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What kind of housing should young families in Vancouver be able to get?

July 9th, 2015 · 62 Comments

What is a reasonable price for a young family to have to pay in this city for housing?

It’s a topic that frequently gets muddled in the news, as the rising price of west-side houses sets off a dynamite trail of news stories about how young families are being forced out of the city.

But, unless that young family is the doctor-dentist of #EricandIlsa fame, trying to survive on their paltry $300,000 a year (or was it a month?), that’s not the real issue.

The real issue is what kind of income do young couples/families typically have and what is a not-outrageous expectation they should have about the kind of housing they should get in this city.

I know a fair number of late-20s, early-30s couples these days who do want to stay in the city. They are, no, not service workers. They work at mid-range professional jobs and, between the two of them, earn somewhere in the $95,000- to $120,000-a-year range. (Sorry, I realize lots of singles out there and dual-income couples making less, and that is an even greater problem, one that’s been going on for longer, but I’m focusing on a particular group that has been getting a lot of headlines lately: the solidly middle-class, middle-income young couple.)

According to the handy Canada mortgage calculator website, they could get a $600,000 mortgage for 25 years at 3 per cent for 25 years and pay around $2,800 a month. That’s a little more than a third at the lower end, less than a third at the upper — the usual marker of what’s affordable.

So say they somehow had $50,000 saved for a mortgage, they could get something in the range of $650,000.

I know that the new fake-heritage duplexes in my ‘hood are going for $850,000 or so — so that’s out of range. But, realistically, those places have a lot more space than a young family absolutely needs. The two next to me are 1,800 square feet apiece, which is more than what we live in.

But what should they be able to have? I think we all agree that bringing up a family in too-small a space is more than most people can handle (Kirk and his whole extraordinary family aside). It’s not entitlement to expect to be able to find a place to live on a reasonably middle-class income in this city that isn’t a tiny box.

That’s going to be an important question soon. Vancouver is looking at how to create some affordable home-ownership. But the success of the plan is going to depend partly on what exactly they are able to provide for young families and at what cost.

It’s not going to be a full four-bedroom home on a single-family lot, not any time in the near future. People who want that are going to have to go to Port Coquitlam and Port Moody (which I hear from some realtors they are doing) or further.

What should they be able to expect? I await your ideas.




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