Can You Afford to Live in Vancouver?

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Any reasonable person would agree that if you make over $100,000 a year, you should be able to afford to live in any neighbourhood you want. The average annual Canadian salary, as of December 2014, is just over $49,000, so double this amount should afford you at least a condo in the wealthiest of areas.

With Vancouver’s skyrocketing real estate prices, even high-earners can’t afford to live in the city.

Liberal MLA Laurie Throness explained in legislature on Monday that on his considerable salary, he wasn’t able to find a place to live in Vancouver. Throness has a base salary of $102,878, and claimed over $20,000 in expenses in 2013/2014.

“I wanted to live in Vancouver, so I explored that option,” he said. “I didn’t even explore the option of buying a detached home, but I looked for condos and soon found I wasn’t able to afford to live there.”

Surprisingly, he states that there’s nothing wrong with him not being able to afford Vancouver, and there’s nothing wrong with you not being able to afford it, either.

“I didn’t go to the papers. I didn’t complain to government. I didn’t complain to the opposition. I didn’t go to the Human Rights Tribunal. I bought in Abbotsford.”

Other MLAs, like David Eby, are pushing for government intervention on the rising housing costs, and are requesting inquiry into suspicious real estate activity.

“No one has a God-given right to live in a particular place,” said Throness. “We all have to tailor our expectations to our income. That means that people like me will probably never live in Vancouver, but I do not consider myself a victim.”

Vancouver is not the only city going through such a spike in prices. San Francisco, for instance, is a magnified example of what’s occurring on our west coast. Business Insider recently exposed the city’s real estate wars, showing the outrageous living expenses for working professionals, and the divide it’s creating between the city’s communities—high-earning developers, mid-range professionals, and the working class.

While Vancouver is not near the crisis of San Francisco, (where the average home price is above $1 million), it is by far Canada’s most expensive city. The average selling price for a home in Vancouver was $775,300 in January. Compare that to Toronto at $636,728, or to the Canadian national average: $470,297. If we look at detached houses, the disparity grows even greater.

Zoocasa-chart-average-home-prices-Jan-2016

What Throness is missing is that an entire city can’t be made up of the super rich. All jobs in a city centre are not top-paying positions, leaving the lower-middle class to struggle to get by. And some careers are predominantly based in urban centres, despite not paying top dollar. Are all people making less than $100,000 supposed to commute into the city for work?

Metropolitan areas are created through diversity and diverse needs, and housing should reflect that. By driving out anyone who doesn’t make over $100,000 (or more!), the city will not be able to sustain itself. Full stop.

I’m not against a competitive market. We want homeowners to earn on their properties so that real estate remains a solid investment of time and money. But that should be available in different areas of major cities for individuals of varying income levels, not for a select few. Essentially, if the city’s own politicians can’t afford to live there, we have a problem.

Flickr: Omer Wazir

About Jam Michael McDonald

Jam is a content editor based in Toronto. He's been the editor of a community newspaper, a national magazine, and two startups. Although he lives in a tiny condo, he uses every corner, and is an avid cheerleader of the compact home movement. You can find him every day on Twitter @mcjamdonald.

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