Real estate concerns continue to dominate the discussion in Vancouver, especially for the city’s Millennials, who despair of ever cracking their way into the property market.
We’ve heard plenty of debate about whether they’re abandoning the city, but how can we make them stay – and what needs to change to make it happen?
Avi Friedman, a housing expert with the School of Architecture at McGill, says expectations need to change, both on the part of youth, and of our cities.
Listen to Lynda Steele and Avi Friedman on Milliennials and housing expectations
Friedman says both Millennials and planners will need to make adjustments if they are to remain in our cities.
“It has to be a two way street. Millennials like to live in the city with lower expectations, but they need perhaps to lower the expectations more. But they today are running an uphill battle, and they cannot afford to buy a place. And I believe the cities need to accommodate and make it easier for them by introducing all kinds of innovative measures that have been introduced in other places.”
Some of those ideas? Looking to Holland where they’ve created floating housing. Moving away from single story buildings and being more open to four, or even six floor housing. Micro suites. Even ‘shell homes.’
“It is a grow home of a sort. You move in, you get connections to plumbing, and then you buy the entire contents as you have more money and your family need changes. When you need more space and you need more rooms you go and you do it yourself, and you get affordable housing.”
Friedman says young people will be willing to adjust to new forms of housing, but we’ll need to provide it for them. And if we don’t we risk hollowing out our cities and losing out on future entrepreneurs.
Friedman says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation rates “affordable” as consuming 30% of one’s income.
But he says in cities like Vancouver they’re spending much more than that, at high risk.
“Vancouverites in my opinion are in extreme danger because those who are spending more than 30% of their income on housing are not saving sufficiently for their old age. They most likely will have serious problems in the future when they will retire in a country that’s slowly but surely moving into private medicine.”
Friedman says he understands the political challenges of densification and NIMBYism, but says getting people into housing prevents two tiered system – and avoids creating an underclass like in countries like Guatemala.
And he says affordable housing can be done well, look nice, and add life to a neighbourhood.
“If they would see what they’re doing in other nations, they would see that having more young people would be better. And in fact, citizens need to know that you can’t have a school where your young teacher who just graduated from the University of BC will be a second rate citizen. You want your young teachers to be able to buy a home of their own.”