The High Cost of Living…in Vancouver

January 22, 2010
By Crunchy Carpets

If  anyone out there has read any posts on this site by me..they might have noticed my passion about affordable housing in Vancouver.

Homelessness is HUGE in our local media.  Politicians of all ranks and privileges do face time in front of refurbished hotels or new shelters. Pledges and promises are made.  Over and over.

And yes, getting people of the streets IS important..both short and long term solutions are needed.

But I notice, that for those folks who just squeak by, the home situation is pretty dire too.   Very dire according to the manager of Metro Vancouver Housing who stated at a recent tenants meeting that there are over ten thousand people waiting for what he calls ‘Lower end of market rental units.

Buying a  house for a family in Vancouver is only really available to a very select few.   Yes, most nowadays do with townhouses and condos.  They sacrifice space for trendy and lively neighbourhoods.  Most families are double income set ups.

So the next alternative is renting. There are condos and townhomes and suites of all kinds available.  But Vancouver has one of the lowest vacancy rates and the fight to keep rents at realistic prices is never ending.

Not all are suited for families.  Not all are near schools or good schools.

For those at the lower end of the scale there has been BC Housing.  BC Housing has provided subsidized housing for families and others in need in BC for many years.  They too have struggled with funding from private and public partnerships and an aging stock of homes.

The City of Vancouver has pretty much given up any sort of affordable housing plans apart from shelters and SRO hotels. They sure talked the talk with the legacy of social housing at the Olympic Village, but I never believed that in the first place.

The other alternative in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland is the little known Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation. For over 30 years now, this wholly owned, board run corporation has provided low and subsided rental properties geared to families, those with disabilities and seniors.

Apparently now my own complex is the about the ONLY one that provides ‘low rent’ and the majority is apparently subsidized in some way.

We are a sticking point with them now because apparently we never showed ‘need based on income’ for these lower rates.  This is a bit bizarre because we all remember filling out income information when applying and everyone I know living there does so because it is the only way they can provide decent (and that is the key word) housing in a good area for their families.

It is also a sticking point because the CMHC (that mandates the rates) froze our rates for years.   This according to Don Littleford, the Manager, is one reason why they are in such budgetary hell right now and why the place is falling apart.

Anyway…I want to stick with the key word here  - decent – instead of going into the gory details about our rent increase as that really is an aside at the moment.

Apart from the fact that organizations like the MVHC used to be supported by the Federal Government to maintain these lower rents and no longer is.

They ARE trying to push a new bill through ( BILL C-304) when Parliament comes back from the Olympics.  This bill basically replaces the old policies about sustaining affordable housing in Canada.

Ujjal Dosanjh held a town hall meeting last night to address the affordable housing crisis in our area and many from our complex were attending. I could not attend as we had been out all day and at a tenants meeting the night before and I knew my kids would not sit through another boring night of grown up speak.

I do hope that ideas were found to put pressure back on the various governments to support affordable housing strategies.  Especially for families.

The people in my complex are all hard working people.   There is a mix of single income, double income and single parental families living here, with a dash of senior citizens too.

It is not a complex of slackers.   Though indeed there are the few that give the place a bad name with their messes etc.  Most keep clean homes and are happy that they live in a place with great amenities for the children and close to their places of work.  Some have cars, some do not.  None, unlike Mr. Littlefords opinion, are here bucking the system  and living in the lap of luxury whooping it up due to the cheap rents.  I don’t hear about anyone heading away on great vacations.   I don’t see anyone driving fancy cars.  I see people getting by.

Mr Littleford seems to come from the attitude that tends to prevail out there..that if you rent and rent on the low scale then you must be doing something wrong.

And perhaps this is why the working poor don’t get as much media coverage or sympathy.

The Straight has been pretty good about reporting issues as has the Vancouver Courier. As you can see by the Straight article, the MVHC rental increase came up last year.

And boy did it. Many tenants attended the board meeting about the increases and it was enough to slow down the process until September of this year.  I assume in between they were figuring a ‘nicer’ way to broach it.

They get an epic fail mark for that.

But again, aside from all that.  The key issue is that Vancouver has a NEED for affordable family housing.  People of all incomes who work in Vancouver should be able to live in Vancouver.  It should not be home to an elite few.

In my view, the whole concept of a sustainable, green and efficient city requires a mixed bag of income earners supporting the whole infrastructure.

These ideas USED to exist.  That was how False Creek and Champlain Heights were developed in the first place.

But since Vancouver seems to thrive solely on the backs of real estate development, these ideas would not fly today.

Affordable housing needs to be the priority of all levels of government.  The quality of life for our future generations is crucial.  Our children deserve clean,  safe environments to exist in. They deserve community support like daycare and good community schools.

So many issues would vanish if our children were taken care of.  Part of that means providing decent housing for their parents.

I urge all people to pressure their government reps of all levels from city to the vacationing feds to bring back support and funding of affordable family housing.

Everyone deserves a good place to live.

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12 Responses to The High Cost of Living…in Vancouver

  1. Geoff Meggs on January 25, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    Good comments, CC, but the City of Vancouver has not given up, either at Olympic Village or elsewhere. What’s missing is any participation by senior levels of government, federal or provincial, in a housing strategy to produce affordable housing. Until that happens, the gains will be limited.

  2. Patrick Sauriol on January 25, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    “The gains are limited.”

    Sincerely and with all due respect Mr. Meggs, what is limited are the choices for families that continue to try and struggle to remain in Vancouver.

    Fair disclosure: I’m the husband of Crunchy Carpets. I’m also the father to three young children. I work full-time at a job located in Burnaby. We are a one car household. We are also a single income household, a choice that me and my wife decided to make back when we decided to become parents. I also have my own company which allows me to supplement my income moonlighting. I put in roughly about 50-60 hours a week of work between my two jobs — and I cannot afford a house or a townhome in Vancouver, or for that matter, Burnaby, New West, Coquitlam or Port Moody.

    I was born here and grew up here. I chose to raise my family here because I love this city. I have dealt with the pressures of trying to further my education, pay off debt, start a family and remain a Vancouverite. I have also seen the promises made to Vancouverites over and over again about affordable housing, and I have seen them fall apart. After watching what really is going on in this city, I have come to the conclusion that the overriding concern for most of the thought leaders in this city is how much money can be made on real estate — at the cost of affordable housing for the people that have middle-income jobs, whose children attend schools in Vancouver neighborhoods. Those people have been forgotten about while the leaders of this city like to pontificate on how much a “world class” city Vancouver is.

    I know that true world class cities do not forget about middle-income families or the children that go to their schools — because no one would sweep the street, open the stores, serve the meals, drive the trucks and all the other middle-class jobs that are necessary for a world class city to function.

    I am frustrated. I work long hours just to keep up with paying bills. My family does without a lot of things, things that I remember having back when I was a child and used to live in my east Vancouver 2 bedroom house. My childrens’ school had to lay off a teacher again this year because enrollment was down again. Families are leaving Vancouver because they can’t afford to live here, and what they are being replaced with are smaller and smaller condos — like the 270 square foot condos you were advocating on tonight’s news, Mr. Meggs. The ones that you claimed could be purchased by the working class citizens like nurses — your example. Tell me Mr. Meggs, if that nurse decided to get married and have children, precisely where would they be able to afford a two bedroom condo or home in Vancouver close to their work?

    You may say that the City of Vancouver hasn’t given up but a lot of citizens have, and those numbers will increase as the number of alternatives dwindle for middle-income families living in this city and middle-class flight increases. Instead of hearing about how fantastic Vancouver is as a destination for the rest of the world, I’d love to hear a Vancouver thought leader talking about how dangerously close we are to losing an essential part of the underlining fabric of our city’s economy and culture, the working class citizen and their families. I’d like to promises of social housing meant and sold to families that need it, not expensive condos bought as investment properties to be flipped in 12-24 months. I want real solutions and I want them now from my elected officials before my family has to leave this city forever as our options are fast running out.

  3. Heather on February 24, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Great article and thank you for raising awareness on the issue of affordable housing.

  4. brenda harvester on June 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    With all due respect to everyone..
    I can’t afford a home for my family much like yourself and I love living here and want my children to grow up here and enjoy the beauty of Vancouver.
    We are in the same situation but I am leaving the province and going somewhere more affordable so I can better provide for my family. Instead of complaining about the government not providing for me I decided to make a move that is in the best interest of my family. yes I am proving your point about middle class moving out of Vancouver but if you can’t afford it then you shouldn’t be here sad to say but this is reality.

  5. Crunchy Carpets on June 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    Brenda..I am not looking for a handout…but our city and province has to be aware that wages do not match cost of living and quality of living and to see the death of low and middle income earners being able to live in the city will cause bigger issues down the road when we ALL leave.

    Where I live is not filled with uneducated people..there are so many skilled hard working double income families here BARELY scraping by….and in conditions that they don’t deserve.

    We too will probably have to leave….but I don’t want that to be the answer

  6. [...] have used this blog to rave about my concerns about affordable housing in this city. I have been told that  I shouldn’t demand hand outs from the government.  I am [...]

  7. roger ball on September 10, 2010 at 7:45 am

    I am an ex vancouverite who now lives a higher standard of living elsewhere. The reality is that Vancouveris an internationally desirable city. Not everybody has the right to live a middle class life here. You need to earn it. I will hopefully be back at some point but to the whiners I can only ask “What gives you the right to live in a world class locaation ?” and “What have you done to earn it?”

  8. Crunchy Carpets on September 12, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I have still yet to figure out how having a nice view makes Vancouver a world class city.
    The people who want to enjoy the view still will need people to serve them their cocktails on the trendy patios while they enjoy the views

  9. H Palmer on October 31, 2011 at 7:34 am

    Uggg. . . a little discouraged after reading this article and the comments.

    We are an early 30′s married couple that has lived in upstate NY (not NY City) our entire lives. We have no beautiful mountains or water features. . . we’ve been looking around the globe for a new place to call home and start our own family.

    After tons of reading and researching. . We decided that Vancouver British Columbia would be the pl;lace for us.

    We’ve never been. . we’re planning a trip in the spring – with intentions on moving in 1 year.

    Your article and posts are discouraging =(

    We want to be part of a growing community of hard workers and environmental care takers. We want to contribute & enjoy.

    Now I am a little more concerned about the affordability of our dream destination. . .

    This article was over a year ago. . has anything improved since?

  10. Settlement Employment Resources Lacking? | on November 2, 2011 at 2:06 am

    [...] is not extremely expensive. Xpatulator ranked Vancouver the world’s 37th most expensive city. This post from Wet Coast Woman is one, amongst many blog posts, on the cost of living here. Immigration to [...]

  11. Crunchy Carpets on November 2, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Sorry the discouragement. People WILL disagree with me on the negative aspects of Vancouver…but the wages are just not there, depending on the sector you are trying to get into. Vancouver has done little to encourage well paying jobs…jobs that make the mountains and lifestyle affordable. Vancouver is great if you don’t have kids. If you want a condo and live downtown near all the stuff..NY style…but with scenery..you would be fine…again depending on what work you are looking for. Housing is the most critical issue in our up and coming civic election this month. They keep forgetting though that people need jobs to pay for that housing.

  12. Duncan on January 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Dear roger ball as a current life long vancouverite i take offence to your questions as to what give us the right to live in a world class city… my response is i was born here i have lived here my whole life and love this city… this city should not run on the money of people who got rich elsewhere off the sweat of other people this city should be affordable to those who have lived here their whole lives as opposed to trying to replace born and breed vancouverites with ungrateful people who have had most things in life served to them on a silver platter… the lower income people of this amazing city are who make it run… that is where our rights to live affordably here come from… with out us you wouldnt have people to walk on…

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