We’re Number Two

In some cases, being number two means you have to try harder. Not so much though, when you’re rated as the world’s second least affordable city.

The ninth annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, put out by the Winnipeg-based Frontier Centre for Public Policy, ranks Vancouver as the second most unaffordable major market in the world, after Hong Kong. It calls our housing market “severely unaffordable” and “grossly overvalued”.

The survey relies on a measure of housing affordability known as the median multiple (median house price divided by gross before tax annual median household income). Vancouver recorded a median multiple of 9.5, based on a median house price of $621,300 and a median household income of $65,200, in the third quarter of 2012.

With a median multiple of 13.5, Hong Kong had a median house price of $3,810,000 and a median household income of $282,000. According to the survey, the most affordable major market is Detroit due to its “extreme economic decline”. In B.C., Victoria, Kelowna, and Abbotsford were also cited as unaffordable. – Georgia Straight 1/21

Eating Dirt

Eating Dirt is a memoir by Charlotte Gill.
During a tree-planting career spanning 17 years, she passionately planted over one million trees in this province.

I may have been drawn to the book in recalling a co-worker long ago, excitedly quitting his job at the sports shop where we worked our teen years together. Lured by the promise of big money as a tree-planter, the long goodbyes led us to believe we might never see him again. He was back home less than a week later. Short of shaking his head, no explanation was offered. In lively detail which broadens perspective for any lumber trader, Charlotte Gill explains why. I bookmarked the following passages while reading her book.

“Soon enough, we’ll have plastered these hillsides, emptied this contract of trees. It will be time to move on to the next job and the next town. Wherever we go, there are always more trees to plant, more clear-cuts and more stumps. One day we’ll get so efficient and expert we’ll be right on the heels of the loggers. Maybe we’ll even overtake them. And then finally we can sit down to rest.”

“.. After the biggest harvest ever in 1987 the province of British Columbia supplied the world with enough logs – 89 million cubic meters – to fill two million logging trucks, all in a single year.”

“As tree planters, we are simple, monotasking professionals, purveyors of visually effective green-up or VEG, as industry calls it for short. We provide raw materials for people who’ve not yet been born. By the time these future forests arrive, the world will be packed with 50 percent more people, but we’ll be long gone.”

“Until we learn how to fold up the centuries or to mimic photosynthesis there’s no substitute for patience. Human hands can replace the trees but not necessarily the forest. Tree planting sets the stage, perhaps hastening a revival, but still we must wait. For something happens underneath an established canopy that we can neither replicate nor control. An ancient forest is a life-giving environment, like a coral reef or a wetland, where creatures flock to find shelter and nourishment. It’s a biome defined by relationships – complexly layered, synergistic webs containing millions of organisms for every acre of space. How does everyone get along? Inside the apparent chaos is a precise and intricate order. Every plant, animal, and micro organism submits to a bio-evolutionary compact that equalizes rates of birth and death, immigration, and the evolution of old species into new ones. Countless beings dovetail together into limited space while sharing finite resources. This is biodiversity. A richness of community that, like any human neighborhood, is also deepened with time.”
– Charlotte Gill, Eating Dirt


“Seedlings Ready” – photo credit ejharder

Adding Value?

It appears one trucker’s idea of adding value to a lumber delivery fell short of it’s goal. The Arizona Daily Star reports here that more than 600 pounds of marijuana hidden in a load of plywood was seized by Border Patrol agents.  The truck’s driver, a 21-year old U.S. citizen who appeared to be lost, approached agents and asked for directions. His actions aroused suspicions. While it’s perhaps not unusual for truckers to get lost and even arouse suspicions when they ask for directions, it’s not so common for their loads to be inspected by drug-sniffing dogs, as was the case here. The Star reports value of drugs seized to be $310,500.
Even in these times of what some might call heady pricing, it’s suspected the delivery of wood was comparably less valuable.

“Accelerated Purchases”

“The U.S. housing market is rebounding faster than anyone thought possible, according to Blackstone’s global head of real estate Jonathan Gray, as the Federal Reserve buys mortgage bonds to keep rates near record lows and investors sop up a diminishing supply of properties for sale. Supply across the country is being constrained as institutional investors including Blackstone and Colony Capital LLC have pushed out traditional buyers competing for a dwindling number of properties. Blackstone, the largest U.S. private real estate owner, has accelerated purchases of single-family homes as prices jumped faster than it expected, spending more than $2.5 billion on 16,000 homes to manage as rentals, Gray said during an interview last week. That’s up from $1 billion of homes owned in October, when Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said the company was spending $100 million a week on houses.” Full Story

Sex and World Peace

A lumber trader’s attention is commonly drawn to supply/demand curves and the wider impact that imbalances in supply and demand can have. With increasing significance of global markets for our lumber these days, it’s not surprising that western commentators are taking notice of societal developments in faraway places.

At first glance, it would seem that a ‘girl shortage’ among the growing populations of China and India might attract only passing attention.  However Valerie Hudson, co-author of Sex and World Peace outlines the serious implications of the trend: “It’s critical for China to do everything in its power to redress the deteriorating sex ratio among China’s birth population, even if this means moving toward a two-child policy. Internal, regional, and even international security is compromised by the fact that approximately 15 percent of its young adult males will not be able to form conventional households. China need only look to its own imperial history to see the destabilizing consequences of devaluing daughters.”

Of course, allowing families to have more kids would create other issues. Environmentalists worry that our planet can’t handle the strain of 7 billion people all polluting at developed-country rates. That calculus gets even uglier if China’s population, now at 1.3 billion, heads toward 2 billion in short order.
The “air-pocalypse” in Beijing over the weekend indicates pollution levels in China’s capital city are already off the charts. In the next decade, it will be up to Xi’s team to find a balance between narrowing the gender gap and sustainable growth.