“Heather Hansen and her husband are left with almost no spending money after they pay their regular bills.
Mortgage payments on their New Westminster townhouse, daycare costs for their two-year-old son, transportation, groceries and servicing student loans suck all the income out of the household as fast as Hansen, a health care social worker, and her husband, an apprentice welder, are able to earn it.
The family is not eligible for any kind of income assistance because their salaries are too high.
“But we continue to [accrue] debt because we actually don’t make enough money to live,” Hansen, 31, said. “At present, we are barely able to maintain any form of personal or social life because we can barely afford our groceries.”
Hansen’s experience is not unique. In fact, a new study indicates it is the norm for couples with young children in B.C., whose standard of living has deteriorated more than that of their counterparts in any other part of Canada over the last 35 years.
Hansen and her husband would not have been able to afford their townhouse without the help of their parents. The previous generation did not necessarily have it any easier, but they were able to find jobs without as much formal education, Hansen said.
“I find that a large number of my peers, anyhow, are entering the workforce after incurring a large amount of debt and are then trying to buy a home with very little equity.”
- anecdote excerpted from ‘Incomes, house prices leave young B.C. families worse off than anywhere in Canada’, by Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun, 18 Oct 2011
The article included the following analysis:
“Since 1976, household incomes for couples aged 25 to 34 in B.C. have dropped by six per cent after adjusting for inflation, said the study by Paul Kershaw of the University of B.C.’s Human Early Learning Partnership.
B.C. is the only province in Canada to report a drop in average income for this age group, the study found.
At the same time, housing prices have skyrocketed across Canada, and nowhere more so than in B.C. Real estate prices have risen 149 per cent in this province since 1976, when housing costs accounted for less than three times the average household income for young couples. Today, it is seven times as much.
The bottom line?
“B.C. is now the hardest province in which to raise a family,” study author Kershaw said in an interview. “And that’s because we’re the only jurisdiction in the country where household income for young couples has actually fallen behind where it was a generation ago.”
This reality is setting the stage for “a silent generational crisis occurring in homes across Canada,” he said.
“While the generation raising young kids are squeezed for time at home and squeezed for money after housing and squeezed for services like health care, for the generation about to retire, it’s become far easier,” he said. And because they are the demographic that tends to vote in higher numbers, policy priorities typically reflect their interests, Kershaw said, citing the focus on funding health care to treat end-of-life diseases as an example.
Baby boomers are also leaving behind a national public debt that has nearly tripled over their adult lives as well as an environmental debt in the form of per capita carbon dioxide emissions they have made little effort to reduce, Kershaw said. At the same time, they are cashing in on the skyrocketing housing prices as their children struggle to scrape together a down payment, he added.”