Wednesday 11 March 2015

Vocal academic isn’t just an observer of Vancouver’s real estate industry – he’s part of it

Ian Young does it again!

Vocal academic isn’t just an observer of Vancouver’s real estate industry – he’s part of it

Tsur Somerville’s institution has been sponsored by developers, and he’s done no peer-reviewed research into the city’s extreme unaffordability

"Anyone hoping to get a handle on the mechanisms driving Vancouver’s eye-popping real estate market and the impact of Chinese money soon runs into the same problem: An apparent lack of data.
Data DOES exist (more on this later), but the supposed void has been filled with the opinions of a range of experts. And no pundit has been more enthusiastic than Dr Tsur Somerville, director of the UBC Centre for Urban Economics and Real Estate.
For years, Somerville, armed with a PhD in economics from Harvard, has been a driving force behind some key notions: That there is nothing terribly abnormal or bubbly about prices in Vancouver (where the average price of a detached house is about C$1.4million); that affordability is best addressed on the supply side with more development, and not by addressing demand; and that worrying about the impact of Chinese money is racist."

Sponsorship and research

Now to the crux of the matter. While Somerville is enthusiastically cited - more than 100 times in the Vancouver Sun alone in the past five years - little if any mention is made of an  important fact: His Centre for Urban Economics is sponsored by the real estate industry. And his job is to prepare people to join that industry.
The centre’s sponsors have included the developers Grosvenor, Henderson Development, and the Vancouver chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association (all currently listed on the centre’s website), as well as Polygon Homes, the Canadian Home Builders’ Association and the Greater Vancouver Home Builders’ Association (listed as sponsors as recently as 2012, along with Grosvenor).

"Somerville, of course, remains entitled to his opinions and he’s entitled to share them, whatever they may be. But anyone considering their value would do well to recognise the Centre Urban Economics for what it is: The academic wing of Vancouver’s real estate industry. And Dr Somerville isn’t merely an observer of that industry. He’s a part of it."

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