Recently, Vancouverites for Affordable Housing drew 500 people to their rally in hopes of drawing attention to an issue that is consuming the city right now. Eveline Xia one of the keynote speakers and organizers, is hoping to put a focus on the problem of out-of-control housing prices without letting the debate degenerate into accusations of racism. She feels that holding this rally will raise the level of discourse so that something productive will come out of it rather than just falling apart into “noise and fog and useless banter.”
Xia, who started the viral hashtag #donthave1million, is an example of the millennial generation that are finding it harder and harder to find affordable places to live in Vancouver. Like many of these individuals, she grew up in Vancouver and is now finding herself priced out of living in her own hometown, leading to serious questions about how she is expected to live in this city that is becoming more and more the exclusive domain of the ultra-rich.
Many in our younger generation are looking outside the city to places like, White Rock, Surrey and Burnaby for more affordable housing. However, recently there has been a lot of social media activity around living in Rich-mond and being poor. So it seems that even the suburbs of greater Vancouver are feeling the pinch of unaffordability.
So far, the issue has been largely ignored by the BC government. Although researchers have been pointing to foreign investment in real estate as the main cause for outrageously high home prices, the government has taken a “hands-off approach.” It is only recently that members of the government have even acknowledged that there is a problem. But that acknowledgment has come with little action, even so much as collecting data on foreign ownership of homes. This has been the first step for other countries that have been hit by foreign investment, using data collection to help implement new laws, including special taxes on home purchases by overseas investors.
The data that does invest has been culled from private research. For instance, the South China Morning Post has pointed out that Vancouver is the number one city in the world when it comes to millionaire foreign migration. In the seven years ranging from 2005 to 2012, Vancouver saw 45,000 foreign millionaires move into the city. That is substantially more than those who moved into the entire United States during those same seven years.
Besides the problem of a younger generation who see themselves as lifelong renters, the rising home price-tags are driving young workers out of Vancouver. This has the potential to hurt the economy as labor shortages are likely to keep workers out of the city. In the next ten years, all but three of the top 88 high-demand jobs will pay so little that those in the jobs will not be able to afford housing. In that time, the average household will have to earn over $125,000 to be able to take out a mortgage.