The Vancouver Housing Market Blues

“Mr. Charlton, there’s a problem in some of Canada’s major cities. There isn’t  affordable housing in Vancouver. The average price of a home is over a million dollars. Something needs to be done about these outrageous house prices.”

I read you loud and clear, internet. Well, it’s still expensive as heck, but you could always look into some of the surrounding areas, like Surrey or even Abbotsford. It’d be a long commute but…

“Nope. I want to live in Vancouver.”

Okay. Again, I’m laying out what you’re putting down. Now, it’s still pricey, but you could always start with a small apartment. You’d be living right downtown and…

“I want a house. A detached house.”

…. in Vancouver?

“Yeah. Like my parent bought when I was a kid.”

You’re from Vancouver, then?

“Nah, my parents raised me in (name of small logging/farming community in the middle of nowhere)”

And you want to buy a detached home. In the one of the most desirable cities on Earth. At a low price. You do realize that you buying a house in Vancouver is akin to your parents trying to buy a house in London or New York twenty five years ago, right? Your parents moved to the middle of nowhere.

“Hey! (small logging/farming community in the middle of nowhere) is a great place!”

I’m sure it is but…

“They filmed a commercial there once.”

Alright, all that aside, my friend here is right. The prices of homes in Vancouver are astronomical. There a lot of talk of taxing foreign investors to try and cool down the market. And that isn’t going to work. It’ll put more money into the government’s pockets, but it won’t bring prices down.

Most of the foreign investors are from China. China has a lot of people. One sixth of the world’s population. Their two largest cities, Shanghai and Beijing, have so many people that they rival our nation’s population. Two megalopolises have twice the number of citizen than our entire country. China has been doing well in the last couple of decades. The number of middle class in China has exploded, as well as the number of millionaires. When these Chinese foreign investors counter a bid on a house, they don’t go up by a few hundred dollars. They counter with offers of fifty thousand more. Exactly what kind of tax are your proposing that will scare this money away?

Even if levies and taxes were a solution, the branches of all three governments are terrified to stop foreign investments into real estate. That’s the only thing keeping our economy afloat at the moment. We spent years using oil, gas and real estate to prop up our economy. Oil and gas took a massive hit, and manufacturing hasn’t rebounded as quickly as people would like. If we didn’t have foreign investors buying up property the way they have been, construction would grind to a halt and it would jeopardize an already fragile economy.

Vancouver is an amazing place, I know. It’s the center of Canada’s film industry, the location of a number of startups and tech firms. It’s got a massive harbour. It’s beautiful and it rarely snows. Vancouver is a great city if you’re willing to be a starving artist or if you already have a ton of money. It’s not the place to settle down with a starter home and begin to raise a family. If your dream is to own a small house and have children, you should consider moving. The hard truth is you may think you have a great job there, but if where you’re employed can’t pay you a wage where you can afford to buy a place relatively close by, then it’s not that good of a job. And having a lousy job is fine if you’re working towards another goal, like becoming an actor or going to school or starting a business on the side. If your goal is to raise a family, then you have to consider moving to a place that’s more in your price range. A lot of people seem to want to cling on the notion they have to stay in the greater Vancouver area.

The last generation didn’t move to the middle of nowhere because of the scenery, or the selection of nice restaurants. They moved there because there were jobs and there was affordable housing. They lived and worked there for years so they could retire one day in their dream location, whether that was in Victoria, Vancouver, or heck, even Lethbridge.

You might say that if everyone left Vancouver to the foreign investors, it would become a ghost town. And that might be true. The thing that makes a city great is it’s people. But you can’t expect to live in one of the greatest cities on Earth and not expect to pay top dollar for it.

Vancouver is great. I’ll be the first to say it. But Calgary’s is the sunniest city in Canada, Edmonton is beautiful in the summer, Regina has some amazing golf courses, Winnipeg is home to one of the best blues festivals in the world. I’ve heard great things about Ottawa, Montreal is amazing, and the average price of a house in Fredericton is roughly $150,000. That’s not to mention the smaller cities, towns, and municipalities.

I’m not suggesting you move, if you really love it there. But if you want to make the choice between owning a house or living in an apartment in a place like New York, it comes down to a lifestyle choice. Do you want to live in the city, or move out to the country? For a while there, people thought they could have both. My parents couldn’t have both, and I probably can’t either. That’s okay by me. I’ll take the city any day.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Just remember, home is a time, not a place.

p.s.s. Calgary has been unfortunately having a massive amount of downtown space for rent now, with oil and gas taking a nose dive. Wouldn’t be a bad location for tech startups, though. And it’s only an hour drive from the mountains. Just planting seeds, people.


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