It’s not just the economy, affordable real estate and skills-focused education that put Chilliwack on the Top 10 list of B.C. towns for investment in 2013 by the Real Estate Investment Network.
It’s also the lowest taxes, a downtown plan with incentives, and impressive GDP gains. Chilliwack made it onto REIN’s ‘must watch’ list, but this is the first time Chilliwack has ever been singled out for its investment potential.
“Chilliwack’s lower property values compared to the Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland have always been appealing, but rents had not crept up for properties to make sense here,” said Don R. Campbell, one of the report authors and senior analyst with Real Estate Investment Network (REIN). “Investors who know the city and do some digging can certainly find cash-flowing properties here.”
There’s a business friendly culture at City Hall.
“The secret to investing in Chilliwack,” said Campbell, “is to be very aware of tenant profiles and property locations. Risk is higher for real estate investors in areas undergoing revitalization but the pay off may very well be higher as the City provides redevelopment incentives and has great political leadership welcoming to the investor.”
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz said she’s thankful and the study shows that they’re on the right track, particularly with the Downtown plan and other initiatives they’ve launched.
“Redevelopment is always difficult, especially in a depressed economy, but as one of the Top 10 cities for investment it gives me fresh hope and excitement for the downtown,” said Gaetz.
There are lots of skeptics on this score, however.
“I understand the skepticism,” she says. “Look how long it’s been since Eaton’s left. A kind of disheartened attitude started to emerge as people watched the decline of some parts of the Downtown. It was hard watching the Empress come down, and then The Paramount. People want to make sure the future looks brighter, and it does.”
City officials have made a point of saying Chilliwack is “open for business,” in recent decades, but it’s gratifying to have it recognized, by REIN and future investors seeking cash flow investments.
The four business parks and tax exemptions for industry didn’t go unnoticed by the study authors, nor did the fact that Chilliwack is home to one quarter of the province’s farm operations, with an estimated 900 farms. Its proximity to Vancouver, the Interior and the U.S. are a big draw for some businesses seeking to relocate.
The average commute for a Chilliwack resident is only about six kilometres.
It also helps that Chilliwack is increasingly the place in the Lower Mainland that most people are moving to.
“We’re noted for having the largest net migration into Chilliwack of all the cities.”
What the report also points out is that people are moving to Chilliwack from other parts of B.C. because housing is half the price of a house in Vancouver and 30 per cent less than that in Abbotsford.
“It’s great to see that investors are recognizing the potential and payoffs of investment in our city,” said Gaetz.
It’s not by accident.
“CEPCO has done an excellent job in business attraction and retention and marketing the city to investors,” noted Gaetz. “They are truly partners in guiding the economic growth of our city.”
CEPCO president John Jansen said the credit for Chilliwack making it on the REIN list should go to the planning processes and partnerships Chilliwack has been involved in with its stakeholders.
“We’ve worked hard with industry, with downtown businesses, and with tourism so Chilliwack can present the most attractive option for investors,” he said. “We have such a livable city, with only a small number of the population working outside of the community.”
He points to the transit system expansion, more skills training at Chilliwack Education Park, and recreation choices, which all put Chilliwack above the rest.
“It truly is a fabulous place,” he said. “These are the things that make us unique.”
For REIN the recent growth is duly noted.
“REIN believes the major expansion of commercial and industrial lands along Highway 1 and the Evans Road Corridor will further shine a light on Chilliwack’s potential in the eyes of potential homeowners and business owners,” reads the REIN study release.
Melanie Reuter, REIN’s director of research, pointed out that rent levels are just starting to come up in price to the point where it makes sense and investors can break even or make money.
Another factor is jobs.
“The GDP in Chilliwack is great. That’s the bottom line. So if a community can provide jobs, coupled with affordable housing, it’s a home run,” Reuter said. “If there’s nowhere for people to work, it doesn’t matter how low the real estate prices are.”
City policies, like those offering incentives to develop, make a difference.
“Mayor Gaetz has a done a good job bringing jobs to Chilliwack.”
And the other thing is a shorter commute, for those who do travel outside the city for work.
“You’re that much closer because traffic is so much better since the project on the Port Mann bridge and the highway.”
Real Estate Investment Network’s (REIN) 2013 edition of its Top British Columbia Investment Towns report analyzes the current and future prospects for real estate investment in the province over the next decade. Find the report at www.topbctowns.com.
The top BC communities in REIN’s 2013 rankings are:
2) Maple Ridge
3) Fort St. John
4) Dawson Creek
9) Prince George