A construction worker on a lift works on one of a series of condo buildings under construction on Langley's 200th Street in June, 2021. Thousands of units of housing are under construction in Langley City and Township. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance Times)

Year in Review: Langley real estate prices spiral higher

It cost a third more to buy a house in Langley by the end of 2021

At the beginning of 2020, real estate in Langley had already been on a wild ride.

After a sharp plunge in buying in March and April of 2020, during the initial COVID-19 lockdowns, demand for homes spiked through the summer, fall, and winter.

By the end of December, 2020, the typical Langley detached home was selling for $1.136 million. That was a dramatic, 14 per cent increase on the year before.

By November 2021, the same benchmark home was selling for $1.519 million, up more than 36 per cent in 12 months.

Local realtors repeatedly identified supply as the main problem – there simply wasn’t enough of it. Not enough homes were coming onto the market to keep up with demand.

However, at least locally, builders were rushing to add as much supply to the market as they could. By the end of November, Langley Township showed that in 2021, $530.5 million worth of building permits had been issued, above the five year rolling average, and only slightly below the peak year of 2019.

In total, the Township issued permits for 1,911 new dwelling units in 11 months, including 1,385 condo and townhouse units, 280 single family homes, and 216 secondary suites between January and November. Willoughby was a forest of cranes building new wood-frame condos, and preparation got underway for the first of Langley’s residential towers over six storeys.

In Langley City, several dozen applications for new development had also been in process in 2021, including several for new five and six-storey condos and rental buildings, for townhouse complexes of a dozen or so units, all the way down to applications to divide lots in two to create a pair of houses.

But with all the construction underway, people seeking new homes were confronted with ever-higher prices. Some had to get creative.

Langley realtor Scott Strudwick to the Advance Times in April about rural lots that allow the construction of two full-sized houses by creating tiny strata corporations.

The owners are almost always families, usually with retired parents in one house, and a married couple with kids in the other.

“This kind of ‘family compound’ has been in demand,” Strudwick said. He noted that his generation “can’t afford a house on a lot anymore.”

Simon Fraser University professor and housing expert Andy Yan suggested in the spring that part of the problem was “the great congestion,” which he defined as a lack of people wanting to move out of their homes.

With rock-bottom interest rates and a desire for more space among those working from home during much of the pandemic, young families wanted houses, Yan said.

But their elders who bought homes in Langley decades ago weren’t eager to sell and downsize yet.

“Do they want to move?” Yan said. “It all comes together and compresses itself.”

The housing crunch became a key issue in the debates among candidates for Parliament during the 2021 federal election in September, as well.

Despite all the talk, little changed in housing in 2021 in Langley. Prices started high and got higher, and supply was still constrained by the end of the year, eaten up by record-high demand.

However, it was also a year that could foretell long-term changes. Late in the year, Langley Township council approved a new housing plan that aims to encourage more rental units and reduce homelessness, and to potentially require larger apartments in new developments, sized for families, and to allow lane way-style houses, as in Vancouver.

In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Minister of Housing Ahmed Hussen also contained some strong hints of a crackdown on speculation.

Among other things, it calls for an anti-flipping tax on homes, a temporary ban on foreign buyers, and policies to curb excessive profits in investment properties.

Have a story tip? Email: matthew.claxton@langleyadvancetimes.com

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2021 Year in ReviewLangleyReal estate