Vancouver’s Housing Problem

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I grew up there as a child and teenager. It was—and is—a beautiful city, one that encompassed all that was friendly and welcoming in the Canadian spirit, but also featured nice weather and a blend of people and cultures. Admittedly, our family was not original in deciding to immigrate from Hong Kong to Vancouver in the 90s; it was a popular destination for those who were scared of the Chinese takeover of the city back in 97. Incidentally, our family left in 97 for the greener and hotter pastures of California, and I’ve been here ever since.

Ironically, had we stayed, I don’t think we’d really have escaped the Chinese influence we sought to avoid across the Pacific. With money leaving the newly-rich in China overseas, the real estate market in Vancouver had not bothered to decline in the 2 decades since our departure, right through the dotcom bust and even the housing bubble bust. It’s gotten so bad that tech workers—those oft-accused of causing the housing crisis in Silicon Valley—can no longer afford to stay in the city either. Like London and New York, properties are used as stores of value for the rich1, to the detriment of the locals and the less affluent.

As someone who had dreamt about retiring in my childhood city, it sucks to see that it’ll likely remain a dream. Given our current culture of urbanization and globalization and capitalism, there will always be desirable places to live, and enough wealth in the world to make those places unaffordable for the vast majority of people in the world, first-world or otherwise. Hell, San Francisco is front-and-center in terms of pricing people out of the city, myself included.

  1. Though I suppose that more recent developments, where rich parents are merely buying mansions for their kids while they go to boarding school, is a little better in terms of not having just empty houses in the neighborhood.

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