Millennials Priced Out of Vancouver Living

Posted on January 6, 2017 - While it might feel like Vancouver is getting busier and more crowded everyday, there’s actually one age group that is fleeing Vancouver faster than ever before. Millennials, Vancouverites between the ages of 20 and 30, are turning their back on VanCity living in favour of other Canadian cities. But where are they going and why?

By the numbers

Vancouverites between 20 and 30 years old have been leaving Vancouver steadily since 2009. The number leaving also increases each year with 1571 reported moving away in 2013 from just under 800 in 2012. Recent numbers based on our latest census are expected to follow this trend.

Why are they leaving?

Research from the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning say the two factors forcing millennials out of Vancouver are lack of affordability and lack of job opportunity. Coming as a surprise to no Vancouverite, the volatile real estate market in our city  is a key contributor to people moving elsewhere.

While Vancouver has one of the highest populations of persons holding Bachelor degrees or higher degrees, we also have the lowest median income for workers age 22-55 among Canada’s big cities. Add low incomes, high costs of living and an inaccessible real estate market to an overall affordability issue and lack of job opportunities and it’s easy to understand why young people are leaving Vancouver.

Where are they going?

The majority of millennials escaping the west coast head east to Toronto. While housing prices and cost of living aren’t much better in Ontario’s capital, job opportunities are certainly more abundant.

The next greatest number of young people flock to Albertan cities Calgary and Edmonton where cost of living, real estate and winter temperatures are all much lower than those found in Vancouver. The last group stays a bit closer, trading Vancouver for nearby cities Abbotsford, Victoria and Kelowna where homeownership is more of a reality than a laughable dream.

Is this unusual?

Researchers from UBC’s Sauder School of Business note that while Vancouver’s declining number of young people is significant, it is a trend we’ve seen across Canada before.

Young people in the 20 to 30 age group are the most mobile and history shows us that they will move to strong cities where they can find jobs, buy houses and afford daily living. A city’s strength is not fixed so it is likely that we will see this mobile age group move again when their current city becomes unaffordable.

What are we doing to address the problem?

To help the mobile millennials stay put in Vancouver, municipal and provincial governments are doing their part to help ease the city’s affordability crisis. Recent investment in the tech sector has seen a record number of start-ups and other organizations find homes in Vancouver, adding to job opportunities perfectly suited to millennials.

To address the housing crisis, a number of new initiatives have been implemented. The municipal government has instituted a tax on empty homes and controversial foreign buyers tax. The province has released a new Affordable Housing Plan, though it has also been met with criticism. Most recently, Premier Christie Clark announced a five year interest free down payment loan program for first time home buyers in an attempt to make home ownership a reality for BC’s middle class.

As many of these regulations are new, only time will tell if they will have a significant effect on the housing market and overall affordability of Vancouver living. Perhaps if they work out, young people will once again be flocking to Vancouver instead of fleeing from it.

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