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Vancouver's Housing Market Is Driving Away Young Families

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Since I've moved to Vancouver in February of last year I've become accustomed to daily news updates on the real estate market. Like the one I woke up to this morning: New survey says Vancouver real estate third most expensive in the world.

As a newly-minted Vancouverite these headlines are losing their shock value. The unaffordable housing market is simply a reality.

My husband and I understand that we will likely never be able to purchase a home here. And if we decide to have children one day we will likely raise them in a rental property. We have accepted this.

We are not willing to move to the suburbs because we thrive on all things the city has to offer: arts, culture and diversity.

Many Vancouverites, understandably, are not of the same mindset. Specifically, young families that want a reasonably affordable home with room for their children and maybe even a backyard for their dog. And who can blame them?

There is an ongoing mass exodus of young families fleeing the city and going to towns such as Squamish. In fact, Squamish's rapid population has one of the highest growth rates in British Columbia growing at 15 per cent over five years, compared to the province's seven per cent growth rate.

Moreover, Squamish has a younger age profile than the rest of the province. Almost 60 per cent of its population is under the age of 40, compared to 49 per cent in metropolitan Vancouver. Squamish also has one of the fastest growing youth populations in the province, due to families increasingly setting-up permanent residence.

There are other towns like Squamish that are on the winning end of the housing crisis in Vancouver -- these towns are getting young families that will one day help their town prosper.

And this is key point that the Vancouver housing affordability debate is missing: the young families the city is losing.

Do not be mistaken, cities need young families. Families help revitalize neighbourhoods. The presence of children encourages safer streets, better transportation and more green space.

With the current housing prices in Vancouver, it's not the price that we should be fixated on, but the people that are being driven out by them.

When parents can walk or take public transit to work, pollution is reduced. As well, according to International Making Cities Livable the carbon footprint of families living downtown is lower than suburban single family homes.

Furthermore, according to the aforementioned report families bring a diverse economy downtown, and diversity increases the city's economic resilience. Moreover, small businesses in the city benefit because these young families tend to spend more than the homeless or elderly.

The list goes on of how young families and specifically children benefit cities, and one thing is for certain we will not prosper as a city without them in the long-term.

With the current housing prices in Vancouver, it's not the price that we should be fixated on, but the people that are being driven out by them.

It's said that the life of a city can be found within the young people -- the soul lies within the older generations. Unfortunately, I don't think there will be much life left if steps aren't taken to address housing affordability.

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