Amidst conversation surrounding housing affordability issues in the Metro Vancouver area, young Vancouverites came together at the Museum of Vancouver on April 22, 2016 to discuss issues relating to the housing market. At the event “A Future We Can’t Afford” organized by Two by Fore, four panelists, Katelyn McDougall, Darren Proulx, Melanie Matining, Brandon Yan, all young working professionals in Vancouver, along with moderator, Mitchell Reardon, confronted the economic sustainability of housing prices and shared their own stories of adapting to life in Vancouver.
Based on a housing report published by the City of Vancouver in 2015, Vancouver has the highest housing prices and rents with the lowest median incomes among Canada’s major cities. With only a 0.6% vacancy, Vancouver is constantly in the spotlight as a highly unaffordable city, with many criticizing the government’s negligent efforts to control pricing. Many factors are often mentioned in the discussion of housing affordability in Vancouver, for example, lack of supply, foreign ownership, tax evasion and shadow flipping. The panel discussed concerns regarding the displacement of young families out of the metropolitan area and what the younger generation is doing to adapt to soaring costs of living.
Regarding the issue of supply and foreign ownership, Melanie Matining pointed out that Vancouver “doesn’t have enough people thinking of housing as a necessity.” Housing is still regarded as a form of investment, rather than a means of shelter. With the influx of rich real estate investors in the city, many are worried about the economic sustainability of continually increasing housing prices. Meanwhile, the government has been under scrutiny for not taking enough action against mitigating tax evasion and house flipping, which puts upward pressure on pricing. Supply is not keeping up with demand, as many new developments in Vancouver are sold out as soon as construction begins.
The panel also discussed, at length, the shift in urban lifestyle, especially among the younger generation, as a response to housing unaffordability. Katelyn McDougall points out the trade-off between being able to live near the city core and “not having kids, not owning a car and not wanting a yard.” Young people are increasingly forced to choose between proximity to amenities and moving further away from the metropolitan area. However, as Brandon Yan emphasizes, we have to be careful about the choices we make: “I don’t use it, but there’s a gym in my building. Are we ditching public amenities for private? Taxes for strata fees?” Regarding the issue of mobility and connectivity, Darren Proulx reflects on the choice of many young people to give up car ownership, “There's a disconnection between personal freedom and public transportation. You can have freedom from public transit too.” The panel concludes that the compromises of lifestyle choices and the need for revolutionary urban design are directly related to housing affordability issues.
Is your city experiencing soaring housing and costs of living? What factors are causing this? Are you concerned about the economic sustainability of your city? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Amy Do. Data linked to sources.