An interesting picture is emerging in the Alberni Valley’s housing market, which has heated up over the summer.
Sharie Marie Minions, a mortgage broker with The Mortgage Group, says many of her clients traditionally refinance existing mortgages.However, in recent weeks a far higher percentage than normal of her clients have been newcomers to the Valley.
“A way higher percentage are people who have been coming from out of town, interested in purchasing property. It’s a lot of younger people,” she said: also people in their twenties who are returning to Port Alberni after moving away for school or other reasons who are now interested in buying houses here.
Many of these people aren’t necessarily planning to live here right away.
“It’s a lot of people not necessarily thinking of living here but thinking of investing here because it’s so affordable.”
Port Alberni is currently an affordable place to live but investors think housing prices could go up.
That has some residents worried that they might be priced out of the housing market here. While homeowners will likely see their houses increase in value, renters could see their rent skyrocket for the same reason that Port Alberni has seen so much investor interest; the possible LNG facility and transshipment hub proposed for the mouth of the Alberni Inlet.
However, Pat Deakin, the city’s economic development manager, says that he’s aware of that possibility and if either plan comes to fruition the negatives will be dealt with.
“[The city has] done a great job of making sure that affordable housing is in place,” he said, adding that if it comes to it, the city will continue to make sure that affordable housing is available so that long-term residents aren’t pushed out by the newcomers.
Part of the reason that Deakin is so confident about the housing market continuing to cater to every income category in Port Alberni is the class of investors that the city is attracting.
“I like the quality of investors showing up on our doorstep,” he said, adding they’ve show a desire to “assist in the creation of a community” and not just housing units.
These investors are also looking for property within the city now, whereas in the past Minions has seen many of her clients looking at places outside of city limits in an attempt to avoid higher property taxes.
“What people are saying is that it’s attractive to the tenants to have services that are provided by the city,” she said.
Deakin also attributes people’s interest in the city itself to convenience, saying that people weigh the pros and cons of living outside of city limits and realize that too much time is spent on getting into the city to use the services. But regardless of where exactly people choose to settle, both he and Minions see many positives for the city.
“We still benefit from having a person who is either running a business, starting a business or buying from other businesses in the community or working for another business in the community, so I’m certainly not hung up about where people choose to live,” Deakin said. “I recognize that there are many many reasons that go into a decision. I just think it’s great that there is more and more attention being paid to Port Alberni and the Alberni Valley.”
As for Minions, she sees both short- and long-term benefits for the city as a result of this investment boom, which is the first that she’s seen during her years as a mortgage broker.
“In the long term I think it will definitely create more residents here and in the short term it’s certainly good for our real estate market.”