“My husband and I are both professionals in our early 30’s (medical and legal) who were born and raised in the suburbs of Vancouver and grew up in comfortable middle-class families. We both moved to Alberta after our undergraduate degrees at SFU, to pursue our respective professions at the University of Alberta (cheaper tuition and better regarded programs than UBC for both of us). After graduation (around 2008), we chose to stay in Alberta for a little longer to save up for a house in Vancouver. We’ve been following the housing market in Vancouver ever since and we read VREAA and Greater Fool every day. Following the market with the dream of someday moving ‘back home’ has become a ritualistic obsession, waiting for the day the market tanks and we can fly back to Vancouver with suitcases of cash. Needless to say, we’re still waiting and watching.
Since we left Vancouver, we have been the ‘outsiders’ in our respective families (both families are located exclusively within the lower mainland), flying home for Christmas and in the summer but missing out on the everyday family gatherings. There’s a lot of peer pressure to move back home coming from family and friends, who don’t understand why anyone would want to leave the ‘best place on earth’. We feel a subtle undertone that what we’re accomplishing is worth less because we’re not doing it in Vancouver. Of course, none of the people judging us have ever lived or worked outside of Vancouver. As ex-Vancouverites born and raised, we’ve had the ‘Vancouver superiority complex’ imbued in us and can’t help but subconsciously agree.
Both of us have held various jobs in Edmonton and have recently relocated to a small town a couple hours out of Edmonton for better career opportunities (i.e. to save up more money to move back home). Funny thing is, we’re actually starting to like it. Growing up, neither of us had thought much of the small-town life, believing small town folk were hicks (Vancouver superiority again). But, friendly people, a 5-minute commute to work, affordable housing, and stable jobs where we can easily make 3-4x what we’d make in Vancouver are awfully tempting. The cost of living here is much lower than Vancouver. There is no PST/HST in Alberta, and gas is about 30c/L cheaper. Housing in our town is fairly priced compared to the median family income. Alberta is also quite a beautiful province full of outdoor recreation opportunities, although it took us a while to appreciate its charms.
Young people in our town have amazing opportunities both to work and start a family. A colleague’s husband bought his first house at 18 (6 years ago), with money he made working in a skilled trades job. (By the way, detached houses under 100k still exist!) Because there is a REAL economy here, based on tangible things like trades, equipment manufacturing, outdoor recreation, etc, there are plentiful jobs available to anybody willing to work. I remember growing up and struggling to find a summer job in high school/university. I wouldn’t say jobs were plentiful growing up in Vancouver.
Sure, we can’t get sushi at 10pm on a Sunday, but going to Edmonton is an easy drive on the weekends to soak up some culture and go shopping. The irony is, in many ways the small town lifestyle is more cultured and wholesome than where we grew up. People take time for real self-actualization: gardening, baking, reading, travel, outdoor recreation, and community involvement. Contrast this with young people in Vancouver who either still live at home into their late 20s, or have moved out into 600k condos while earning 70k a year (if that), and go around driving luxury cars, thinking they’re hot stuff because they “own” a house in Vancouver.
If it weren’t for the family ties we have back home, we would not even be considering moving back. Vancouverites perpetuate the illusion of the ‘best place on earth’ either because they’ve never lived anywhere else and don’t know any better, or to justify a vastly overpriced lifestyle in which a person pays more and gets less than anywhere else in the country. To see the situation as it really is would be heartbreaking for most young people who’ve mortgaged their futures in an attempt to live a similar lifestyle to that they grew up with. Sadly, Vancouver has permanently changed, and it’s not just housing prices. Whether the bubble bursts or not, the social landscape of the city has been irreversibly altered and we’re not sure the ‘new’ Vancouver is a place in which we want our children to grow up.”
– ‘Watching And Waiting’, via e-mail to VREAA, 26 Apr 2012
‘W&W’ generously shares with us her complex, mixed feelings about living in Vancouver (or not).
It is often challenging for young people to make decisions about where to live (family, jobs, lifestyle, ‘social landscape’), and atypically large differences in RE prices add another significant variable. Over the last 5-10 years, the RE variable has become a game-changer for many.