Metro Vancouver’s industrial land shortage has ripple effects

(Port-related uses alone require an additional 1,000 acres of land over the next 10 years)

Metro Vancouver’s industrial land squeeze is no secret, but the pain it is expected to cause is becoming harder to manage.

With no simple fixes in sight, the stakes are rising for Canada’s largest port – and the local and national economies it supports.

The Port of Vancouver – the most-diversified port in North America – is struggling to acquire the land it needs to support trade, a growing population and economic activity. The consequences are already manifesting in businesses looking to other provinces for industrial land, and in inefficient supply chains at a time when job action also threatens the expeditious movement of goods.

“How that manifests in terms of inefficiency is a container that would arrive at the Port of Vancouver today, with goods that are destined for the local market, are actually being put onto a train and transported outside of the province to markets such as Calgary,” said Jennifer Natland, vice-president of real estate at the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, the organization that manages federal lands and waters within the Port of Vancouver. 

“[The goods] are then sorted and trucked back to the region before their final distribution within [Metro Vancouver].” 

Natland said that this type of activity will only increase if land isn’t allocated for warehouses and distribution centres in the region. 


Metro Vancouver as a whole needs 404.7 hectares (1,000 acres) of land over the next 10 years to properly support trade to Canada through the Port of Vancouver, she said. 

Natland would not indicate how many acres of land the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority needs. 

Chris MacCauley, executive vice-president at commercial real estate company CBRE, estimates that the port itself needs 607 hectares (1,500 acres) of land over the next decade.

“We simply don't have 1,500 acres of industrial land in Vancouver,” said MacCauley.

“And that's just what the port needs, that doesn't even take into account what our local industrial needs are, other things that are not port related, new entrants coming to the market or existing companies that need to expand. You have many stakeholders at the table looking for a piece of the pie and there's no pie.” 

The Port of Vancouver borders 16 municipalities and encompasses roughly 16,000 hectares of water, 1,500 hectares of land and hundreds of kilometres of shoreline.

A potential solution to the land squeeze – albeit a controversial one – may lie in B.C.’s agricultural land reserve (ALR), MacCauley said.

“We've been talking about [multi-storey and stacked industrial] for years now and it's been proven across North America that it is not the answer. That is a solution for certain problems, but it's not a solution when we're talking about trade enabling lands,” said MacCauley. 

Instead of constructing new industrial parks, MacCauley proposes adding ALR land to existing industrial parks. He emphasized that the focus would be on land that is not being utilized for agricultural purposes but is still protected under the ALR designation. 

“I'm not saying that we have to give up food security or pave over good agricultural land that is currently producing,” he said. “I think what we really have to do is revisit a 50-year-old charter and find a balance of what is needed for the agricultural community and what is needed for the industrial community.” 

Kim Grout, CEO at the provincial Agricultural Land Commission, said that she understands the need for more industrial land, but acknowledged that agricultural land is also in short supply. 

“There's lots of ALR that's owned by people who intend to hold it, in some cases for a generation in the hopes that it'll be something else in the future.… There's no restriction on ownership in the ALR, which sometimes is the challenge,” she said.

The agricultural land commission would not support the ALR being bought by the port for industrial uses, said Grout.


Record room rates attract hotel investors

(Banff's Rimrock Resort Hotel sold to Oxford Property Group in June for $170 million, or $515,200 a room -- Western Canada's biggest hotel transaction of the year.)

Record-high rates and revenue are attracting investor interest in Western Canada’s hotels.

The region saw $431 million worth of assets trade in the first half of 2023, or 41% of the national total, according to Colliers' second-quarter review of the hotel sector.

The second quarter some exceptional pricing for properties including the Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff for $170 million, $515,200 a room, a price that reflected Oxford Property Group’s plans for a $100 million renovation.

Aldesta Hotel Group picked up Fairmont Hot Springs Resort in BC for $40 million, or $264,900 a room, in June. The deal included three golf courses, a 14-run ski hill, RV park, and more than 650 acres of excess lands.

The two properties ranked second and third after The Hazelton, a Toronto property that commanded an outlier price of $110 million or $1,428,000 a room thanks to the inclusion of 11,250 square feet of retail space, an underground parkade and a 50 per cent interest in the on-site restaurant.

Colliers cited strong growth in average daily rates, the resurgence of domestic travel and small to mid-size group activity as contributing the return of investor interest.

“Hoteliers are reaping substantial top-line gains driven by remarkable increases in average daily rates,” Colliers reported.

Canada’s hotel industry reported its highest average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) on record, according June data from CoStar Group.

ADR soared 12 per cent to $221.86 a room while RevPAR increased 16.1 per cent to $164.97.

The increases came as average national occupancy rates rose 3.6 per cent versus last year to 74.4 per cent – the highest level since last August. With the increase coming ahead of the peak summer travel season, the prospects are good for new records being set in the third quarter.

“Canada’s hotel industry is benefitting from elevated spending on discretionary services,” said Laura Baxter director of hospitality analytics for Canada with CoStar.

Occupancies were highest at limited-service hotels, pointing to a trading down in activity, but group activity was up versus a year ago as this segment of demand continued its recovery from pandemic-era lows.

According to Colliers, full-service hotels accounted for 60 per cent of investor activity in the first half of the year. Limited-service-properties ranked second, at 26 per cent of transaction value.

But when the data was smoothed to account for the large number of high-value transactions, average sale price per room showed that investors were still willing to spend on limited-service properties as well as full-service hotels with equal enthusiasm.

The normalized price per room for all transactions in the first half of the year was $192,100, up 32 per cent from a year ago.

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