Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More about "$300 a lot"

Jak's post below shows an ad offering the block bounded by Garden, Parker, Nanaimo and Napier for sale. Six houses had been completed by 1912 when the Goad's Atlas (mentioned in a previous post) was published. The great real-estate boom continued for another year or so before collapsing just before the beginning of the First World War. The three houses on Napier marked by red dots have since been demolished.

The interesting dwelling is the one third from the left facing Napier Street (at the bottom of the map), with a modern address of 2317 Napier. It was probably just a cottage/shack, built for a few hundred dollars and set near the back of the lot, maybe to give more south-facing garden space for growing vegetables. Regardless, the owners built a new house in 1929, which is still there.

You think about the economics of it: $300 for the lot and a couple of hundred more for the structure bought you a piece of security near the city boundary (Nanaimo Street before 1910). And it would have been really modest -- a couple of rooms, a wood stove, perhaps not even electricity, but it would have had running water. A labourer made about $600 a year. The parallel a century later would be a labourer making, say, $40,000 a year being able to buy a modest house for about $40,000. Instead, out at the edge (now Langley or Maple Ridge or beyond) a modest house (albeit much more lavish than the cottages of a century ago) costs more like $450,000.

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