Thousands of jobs lost due to Vancouver industrial land shortage: report

The report estimates that 6,300 direct jobs, $477 million in wages, and nearly $500 million in GDP have left the Metro Vancouver region due to lack of available and affordable space.

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For years, Vancouver has been mired with complaints over the residential housing shortage and affordability crisis. Now, a new report from the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the NAIOP Vancouver Chapter is highlighting the same issues in the Metro region’s industrial lands.

The document shows that industrial lands make up four percent of the total land mass in the Metro Vancouver area, but host over 450,000 direct and indirect jobs. Those positions help generate over $50 billion in GDP, and an overall output of $95.2 billion. By the report’s figures, industrial land generates a third of the region’s GDP and offers a base for more than one-in-four-jobs — positions that tend to offer higher wages than the national average.

Those industrial lands, the document says, are not sufficient to support growth and innovation.

With vacancy rates hovering around one percent — among the lowest in North America — the report suggests that the lack of available space has led to a tripling of average land costs over the past five years. Average costs per acre are close to six times higher in the Metro Vancouver region than in its direct competitors’, like Metro Seattle or Calgary. As a result, firms are leaving the area — and taking their jobs and resultant GDP impact — to other provinces or states.

The report estimates that 6,300 direct jobs, $477 million in wages, and nearly $500 million in GDP have left the Metro Vancouver region due to lack of available and affordable space. It also highlights the environmental impact of goods that are, for instance, shipped through the Port of Vancouver, moved to Calgary for processing, and then trucked back to Vancouver.

“Due to a lack of available land and a complex regulatory system [...] businesses and thousands of family-supporting jobs [have been] shipped to Calgary and other cities,” said Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. “To build a balanced and prosperous economy, we need a refreshed approach to land use that prioritizes the policies needed to deliver more local housing, local food, and more local jobs and production.”

Further issues highlighted in the report include the growing demand of the film and entertainment industry for industrial space, an increase in construction services and need for warehousing on industrial lands, and the consumer expectation for fast online delivery — requiring more microdistribution hubs. Of the regions surveyed, the document suggests that “Surrey/White Rock” and “Ridge – Meadows” have the most available industrial land, with Vancouver and the North Shore offering the least space.

The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and NAIOP are collectively suggesting that the city, municipalities, and provincial governments should take three courses of action. First, regional planning should refocus to prioritize local lousing, local food, and local production and jobs. Second, leaders should increase production and availability of industrial land in Metro Vancouver, and examine how non-productive lands could be converted and protected. Thirdly, it suggests regional land-use plans should be revised every three years to make sure there is enough industrial and employment lands.

“Industrial lands are some of the most productive in the region based on economic output, jobs and wages,” said NAIOP Vancouver in a statement. “Priority needs to be placed on the addition of more industrial lands to Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley to continue to support the movement of food and goods and to create and maintain jobs in our region. With the critical shortage of industrial zoned and serviced land, we have lost industrial businesses and the accompanying economic benefits to other regions and this trend will continue unless all three levels of government make an effort to address the issue.”

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