Myths about the Vancouver housing bubble

I just had a listen to this CBC interview with some writer about the housing situation in Vancouver: Young Adults Leaving Vancouver.

He was asked about whether the housing bubble is due to speculation. Of course there is speculation. It's rampant. Even the average Joe that is buying a home and maxing out how much the bank will lend him is speculating. Someone who is selling their current place (that they bought in the 1990s) and buying a larger house now is speculating. They are all speculating that the market value of housing will increase even further (or stay where it is and not go down). It is this speculation that is lifting prices. There are not enough people sitting on the fence waiting for the market to crash, in order for a crash to happen. This is the way bubbles work (see: every bubble that has ever occurred). Speculation is the nature of bubbles. Some of the speculation is explicit, the rest is implicit. There are lots of people who also speculate that interest will never go up. That's a costly gamble to take when maxing out your credit on a new home.

This Tyee guy has bought into everything the talking heads are saying: 1) money is coming from offshore, 2) if there is a crash it's won't be much, maybe 20%, 3) Vancouver is different, 4) It's gone on for so long, therefore the market will never go down. It's all bollocks!

1) First, locals are just as responsible here for paying exhorbitant prices. Secondly, in the 1990s there was lots of money coming from Hong Kong and elsewhere and prices did not increase very much, they stayed where they were in spite of a massive influx of money. Lastly, any "local" who takes that "offshore money" and puts it back into the housing market is also playing a part in fuelling the housing bubble. I can't tell you the number of times I've talked to a "local" who owned more than one property as an "investment". Again, it's the locals (as the majority) who are the major cause of the housing bubble in Vancouver.

2) If there is a crash, it will most likely be huge. When bubbles pop, that's the way it goes. To think otherwise is to believe there isn't a bubble.

3) Vancouver is not different! Other cities in Canada and around the world had or have real estate bubbles as well. Some have crashed already and some have yet to crash. It's not just here (where there is supposedly all this "offshore money" flowing in), not is this a recent phenomena. This kind of thing has been happening for centuries and they always say "it's different here" or "it's different this time". It's not.

4) Just because we haven't had a crash yet doesn't somehow mean that we have reached a new normal and that it will never crash.

You can find other commentary here.

Vancouver Needs Real Street Food

Travel to many cities in the world and you will find street food all over the place. Delicious street food. Walk in Vancouver and there is almost no street food. I can only think of 2 hot dog vendors on West 4th or West Broadway west of Granville St. The one near Future Shop just west of Burrard and the one at the corner of Graville and Broadway in front of the Chapters. You can walk a long time downtown before stumbling across any street food, and it's mostly just hot dogs or Crepes. Toronto just announced some new street food offerings downtown. I really hope it is a hit, that the vendors make back their investment and more and I hope that no ones gets sick from the food. Then, this idea just might make it to Vancouver. How awesome would it be to be able to eat some Pad Thai on the street? Or some jerk chicken? or a souvlaki skewer? This is one area of our society where I think we need less regulation.
[img_assist|nid=341|title=Eating street pineapple in Seoul, Korea|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=150]
[img_assist|nid=343|title=Eating street food in Peru|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=150]


Vancouver Documentary Film Festival

DOXA, Vancouver's Documentary Film Festival starts. There are definitely a few films in their program that I would be interested in seeing. The Living with Grizzlies show looks good but I will be checking out an apartment that night.

Adrian Holovaty Talk and Django Jam in Vancouver

This Sunday, the Vancouver/Zope User's Group (maybe the Zope part should be removed? sorry guys) is having a "Django Jam", a hands-on session where you can see how to create some simple applications or perhaps here some people talk about things they have developed in Django. Unfortunately the two applications I am working on are immature right now and I don't have a laptop, but I'll be there checking out what other people have done.

Tuesday is even more exciting as Adrian Holovaty, the lead Django developer/founder is going to give a talk to the Python User's group while he is in town for another conference. If you are interested in web frameworks (especially simple ones done in a cool language) come and check it out.

Vancouver DjangoJam.

Full invite text follows:

Django is the Python-based web framework used at companies like
Google, the Washington Post and St. Joseph Media (publishers of
Canadian Life magazine).

"Vandjangojam" is a great opportunity to learn Django or learn more
about it. In addition to a quick introduction to Django, the jam will
feature a Q&A; session with the lead programmer of it.


Introduction to The Django Web Framework : Sunday, February 4, 2007, 1-4

We'll discuss the basics of creating applications in Django, walking
through some simple applications hands-on.

Location: Most likely Sophos Vancouver or Uniserve. RSVP to if you intend to come and we will inform you of the
location when it is confirmed.


Adrian Holovaty: The Django Web Framework: Tuesday, February 6, 2007, 7-9

Adrian will offer some thoughts about its unique features and answer
questions from the audience.

Adrian Holovaty is the lead developer of the Django Web Framework.
Adrian and his peers invented Django while working at World Online, a
highly-renowned news Web operation in Lawrence, Kansas. His team's
pioneering work on interactive journalism won numerous awards and was
described in The New York Times, NPR and IT Conversations. Currently,
Adrian is editor of editorial innovations at Washingtonpost.Newsweek
Interactive ( His job involves coming up with
ideas for site improvements and special projects, and implementing

Vancouver Python User Group Talk on Python Web Frameworks (Django, Turbogears) - October 3, 2006

Vancouver's Python and Zope User Group will be having a talk on Python web frameworks, ie. Django and Turbogears at their upcoming meeting on October 3rd. I'm looking forward to learning about web frameworks in general a bit more and perhaps what differentiates them from each other and from Ruby on Rails.

Review of the Vancouver Python Workshop

I attended the Vancouver Python Workshop this weekend and had a great time. What follows is a brief chronological discussion about the talks I attended:


Guido van Rossum's Key Note presentation: Guido talked about Python 3000 and the various things he has in mind for it. He has a clear idea for what kinds of changes he want to fix, but a lot is still up in the air. Some of this is documented in PEP 3100. Here are some of the things I wrote down (that seemed important to me):

  • range won't return lists anymore, xrange will be killed. I use xrange all the time so I will have to stop! range will return an iterator so I assume one will have to do something like list(range(n)) to create a list now.
  • All strings will become unicode. Whereas now there are string objects and a unicode string is a different beast, in Python 3000 what we now call strings will just be like byte arrays and what we now call unicode strings will just be strings (because unicode will be default).
  • <> will be dropped as a not-equal-to operator.
  • exec and print will become functions. This is great because now you can easily replace occurences of the print command in your code with a custom function like debug or logger...
  • apply, filter, map, reduce will all be removed.
  • list comprehensions will no longer leak into the surrounding scope. I've noticed this recently and it will be nice when this is gone.
  • lambda will stay. Guido has been convinced to keep it in the language.
  • Replacing raise E, arg: in favour of ¬†raise E(arg)
  • The ability to use `x` as an alternative to repr(x) will be removed
  • Guido said something about perhaps allowed function to be overloaded by definining the types of the expected arguments but I didn't catch everything he said on this and I dont' see it written in PEP 3100.

Code migration from PyChecker or PyLint for 80% of the work and version of Python 2.x that warn about "doomed code."

Overall I really enjoyed Guido's talk and I instead of talking about it anymore, you can basically watch the entire speech here:

It is pretty much the same slides with maybe a few changes. He admitted that it was the same talk he gave at OSCON 2006 but that he improvises a lot.

Jim Hugunin's Key Note: Jim (created of Numeric, Jython, and now IronPython (.NET)) gave us all an overview of IronPythono and what it can do. It is pretty amazing. Imagine accessing all of .NET's libraries and framework without having to code in C#. Or to code up a bottleneck in C# and call it from python code. Iron Python has released a 1.0 release candidate and it is released under a BSD-style license. I was very interested in the possibility of using IronPython as a language for numerics with some C/C++/C# running the time-consuming stuff. Jim loves the CLR and actually mentioned that he would love to port NumPy to the CLR if he could get 6 months time off to work on it. It was an awesome presentation and Jim went through a lot in 45 minutes.


Q&A with Guido van Rossum:

The most interesting question was something along the lines of "what is your favourite GUI toolkit/wrapper for Python" and Guido's answer was Tkinter. The interesting part was when Guido said he thought GUI toolkits were on the way out and that web apps are instead the way to go. He said using the web model where half the work can be done on the server and half on the client and things can be shared over the network is the way of the future. He also said that we have good GUI frameworks for the web already.

The other thing I found out from the Q&A was that Python has an education special interest group, the Python EDU-SIG. Apparently some schools are already starting to teach Python in introductory computer science courses. I think Python would be a great course for high school students as well as for university students in many courses, in fact any course that doesn't absolutely require another language for some reason.

Jim Hugunin: more about .NET, great presentation

Bradley Lawrence (from Rapid): Great information on how to convince your boss that Python is the right tool for the job (rapid development time, easy to bring new hires up to speed, mature and stable, support (ActiveState), license not viral). He talked about their RapidData application

Tom Weir: Good presentation about SWIG; however, it had the side-effect of convincing me that I should avoid SWIG at all costs unless I really need to use it.

For the rest of the afternoon I attended two panel discussions where a learned a little more about Zope, Plone, general web services using Python, and embedding Python in C, C++, Objective C, Java, and other languages.


Jim O'Leary's Object-Oriented Basics with Python: I expected this to be an introduction to Object-Oriented Python for programmers, instead it turned out to be an Introduction to Object-Oriented Basics. I already know OO in Python but there are some niggly details about inheritance that I am still a bit fuzzy on. Nothing against Jim though. It did seem like there were a lot of programming newbies in the room.

Wilson Fowlie: A great talk all about pyparsing. If you need to parse anything, check out this module. Sounds awesome.

James Thiele: A good talk about embedding domain-specific languages in Python. It was a great tutorial, he built up his code slowly slide-by-slide explaining exactly how do go about adding syntax to python for defining syntax for a edge for a weighted graph (such as n1->n2). He slides should be on his website soon.

Anthony Howe (from Voice Mobility: Interesting application called WebFeeds that sends you RSS feeds to your voice mail. The ascii to voice translation was done using NeoSpeech and it sounded so good that I didn't realize it was not a real voice at first.

Lightning talks: A quick talk about Django (which I am really excited about) and many, many other talks (5 minutes each). The work going on at rPath sounds interesting.

Ian Caven: Great talk showing off the movies his company has restored over the years. The bulk of all the algorithms that he coded for restoring movies is done in Python with Numeric, most likely with an old version of Numeric. They have something like 50000 lines of Python code and about the same amount of legacy C++ sharp code which I assume is called from Python.

Overall I really enjoyed the conference and I made a couple contacts. The slides of all the presenters should be on the web soon and I look forward to having a second look at some of them and a first look at others that I wasn't able to attend.

Registered for Vancouver Python Workshop

I just officially registered for the Vancouver Python Conference. I am really looking forward to it even though it will take up my entire Saturday and Sunday. It is too bad I don't have a laptop that isn't ancient, otherwise I might give a lightning talk on numpy since it is completely absent from the talk schedule. Had I thought about it earlier I would have prepared and offered to give a talk on how to use NumPy for the beginner's track of the schedule. Maybe next year. Besides with Numpy having a 1.0 release by next year, maybe they will be able to get Travis Oliphant to visit. :-) or at least someone more knowledgeable in numpy than me.

Hot Weather in Vancouver

It was 29 degrees Celsius in Vancouver yesterday which is about as hot as it gets here. Although it has dropped to 20 degrees outside tonight it is still 29 degrees in our apartment and even hotter in this office with two computers in it. Which is why I can't sleep. I'll think I'll have a cold shower then give sleeping another try.

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