Experts explain why burial plots are going for $70k in Metro Vancouver
As high housing costs capture the attention of many Metro Vancouverites, an expert says an area people may not notice is also subject to the pressure of land costs is burial plots.
For example, ads on Craigslist have been listed for $54,000 at a Burnaby cemetery.
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According to the listing, it assures it’s never been occupied and is a “double-depth lawn crypt.” It continues that it can hold two caskets and two urns.
“Asking price is 20% less than current rate from OceanView office,” the ad continues.
Another listing at Ocean View Funeral Home & Burial Park is going for $68,000 — which is the most expensive ad Daily Hive Urbanized found on Craigslist. The cheapest burial plot we found on the site is going for as low as $5,000.
Glen Hodges, the manager of Mountain View Cemetery, explains that the short supply and high demand for burial sites are driving prices up.
“For some reason, there never were a lot of cemeteries in sort of the Greater Vancouver area or Metro Vancouver area… there’s just a lack of space that was dedicated, allocated or organized as cemetery,” he explained.
“So now we have increasing populations and a little bit of increasing number of deaths and people still have a preference for burial. There’s just not enough capacity to fill that, so when you have limited space available, and people still want it, then you start to see those pressures on price.”
Bill Pechet, a cemetery designer in BC, further explained that because of Metro Vancouver’s geographic position (between the ocean, mountains and Agricultural Land Reserve), land costs for burial are subject to the same pressures that let’s say our housing market are subjected to with diminishing land base.
So sites that are deemed highly desirable and older cemeteries with few spaces left are what can cause plots to be listed around $30,000 to $50,000, he added.
“Higher views of the mountains are what most people find a higher value in,” Hodges said as an example. “Some people have all sorts of other things that will determine what they’re prepared to pay in terms of which way the grave is oriented, whether it’s near trees or not near trees. It’s very personal for a lot of folks.”
But the finite capacity levels are nothing new, Pechet emphasized.
“I think in our region, the topic of expensive housing is such an issue right now that probably we’re all just realizing that this is happening, but it’s been slowly incrementally increasing over the years,” he said.
And questioning the high prices for a burial plot is not a liberty many people have, Pechet suggested.
“I think people are very, very vulnerable when they lose somebody [and are] under a lot of pressure to make very quick decisions. Unless somebody has made decisions prior to their death that helped the family,” he said.
Both Pechet and Hodges suggest a European model as a possible solution described as a “renewable resource of land.”
In Europe, burial sites can be recycled — meaning after a certain time, long-term occupants’ bones can be cleared away and reused if the family wishes.
Pechet points out grave sites are still available for a lower cost, but this is mainly through cultural and religious groups.