With rising housing prices across Metro Vancouver, many younger people are finding themselves pushed out of the real estate market due to lower incomes.
That pricing has led to a mass migration of what are commonly thought to be lower earning millennials, but as new census data shows that may not be the case.
Surprisingly, the data shows people within the age demographic of 35 to 44-years-old are actually the most willing to leave, and more millennials are staying in the city than ever before.
Dr. Paul Kershaw, a professor in the School of Population & Public Health at UBC, spoke to Simi Sara on Thursday about what this new data means.
LISTEN: Kershaw talks to Simi Sara about the new census data
First of all, Kershaw says the results aren’t surprising, as the squeeze between lower incomes and higher housing prices has been getting wider over the past few years.
He says those who fit the millennial demographic are much more willing to tolerate living in basement suites or studio apartments.
That’s compared to older demographics like the 35-44 age group, who are now looking to start families.
They’re finding that aspects like larger square-footage, more than one bedroom, and a front and back yard are now pushing Metro Vancouver houses into the realm of unaffordability.
And with many of them wanting to start a family, Kershaw says they can’t keep putting off buying a home that does have those aspects.
“Those are the things that are then driving a demographic that can no longer delay their families outside of Vancouver.”
And Kershaw says it’s a widespread issue – the fact that many young people are delaying having children until they’re over 35 is proof that B.C.’s economy is failing them.
He points to his own research, which shows that in the city of Vancouver there are no houses with more than two bedrooms available for less than $500,000.
That high price point is actively driving young people out, a phenomenon Kershaw says can be seen as far as Surrey.
And with those prices continuing to rise, Kershaw says younger demographics will start to eschew B.C. entirely in favour of the other side of the country.
He says that while Atlantic Canada has a reputation for not having many opportunities for young people, the fact that their dollar can stretch further will attract them anyway.
“I actually think we’ll see Atlantic Canada attract more young people from British Columbia and Ontario in particular. And if I were a premier in those provinces, that’s exactly how I would advertise myself.”
When it comes to improving things here in B.C., Kershaw says there’s no better time than now to start.
He says the fact that there was a lull in Vancouver’s housing market at the end of last year made the provincial government complacent.
But Kershaw says the fact that sales declined isn’t what matters.
“As the number of sales went down, prices didn’t drop. And that’s what we really have to be focused on.”
No matter who wins the upcoming provincial election, Kershaw says, pressure needs to be put on legislators to address housing unaffordability.
“We really do need our legislators to say ‘we have to tackle this issue.’”
Because while more houses may be available, Kershaw thinks it doesn’t make a difference if those who need them can’t afford them.
“When it takes literally 27 years to save for a 20 per cent down payment on an average priced home in Metro Vancouver if you’re a young adult,” Kershaw says. “That is the primary signal of an economy failing its people.”
With files from Tristan Martin-Woodhouse