There are constant comparisons of Vancouver to Manhattan and Hong Kong. All three cities are bound by geography and are growing rapidly. Hong Kong has seen double digit growth over the last ten years, with housing prices doubling in the last five. Manhattan is booming again, with billionaires from around the world flocking to the new towers like One57, where suites are rumored to be sold for as much as $100 million. All three cities have astronomical PIRs (price to income ratios) - deeming them ‘unaffordable’ in the press.
However, unlike its counterparts, Vancouver doesn’t have the density, yet. The total area of Manhattan is 23.7 square miles. It’s 13.4 miles long, and only 2.3 miles across at its widest point. Yet it has a population of 1,601,948. This gives it a density of 71,201 people/square mile. Hopefully they all like sardines.
Compare this to one of the densest places in the world: Hong Kong. The Pearl of the Orient is home to 7,071,600 people, most packed in an area smaller than Manhattan, with an estimated 16,576 people/square mile. Kowloon, just across the water, is the most densely populated place in the world.
The 2011 Census has 603,000 people living in downtown Vancouver, making it the eighth biggest city in Canada. It has 13,590 people/square mile, which is comparable to Hong Kong and Manhattan. But not quite there.
This means that Vancouver real estate still has room to grow if it is going to fill to capacity like its other desirable cousins. The difference is lifestyle. In Hong Kong you can find families of four living in one-bedrooms. In Manhattan, 800 square feet is considered a palace.
Cities like Manhattan and Hong Kong have shown that growth can rapidly expand upward just as easily as horizontally. The apartments are small and the streets are narrow, but it is still home to more green space per capita than anywhere else in Asia. The same can be said for sprawling Central Park. Vancouver can make similar claims with Stanley Park.
With similarities in cost, density, green space, and desirability - it is easy to predict that Vancouver real estate will continue to grow towards the 17,000 people/square mile mark, and the migration to the downtown core will continue….my main hope is that if that happens, we will somehow figure out how to keep our buildings from blocking the sun so that on a sunny day I am not freezing while walking in a concrete made, completely shaded wind tunnel!