“The dissonance between the tranquil image Vancouver exports and the lie the city has become: You cannot be a sustainable city when no working-class resident can afford to live within a 45-minute drive of the city centre.”

‘High-end Vancouver, like its high-end hockey team, has alienated working-class fans to the point of anger’, by Shefa Siegel, themarknews.com, 24 Jun 2011 [hat-tip 'lex']. Siegel is a Research Fellow at the Vale Columbia Center on Sustainable International Investment. Excerpts -

“[There exists] a dissonance between the tranquil image Vancouver exports and the lie the city has become.”

“Gregor Robertson lives in a comfortable 23rd Avenue house one block west of Oak Street. Until the mid-1980s, Oak was the division between the city’s wealthy and middle classes. Moving east from Oak to Cambie, Main, and Fraser, each major north-south street was a further step toward working-class homes, immigrants, and the rundown schools that defined Vancouver as an affordable city at the continental edge.”

“Until I was 13, I lived four houses up the hill on 23rd Avenue from where Robertson resides. We had a plum tree and raspberry bushes. There was a schoolyard across the alley where we shot hoops and practised wrist shots. We walked to school. Our friends lived in the neighbourhood. It was a good place to live.”

“Today, a single-floor postwar home on 23rd is worth a cool million. The districts across Cambie, Main, and Fraser, once avoided by puny Jewish kids who knew nothing about fists and fights, are coveted grounds for swanky young parents. Coupled with obscene food prices, living in the heart of Vancouver is no less expensive than life in Manhattan.
Were I now living in Vancouver, I would have to move further east. No matter my ordinations from the educated class, I am a data point on the downward trend where the purchasing power of middle-class offspring is exponentially lower than the income of the parents who spawned them.
Because the million-dollar range stretches past the Pacific National Exhibition and the old Canucks Coliseum, my hypothetical move east displaces still further the working classes and immigrants who once occupied these formerly grunge areas. The people upon whose backs the city – any city – hums are not part of the post- Expo ’86, Hong Kong, Whistler-Blackcomb, cannabis capitalism, cult-of-celebrity, and Olympics economic boom that make the 2011 Vancouver Canucks possible.”

“There is no undeveloped property anywhere – every nook and niche claimed by condominiums, stadia, coffee, and casinos; timbermen’s jackets replaced by adorable Lululemon asses, the costume of a leisure class with time to shape their figures; hippies gone wealthy, local festivals marketed worldwide, mountains transformed to Monte Carlo; the mines – though still economic bedrock – obscured by film crews and marijuana monopolies.”

“..the Vancouver mayor glamourizes the city as a beacon of “sustainable” urbanism. I am sorry, but sustainability has nothing to do with bike lanes to cross bridges connecting one affluent neighbourhood to another. Sustainable development is equal parts environmentalism and social justice; it is the principle that every individual, class, race, nation, and generation has equal rights to prosperity and resources – an ethics of distribution. And for the past 30 years, up to and including Robertson’s administration, Vancouver has veered away from, not toward, the ethics of sustainability.
Testifying internationally to Vancouver’s glory does not change the crisis. You cannot be a sustainable city when no working-class resident can afford to live within a 45-minute drive of the city centre..”

31 responses to ““The dissonance between the tranquil image Vancouver exports and the lie the city has become: You cannot be a sustainable city when no working-class resident can afford to live within a 45-minute drive of the city centre.”

  1. I think what a lot of people haven’t realised yet is that Gregor is just like any other businessman. He recognises a business opportunity when he sees one and the ‘green’ economy is it. The trick is to keep the chattering middle and lower classes from recognising that they aren’t and never will be benficiaries of his policies. We’ve already seen that with the elimination of low-income housing from the potemkin village, and his worthless platitudes to homelessness including his refugee camp experiment.

    Compare and contrast the resource needs of Vancouver versus a large metropolitan area like, oh, Greater London or NYC and the nonsense of Gregor’s ‘green’ vision precipitates. Large metropolitan areas have massive problems with traffic so greater use of bicycles is beneficial to the economy. The scale of infrastructure required to remove garbage and sewage in such dense dense areas are problems which benefit from recycling programs and conservation policies. The cost of utilities in these places are several times higher than those enjoyed by Vancouverites. Large cities benefit from green policies. Gregor’s just looking for ways to make a select few of his friends a lot of money to solve problems that don’t exist.

  2. nobody you know

    It was the same way 6 years ago down in the states. I remember living in San Diego when only 11% of households could afford a median priced home. This eventually dropped to 7% before the correction finally began. When I see the prices up here in BC it’s like deja vu.

    ” * Just 11 percent of households are able to purchase the median-priced home, according to the California Association of Realtors. (North County Times, 2/11/05)

    * In San Diego, the median income for a family of four is $63,400, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

    * Families have to make nearly $135,000 to afford median priced homes in San Diego. In other words, the median income of San Diego households is less than half what is needed to buy a median priced home.
    needed to buy a median priced home.”

    Source: sandiego.gov
    Link: http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/community/pdf/cow/sdhc.pdf

    Sound familiar?

    The real estate market was so dysfunctional that even if you were willing to pull the kids out of their school, drop the family pets off at the SPCA, blow your life savings on a down payment, stop saving for retirement, squeeze the family into a two bedroom condo and commute for an hour you would STILL not be able to afford your mortgage.

    And it was this point that families lost all interest in owning since the sacrifices necessary to become mortgaged were absurd.

    So here we are, in the year 2011, with our own Made In Canada housing bubble. What does our own market look like in terms of affordability for working families? Let’s take another look at this fascinating chart provided by Larry Yatkowsky:

    http://www.yattermatters.com/2011/07/vancouver-home-buyers-adopt-slogan/

    Of course hardly anyone in the GVRD earns enough to qualify for these loans. And if the vast majority of citizens can’t buy something, then they won’t buy it. It’s just that simple. It doesn’t matter what they want. It doesn’t even matter what they need. And it sure as hell doesn’t matter how much profit a home owner thinks they deserve. They are no longer in the driver’s seat.

    • It’s pretty amazing to watch Vancouver after experiencing the States, which is why I check in on this blog.

      It’s like a Greek tragedy where you know the protagonist’s fate from the outset, but are helpless to steer him clear. It is fate, after all.

      • Agree, this is one of the most stunning aspects of Vancouver’s bubble.
        Yet, after it pops, people will still say, “who could have known?”

      • One need look no further than comments on these very pages for evidence of how some Vancouver RE players feel bullet-proof.

      • What Snats said.

        I feel like Cassandra. The worst is watching friends buy in with huge mortgages.

        But maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong for the young couples that might get smashed by falling prices.

      • i’m just throwing it out there (yes, i know it’s ‘fate’)

        but there is a certain element of malicious intent that i just can’t ignore

        agree/disagree? explain your answer

  3. “You cannot be a sustainable city when no working-class resident can afford to live within a 45-minute drive of the city centre”

    I thought rents were affordable in Vancouver – and they really haven’t gone up for quite some time. We h

    • 4SlicesofCheese

      The newer duplex I used to rent a 1 bedroom suite in 3 years ago was just sold, list price $780,000. Not sure what price it sold at.

      In the MLS writeup it said has a 1 br suite that rents for $700. Thats how much I rented it for, 3 years ago. But hey the house owners made a killing from when they bought it right?

      Hope they didn’t “move up” into a detached.

    • Aldus Huxtable

      Rents are going up again, as people are taking on larger mortgages you can find studio basement suites outside of the downtown core for $1250 now. Approx. two years ago you wouldn’t see a studio anywhere outside of the downtown core for more than $1000.

      http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2523624710.html

      http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2518929342.html

      400 sqft no bedrooms, loft at Main & 25th for $1000. Really? Come on.

      • I pay 1050 for a nice 1BR near main and 16th.

      • I think those rents are wishful thinking, it doesn’t quite jive with what I have observed in Vancouver itself. My place is $1350, one bedroom BUT, this overlooks English Bay, i can watch the fireworks straight from my bedroom and realized the other day I am essentially camping year round as I usually have my windows open. My rent, btw, has not gone up in two years.

        Fireworks: http://youtu.be/mpPkOXsHUz4

        So $1250 for a bachelor in bumfuck? Yeah, keep dreaming or find that fool.

  4. pricedoutfornow

    “And it was this point that families lost all interest in owning since the sacrifices necessary to become mortgaged were absurd”

    Are we there yet? This is when a crash will happen-when your average first time home buyer despairs that they will never own a home in this city, throws in the towel and decides to rent. I believe we are very, very close.

    • nobody you know

      “I believe we are very, very close.”

      Agreed. Soon it won’t matter what people want, need or are willing to spend. The simple fact is that the banks will not hand out unlimited money. If a first time buyer doesn’t qualify for a $300-$400,000 mortgage then they won’t get one. Period. And without that FTB money rolling in the move up buyers can’t flip their shitty condo or townhouse and buy a lovely $800,000 crack shack.

      When the market topped out in SoCal it took a long time for people to realize it. Prices dropped so slowly that the Realtors and assorted industry hacks were able to tell bald-faced lies for a good year or so before anyone caught on.

      I doubt we’ll know for sure that we’ve gone belly up until we see a solid 12 months of price declines and the MSM and politicians are forced to say the word “correction” or – God forbid – “crash” out loud. And then all bets are off.

      • “I doubt we’ll know for sure that we’ve gone belly up until we see a solid 12 months of price declines”

        won’t ever see that in this city. Best bet maybe two seasons worth

      • won’t ever see that in this city. Best bet maybe two seasons worth

        Well Rusty, and if you’re proven wrong, what then? I guess at that point you’ll just disappear and pretend you never made any of these predictions?

    • It’s almost impossible to tell when exactly a bubble will pop. Honestly, it could be a month because of some unforseen trigger, or it could be three to five years.

  5. Aldus Huxtable

    Rents are going up again, as people are taking on larger mortgages you can find studio basement suites outside of the downtown core for $1250 now. Approx. two years ago you wouldn’t see a studio anywhere outside of the downtown core for more than $1000.

    http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2523624710.html

    http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2518929342.html

    400 sqft no bedrooms, loft at Main & 25th for $1000. Really? Come on.

    I should note that studio apartments in actual apartment buildings were usually around $750-800 outside of downtown core previously. Now living in a poorly built suite in someone elses house costs you more than a grand.

  6. Aldus,

    Your second example is “furnished” which is an attempt to get rent above market value that usually fails. I remember watching a video by a property manager that warned against attempting this as the market isn’t there.

    The first example is just plain delusional. Even a “new” suite won’t get that kind of rent so far from downtown. They are competing against a high vacancy rate and more practical rents in older suites, like these:

    http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2524390303.html

    http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2524363235.html

  7. Or how about a 2 bdrm downtown for under $1000?:

    http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/apa/2524333311.html

  8. I see a lot of wish rents on craigs – a 3 bed basement suite for $2400 – yeah buddy dream on. We looked at a beautiful new 2 bed lanehouse in the Oakridge hood with laundry & granite a few months back. Went on the market at $1400, finally rented after 2 months for $1200. Rents aren’t going up. There are just more desperate landlords asking ridiculous prices.

    • pricedoutfornow

      Agreed. My building had a one bedroom with one bath and one parking for rent for months at $1600. No takers. Meanwhile, I rent my suite (2 bedroom plus 2 bath plus 2 parking) for $1350. People may try to rent places for a lot to make the mortgage but tenants aren’t stupid. I call them “fantasy rents”.

  9. I don’t currently live in VCR. I live in the FV. Grew up (?) in Burnaby, Kits, N Van. Definitely couldn’t live there now.

    While I may disagree with some points in the original article, I do agree with the sentiment. Especially about the “squeezing out” of the “middle class”.

    I like the idea of “social justice”

  10. to “miniinmission”, why would you not live there now? I am curious

    Seems mostly negative – headlines and posts here. If you could afford to live right in Vancouver, then it is sustainable and can be green with walkable communities(Kits, Commercial) as well as bike lanes, good transit etc.

  11. I left VCR around 1975. First moved to Van. Island, around Qualicum Beach. Moved over to FV about 10 years ago. Just spend a day, last thursday, in VCR. Personal opinion only, but, too crowded, not enough service, a lot of the people seem to be more inconsiderate than I remember.
    Please remember that this is only my opinion. I would venture to agree with “calguy” in respect to “If you could afford to live right in Vancouver”, this would be the key. The afford-ability. I am definitely a “middle class” guy. I can’t afford to live there.

  12. Anyone know if sales and inventory numbers are still published online somewhere? Rob Chipman’s site used to.

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