“If you’re willing to live in a home half or a third the size you could afford elsewhere, Vancouver is perfect.”

Dan Cooper at francesbula.com Jun 24, 2011 at 11:42 am
“I live in a tiny condo in the Douglas Park neighbourhood, about halfway between the Mayor and the Premier if I have their locations correct. I can walk or at a pinch bike or bus to almost everything I could possibly want to do, be it stores, restaurants, sports venues, theatre and opera, shopping, parks, work, libraries or whatever else… Well, they did move the government map store from Broadway and Cambie out onto some such foresaken strip of road in the ‘burbs, but I’ve been managing somehow despite no longer having instant access to the latest geodesics. Anyway, my child continues to have a great experience in his local public school, again within walking distance. Did I mention the multiple community centres with all kinds of activity and sport options, ranging from a few blocks to a kilometre or so away? The youth sports teams? I would say that from a middle class perspective, Vancouver is a really good place to live, with the only drawback being the expense of housing. If you’re willing to live in a place half or a third the size you could afford elsewhere, Vancouver is perfect. For me, it’s been well worth that trade-off. As for visitors, as others have said they tend to go and do many of the same things I do when I’m relaxing: parks, seawall, Granville Island, theatre, restaurants…”

“If you’re willing to live in a place half or a third the size you could afford elsewhere, Vancouver is perfect.”
Hahahahaha? (Ummm… no..) Under normal circumstances, such a statement would produce a round of laughter, but Dan Cooper is serious. For him, the trade-off is worth it. For many others, not.
And, by the way, we co-incidentally agree with Dan’s math: Vancouver RE is overvalued by a factor of 2 to 3. – vreaa

58 responses to ““If you’re willing to live in a home half or a third the size you could afford elsewhere, Vancouver is perfect.”

  1. The problem with going out to Granville Island, theatre, restaurants…even to Blenz…is they all cost money. The walls close in quickly when you live in 350 square feet, and you can’t economize by entertaining at home. You always have to be “out” and usually that’s expensive.

    If you’re a couple, and one of you gets temporarily sick of the other, the only way to escape is “out”. How many relationships can survive a tiny apartment? And don’t get me started on kids.

  2. How about averaging living space available over the whole day, or maybe just waking hours outside of work? Spending two hours a day strapped to a seat inside a small metal box pulls the average down pretty quickly.

  3. Which begs the question, how does this guy afford the condo (I assume he owns?), a kid, and do all the things he’s talking about? We are looking at renting a place, childcare and over half of our disposable income is gone right there! Add in a car, utilities (just the gas, electricity, basic phone + internet) expenses and we got a pretty tight budget just for the groceries. Even at half or 1/3 the space of elsewhere, Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond area is still damn expensive for the average family making the average income of $63K.

  4. Btw, as I said previous I was in China last month visiting my wife’s family. I have to say, her parents roughly 650 sq ft apartments looks and feels like a 1000 sq ft condo here. The bedrooms are bigger than what i can find here. However the trade-off is that there is only 1 washroom with no separate showers, or in suite in the master bedroom. So a 600 sq ft apartment does not need to be cramped but you do have to make some sacrifices.

    • i am born and raised in the 2nd largest land mass nation in the world

      i will not be reduced to living in a sardine can because of external and internal market forces.

      • Word.

        Lots of land. Lots of trees.

      • did you know that British Columbia has an estimated 4 trillion trees?

        keep it on the DL

        always remember Hitler’s views on Canada: “With so many natural resources, even with the worst leadership it would be possible to maintain a high standard of living in Canada.” or something along those lines, livin’ the dream, baby..

        [Hadn’t heard that. Must source. Tx, Derp. -ed.]

      • I hear there are some great deals to be had in 100 Mile House lol

      • you’re a [expletive deleted. keep it civil. -ed].

      • if living in a place like 100 mile house gets me away from people like you, all the better.

        you take glee in watching your fellow canadians (can i call you that?) – young and old alike – get squeezed and milked for all their worth. all to push up your net worth. that’s why i’ll laugh when you take the hit.

        your arrogance is disgusting,
        you’re just another bore.

  5. Lots of people do like that lifestyle, and more power to them. But the point is that there are many many cities where you could find the same modest central city location, with walking access to similar activities, for half as much.

    • granite countertop

      Exactly, thank you.
      Living in Vancouver has perks, including livable dense areas, but still they don’t justify the prices.

  6. If you are going to make that argument of accepting a 1/3 of the space for close proximity to amenities why choose Vancouver? London, New York, Paris don’t have parks, libraries, fabulous restaurants? Please: the opera and theatre comment was just stretching a little too far. While those cities and many other world class cities are expensive too, they have alot more on offer than Vancouver (great career opportunities with good pay come to mind). Vancouver really only has bragging rights to the spectacular scenery and access to skiing – but you need big dollars to keep that up. Your average salary here could not pay for season lift tickets and all the gear. I love how Vancouverites (particularly those who are strangling themselves with a huge mortgage) buy into their own hype.

    • i go skiing 40-50 times per season usually – this year was a little lean due to finances – i buy new gear when ever something breaks/wears out or i just see something awesome i must have – usually i sell old stuff to finance new stuff – i have extensively downsized my collection, thankfully – though i miss my GS skis for sunny days in the spring, you need something special for cascade cement..

      bear in mind, my landlord subsidizes my lifestyle for me, just like the taxpayers will be subsidizing his son’s home ownership dreams when this thing goes belly up.

    • I managed to move back to Canada on an expat transfer salary. That is, I’m a direct beneficiary of those poncy EIU quality of life surveys which help HR figure out what to pay to attract people to move to cities like Vancouver and Zurich (with ridiculously high costs of living).

    • A friend of mine was sharing how much he misses skiing and mountain biking which can no longer afford to do after starting a family, buying a house since he is not willing to have personal debt other than mortgage and car. What is sad about this situation is that he makes 90K a year salary.

      • when you start a family you buy a home. Your friend likely has a different set of priorities. If you don’t have kids and don’t plan to there isn’tt any need to buy the home. If you have kids, are renting, and still playing with the same toys you did when you were childless, then you need to grow up and get your priorities straight.

      • rusty is submitting the ‘be responsible; be an adult; buy a house’ argument.
        This is a fair statement, in normal times. But we are living through deeply distorted times, where being responsible, and being an adult, and looking out for your children, may involve going against the grain by avoiding a home purchase… and where the irresponsible are going into massive debt to ‘purchase’ homes.
        Thus these decisions are context dependent, there are no universal immutable rules like ‘responsibility = ownership’.

      • a choice with no context is no choice at all

        who would dare resist the will of The Party

      • I’m responding less to “ams” and more to Rusty’s comment that you shouldn’t be playing with your bachelor toys when you have kids. Comments like that get me in a big long rant about children enjoying skiing, too, that recreation makes for far happier, stable, confident children come adults than whether we own or rent our house. I’ll save my breath. I rent, I have kids, we still do all the playing (kayak, snowboard, bike) that we did before. In 10 or 15 years I’ll let you know how that worked out for us.
        Btw, I turn on cartoons for my daughter and she’s not bothered, but we turn on the BNN and she stops what she’s doing and looks. Hmm.

      • well, you see
        the problem is

        you don’t have her playing mozart’s concertos on the violin

        come on, 4 hours a day and you will finally have an intellect in the house, you basement dwelling, broke canadians.

        smart children repeat their multiplication tables until they fall asleep in their cheerios, didn’t you know that? actually, only poor whites eat cheerios.

        you should “learn to do the meditate!” YOU’D BE A LOT HAPPIER – LIKE ME.


        lol at the culture-of-domination, it’s entertaining, if nothing else.

      • what’s your long range plan ACP? Not owning means you have no assets to pass to your children. This is what it’s all about my friend; passing your wealth to your children. Yours will need to leave town and provide for their own future because you’re still pissing your money away on rent and toys. Providing for your child’s future means making sacrifices and perhaps taking on risk and debts you would not have imagined yourself doing. There’s no textbook or UBC course for this – just use common sense…if you’re not passing wealth to your children and others are for theirs, how much of a disadvantage will your kids be at? Take a look around you – those parents that are passing wealth off to their kids today are helping them buy Vancouver homes. And the parents that aren’t? Those kids are moving out of town, or renting or raising their kids in condos. You have the benefit of insight a generation before this happens to your kids.

      • “Providing for your child’s future means … taking on risk and debts”

        Non sequitur

  7. Brilliant! – but I for one don’t know of any families wanting to live in a 500 sq. ft. bsmt suite so they can afford to walk the seawall once a week.

  8. Renting in the west end is really not that expensive, and you can bike or walk the seawall every day if you want. Mountain biking is really not that expensive unless you’re a gear head. Skiing can also be fairly inexpensive, get an off-peak pass for less than $500, or hike for your turns.

    These things are all attainable if you want. You just have to give up a bit of convenience.

    • Shared laundry. Bedbugs.

      The stabbiest council estate in Newham looks more appealing.

      • Aldus Huxtable

        You’re making me justify the wild enjoyment of the ski-park in Sheffield here.

      • LOL @ ‘stabbiest council estate in Newham”


        show ’em the pics of the housing project in Sheffield, Dr. Huxtable – you know, the one with the bathtub full of old feces.

    • So how much I rent would I pay for a 3 bedroom apartment/condo/house on the Westside so the rest of my family has a place to live until the landlord decides to give me notice for whatever reason (like he wakes up to realize that he’s far better off selling out to HAM) so that now I have to uproot my kids from their school and all recreational activities because I can only find suitable accomodation 30 km away.

      Only an idiot would do that to his family especially when you can buy elsewhere for a fraction of the cost of renting in Vancouver – the most disillusioned place on earth.

  9. The whole crazy every-homeowner-is-renting-a-basement-suite thing these days is, well, crazy! Where are your adult children going to live now when they have to move back home because they got sick/ fired/ downsized/ had a kid? Or your elderly in-laws who are surviving on a meagre CPP cheque having spent all of their savings and assets? Can you afford to kick out the tenant? Who wants to live in a strangers basement anyway?!! Ewww.

    • Aldus Huxtable

      Who wants to live in a strangers basement? Someone who doesn’t want to pay $320,000 for a 460sqft condo or $900,000 for a lane house or $2,000,000 for their own home. So in other words, people who often have no choice.

      • what about those who have no context for their choice?

        i mean, it only goes up, AMIRITE OR AMIRITE?

  10. Reading comments from the last few days, I’d say there is still a market for some nice new McMansions

  11. vreaa,

    ‘be responsible; be an adult; buy a house’ argument’.

    this is not the argument. The sentiment is that, if you have a family you do whatever you can to provide the best future possible for your spouse and children. This usually includes having a stable residence. If you don’t get the premise it’s because you don’t have children. And if you do have children and you don’t get it then you never should have entered into parenthood.
    And yes, I do agree that there’s an element of immaturity to not owning – as is evidenced on this site in abundance.

    • rusty: “And yes, I do agree that there’s an element of immaturity to not owning – as is evidenced on this site in abundance.”

      Agree with who? (because that’s not what I said).
      The bankers (central and big-5) are shouting “free money, kids!” and the people of Vancouver are stuffing their faces like unsupervised children in a chocolate factory.
      Is it ‘mature’ to take on these risks? We’d argue that it’s mature to assess the risks and, in this market, it is wise to then decline the offered candy.
      Wise citizens are deciding that the best way to “do whatever you can to provide the best future possible for your spouse and children” is to avoid the temptation to buy.

      BTW, your “if you do have children and you don’t get it then you never should have entered into parenthood” statement is perhaps the most obnoxious thing ever published in the comments at VREAA: that includes the gross language that we occasionally edit out.
      You’ve taken the bull arguments to a whole other level.
      We’ll save it in the ‘Bull hubris’ sidebar, for posterity.

      • “..it is wise to then decline the offered candy.” hah!

        re: ‘gross’ language – i’ll rephrase – ‘that rusty, he sure is a DB’

  12. Rusty, what can I say? It is individuals like you who are probably mortgaged up to the eyeballs who continuously insult the intelligence of others who have an opposing view to justify to yourself why you have made the decisions you have. Responsible parents are those who want to set an example to their children, one of those being living within your means and demonstrating that you don’t spend more than you earn ie. run the credit card up to the max with no hope of ever paying it off. What message does it send to your kids if you have to have both mum and dad working full time, sometimes 2 jobs, plus have a tenant in the basement just to make the mortgage payment? I truly feel sorry for many of these families who like you have bought into the hype that owning a house in Vancouver is more important than anything else because god help them if one of them loses their job, the market corrects even by a fraction or the tenant moves out. They will end up on the street on their butts and oooooooh god forbid join that group of pariahs – “renters”.

    • Deana,
      my property ownership situation is well known here. It didn’t start that way though. My first home I bought when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We struggled to make mortgage payments for the first 2 years but it was something we needed for our future.
      Fact is, you can hold on to your idea of one income with stay at home parent, but if the you’re competing against two income households to buy your detached property you’re going to be on the short end of that battle.
      Owning a home isn’t hype, it’s a lifestyle choice – as is having children.

      • So where does in all end then? At what point is owning real estate too expensive for you? When the necessary mortgage consumes 110% of your double professional income, you rent you basement and garage out, and you’ve sold your children into slave labour or prostitution? Nice life in a third world! Face it, most people with home ownership aspirations and any common sense left Vancouver years ago to avoid making a complete mess of their financial future. It’s also now a well know fact that renting is a much better investment than buying in Vancouver. VREAA has it right.

      • and how are two average incomes supposed to compete with dirty embezzled chinese communisty party stimulus money?

        “Playing real estate with the Chinese is like playing blackjack against the casino, too many and too loaded. Not a chance in hell.”
        -Ned from the francis bula blog

        children are not a lifestyle choice – they’re a chemical reaction.

  13. Rusty,

    You have missed the point – I wasn’t suggesting that one parent should stay home and raise the kids. Real estate has become so expensive in Vancouver because people have bought into the hysteria that you must make a sacrifice at all costs to own a property, to their own detriment. They are willing to take tenants, work 2 jobs and do anything else it takes lest they miss the boat. But at what expense? No time for your children, a slave to a house that is probably riddled with problems, etc. LIfe is about more than scraping together a mortgage payment. As I said before, all it would take is for one person to lose their job and these families who have stretched themselves beyond what is sensible will lose it all. That kind of financial management is the height of irresponsiblity.

    • when you have children it only matters what you provide for them – your fun and lifestyle is an afterthought

      • make sure you abort the daughters, too

        they’re not as valuable as the boys

      • I’m sorry that your life choices have left you in a position where you are not able to be both a responsible parent and a self-actualized individual in your own right. That must be very frustrating.

        Perhaps if you had been a little brighter and made better choices you would have had a more fullfilling life, but I suppose that your admitted lack of savvy somewhat does explain why it is beyond your ken to imagine that others are able to enjoy both responsible parenthood and a fulfilling life their own.

        I also helps to one to understand why you are so bitter and to thus pity you all the more for your need to lash out at others that do not make the same choices you have.

        I will think of unfortunate souls like you when I give thanks for the life I am able to lead.

      • I agree with both Rusty and DM. Optimally, one would really like to bestow one’s kids with a great set of values, shared experiences (skiing, sports, interesting trips, volunteering etc..), at the same time as planning for their future, saving for their education, providing a stable home (not having to move every few years etc..), and ultimately leaving them sufficient resources to compete in an ever increasingly difficult environment etc…
        However, as I have commented in a few blogs already, my wife and I have decided that the best way to provide these opportunities is to leave Vancouver and head to either Edmonton, Calgary, or Montreal (not yet completely overrun with speculators, HAM, and the wide range of other bullshit that is fast destroying this city). With our duplex on the west side essentially paid off, we can easily make this transition and not have to worry about taking on a 600K mortgage to move up to a very basic SFH on the west side (with basement tenants, and worrying to death about whether the interest rate rises significantly etc.., and paying it off until I have both feet in the grave…)… One million in equity goes a very long way in Calgary, and the outdoor opportunities in the rockies are 2 hrs
        away. There are indeed many different perspectives on this tradeoff, but for us it is completely clear what the best plan is….

  14. Never mind owning a home, I remember after university struggling to pay rent, pay off debt etc. I was too busy working to enjoy things like the seawall, skiing etc. After having two kids I honestly cannot see myself living in a condo in the city. Kids need room to move and grow, and especially when they are cranky, how can parents live like that. I also would not like having a basement tenant to help with the mortgage. That is just one’s opinion – curious if others feel the same way?

    • Yeah, we’d agree regarding not wanting the basement tenant. Isn’t that part of the appeal of a SingleFH?.. that one doesn’t share ones abode with strangers?
      One of the transformations over the last decade in Vancouver has been the steady emergence and flowering of the ‘stop-whining-and-compromise (as-we-have)’ bull position.
      This position argues that folks should accept less home, accept living further away, accept becoming landlords, accept sharing your residence with one or two other family units (basement and/or laneway house), accept less discretionary funds (you’ll be spending all on mortgage), accept less time (work harder, earn more, buy a home), and so forth. In short, accept less home and a lower standard of living than you would get elsewhere. The argument usually ends with the flourish, “if you can’t handle it, move”.
      People making the argument also like to imply that anybody who doesn’t ‘accept’ these compromises is spoilt, unrealistic, immature, etc.

      • conversely it sounds a lot like “people live with less where i come from, so stop whining that your standard of living is declining.”

        and it smacks of classism, too, by the way.

        i’m not moving to Yale, thanks.

      • do you notice, as well, that the bulls standard of living (if they are flipping, atm’ing their equity etc.) has increased while they lecture the basement dwellers about ‘sacrifice’ – wankers.

      • Isn’t that part of the appeal of a SingleFH?.. that one doesn’t share ones abode with strangers?

        Don’t know about you, but there is only me and the people I invite in my single Bedroom apartment. Never had anybody just walk through here without me inviting them in first 😛

      • Michael -> point taken.
        Interestingly, it is arguably more ‘private’ living in a decent condo/apartment (designed to abut upon other units; noise insulated, etc) than to live on the main floor of your own ‘SFH’ with tenants in the basement.

  15. CanuckDownUnder

    You learn something new every day. Not only am I bitter but I’m also a bad parent. Oh, the humanity!

  16. Pingback: Opinion – “Providing for your child’s future means making sacrifices and perhaps taking on risk and debts you would not have imagined yourself doing.” | Vancouver Real Estate Anecdote Archive

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