, by my colleague Zbigniew, that there’s a legislative amendment coming soon to the Strata Property Act in BC – the legislation that “controls” the rampant speculation market and governance of our shared condo buildings.

The amendment? Allowing dissolution (read: selling out, tearing down, and gentrifying) based on an 80% vote of the owners. The other 20%? Shit out of luck.

As Zbigniew says:

For developers, it’s a toe in the door, a beachhead, just enough to sell the riches of higher density rezones: “The option will likely result in a higher price being paid because the value is in the footprint that can accommodate a 20-storey building, rather than the existing three-storey building.”[1] just enough to seize the advantage of rezoning that allows for higher density, ie. most of Burnaby.

I foresee nail houses coming to Vancouver.

If you’re not familiar with nail houses (釘子戶), they’re the epic holdout homes of massive and rampant development in China. Often apocryphal, they’re the homes where stubborn owners have refused to sell, despite the 22-lane highway bearing down (and diverting immediately around) them.

It’ll just be hard to see how that will happen with a glass-and-concrete condo.


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