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Peter Simpson wants to offer reassurance to new Lower Mainland homeowners worried about the shrinking value of their houses.

Don't be dazzled or depressed by price changes. They go down, then they recover and rise over time, he says.

Simpson has seen more than a few housing cycles in his 24 years running Canada's two largest home builders' associations in Vancouver and Toronto.

Simpson, 68, retires Wednesday as CEO of the Greater Vancouver Home Builders' Association, the country's second largest. The Vancouver group's membership has grown to 750 from 250 when he started 19 years ago.

The Vancouver association CEO says it's natural for first-time owners to see the latest real-estate statistics and fret about shifting values.

In his early 20s, Simpson sold his Corvette convertible to help scrape together a $10,000 down payment on a $38,500 house in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough. He was earning $138 a week as a compositor at The Toronto Telegram newspaper.

"I woke up for three nights in a cold sweat wondering what the heck I had done," he says. "It worked out. It always does work out. The sun comes up the next day."

Greater Vancouver home prices will likely fall by an average of 5.9 per cent this year to $734,000, the B.C. Real Estate Association says in its latest forecast. The average price should drop by another 1.9 per cent next year.

In the Fraser Valley, prices are expected to drop 3.1 per cent this year and eke out a 0.2-per-cent increase next year, the association predicts.

Simpson believes people only hurt themselves if they become obsessed with tracking week-by-week house price changes.

"They should not consider their home and its value as a pork belly future," he says. "That causes a lot of people angst.

"Live in it, enjoy it and if you have to move somewhere else, sell it and move on."

If you must worry about something, worry about the resistance from some people to letting their neighbourhoods evolve into a mix of single and multi-family housing, Simpson says.

Densification is the key to providing affordable housing choices as the Vancouver region grows, he says.

"We have to start building more high-density housing along arterials and even up side streets in existing neighbourhoods," he says.

Single-family homeowners who oppose multi-family housing in their neighbourhood should ask themselves two questions, he says: Where will their children live who can't afford their neighbourhood?

And where will aging homeowners go when they can't climb the stairs of their current house but want to continue living nearby?

"People who want to keep their neighbourhoods exactly as they are should be careful what they wish for," he says. "They may not be able to live in their house as long as they anticipate."

Affordability, of course, is a challenge that's not unique to Vancouver. Simpson's youngest daughter, who lives in Toronto, has told him she doesn't expect to ever be able to afford a house there. "That saddens me," he says.

When Simpson says homeowners should be glad they have a roof over their heads he means it.

In a benign irony, this voice of the building sector invests a lot of time serving on committees to help people at the other end of the spectrum - the homeless.

Simpson's younger brother lived on Toronto's streets and in its flop houses for 30 years before his death in 2009.

"It's a huge challenge we all face," he says. "The challenge is not just the homeless but the people who are at risk of homelessness."

By Paul Luke

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