Can Families Still Afford Vancouver If They #DontHave1Million?

It all started when Eveline Xia, a 29-year-old found out about the story of the doctor who couldn’t afford to live in Vancouver with his family and decided to move. With a Masters degree in forestry and environmental science, Eveline has raised an important question: do families still have a chance at living in the city, given the current situation?

Things escalated quickly, and Xia made a hashtag campaign on Twitter called #DontHave1Million to make people more aware of the difficulties of living in Vancouver if you do not earn six figure incomes. As a result, people have started posting pictures of themselves under that hashtag, stating their age and job.

As Eveline mentioned, the purpose of this campaign was to influence the unaffordability problem by getting the attention of policy-makers, Manitoba public insurance and politicians. It seems that in 2014, during the municipal election, there has been some action regarding a vacancy tax for empty condos, but the problem was left in the air.

Different studies back up Xia’s claim that the middles class is beginning to move from big cities. According to a report from VanCity, a lot of 20 to 30 years old residents move to other places where life is affordable. More than that, according to the study, the housing prices are most likely to double by 2030.

Is Owning a Single-Family Home a Bit Unrealistic and Old-Fashioned?

However, there are voices out there that believe this storm raised by Xia about living in Vancouver is a bit biased and one-sided. It was argued that people are looking at this problem from the wrong angle and that the price of a house for a single-family isn’t necessarily the best indicator for affordability. They claim that people should probably be a bit more realistic about their expectations about housing; after all, in many other cities in Canada, people don’t have the luxury to live in a single-family home.

According to these people, it is far more reasonable to think of a townhome or a condo, especially if you are talking about your first home. The argument they give is that people in America are used to living in smaller spaces and have great benefits as well – access to fitness centres and pools, smaller mortgages, secure communities and eventually, a lot more money left at the end of the day to spend on other things.

For most people, getting to live in the house of their dreams is a long process that takes years to come true. Most start with a condo then move to a townhome, and then in ten years – more or less – can afford the big house with the big pool and a lot of space in the back yard.

Xia’s opponents give interesting statistics that show how people’s expectations change over time to back up their claims. In 1970, for example, a home had about 1,050 square feet and about 3.5 people lived there while, in 2006, there are 2.5 people in a space of 1,990 square feet. It is not out of place if Vancouverites ask themselves whether their goal to own a single-family home isn’t a bit old-fashioned, since people in other metropolitan cities live in condos or apartments.

The Problem Needs to Be Addressed

Sure, it is a reality that the house pricing in Vancouver is far from being ideal, and it can impact the development of the city. According to Saeid Fard, president of Vancouver Sokanu, there are a lot of talented people that come to Vancouver, which contribute hugely to the growth of the business sector. But, as those people mature and start making families, they realize that the big city isn’t affordable, and they move to place where the cost of living is lower than in Vancouver.

Obviously, leaving Vancouver won’t solve the problem; it will only perpetuate it. People should stay there and try to make a change in policies. Also, another thing that everyone should consider is changing their perspective on housing, and adapting to today’s market. Focusing solely on one-family homes and ruling out without even the slightest consideration other options isn’t a very mature approach.

Have you faced this issue yourself at some point? Share your story in comments below.

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