Young people are leaving Vancouver and choosing lifestyle over location

To many Vancouverites, the BC interior was the place that they would spend their winter ski vacations or summer beach vacations. To some, other regions of BC sounded utterly foreign all-together. Now, young people are often fleeing the high price of being a Vancouverite, and are calling other regions of BC home.

Earlier this month, Daily Hive reported that Vancouver had been ranked as the sixth best city in the world for millennials, coming in just behind Toronto and just above Barcelona. Yet, it was only two weeks earlier that Daily Hive also reported that nearly 10,000 people left Metro Vancouver for other parts of BC such as Kelowna and Victoria.

Being a migrant to Vancouver myself, I am a walking cliche. I am a small-town girl who left home for the big city. I moved to Vancouver in January of 2016 to complete my degree at SFU. I craved the Vancouver lifestyle; the perfect combination of city life and the outdoors. I dreamed of riding my bike on the Stanley Park Seawall and skiing the mountains of North Vancouver.

The Vancouver lifestyle is evidently desirable. From the mountains to the ocean to downtown, not only is Vancouver ranked highly by Nestpick when it comes to nightlife, beer, and festivals. Vancouver also ranks highly in regards to overall equality, personal freedom of choice, health, and immigration tolerance. 

Cliche as it may be, Vancouver has it all… Almost.

So, why, with a high ranking startup score and employment rate, are young people and millennials still leaving the city? Well, despite the lifestyle perks, the reality is: Vancouver is unaffordable. Whether or not young people can afford to live their desired lifestyle after paying the bills is questionable.

I quickly came to realize that I had previously obtained the desired “Vancouver lifestyle” much more efficiently while still living at home in the West Kootenays compared to living here in Vancouver.

With a steep real estate market, increasingly high property taxes, and the fact that $1,750 is now deemed “affordable” for an average one-bedroom rental, young people are often left with no choice. As Vice News puts it, “The struggle is real if you’re earning anything under $60,000 a year” and still want to have a life outside of paying your hefty Vancouver bills.

Simply put by former Vancouverite, Jessica Barrett: “I can’t live in a place where the definition of success is ‘I’m not drowning!’”

According to the city’s mission and values, the City claims to advocate for fairness, leadership, excellence, responsiveness, and integrity and honouring their commitments. The City’s website states that they aim to “create a great city of communities that care about our people, our environment, and our opportunities to live, work, and prosper”.

This mandate may appear promising from the surface but prompts the questions: where are this fairness and equal opportunity when we appear to be living in a playground for the rich? Most of all, where is my chance to live and prosper at the same time? It seems nearly impossible at this point.

“I was living in the Lower Mainland and attending Quest University in Squamish”, says Mandy Huser, 23, who left Squamish for the West Kootenay area of the BC Interior. Mandy “ was keen to stick around and explore, but what I quickly realized as a single person looking for housing is that I was paying most of what I was making in a month on rent rather than going out and experiencing the things I wanted to stick around the Lower Mainland for”.

Mandy expressed her opinions on how young people appear to be emptying their pockets for the idea of living the Vancouver lifestyle; “essentially you are paying for aesthetic of living there and living a certain lifestyle”. In reality, many cannot afford to both pay rent, or own a home, and live the desired Vancouver lifestyle.

“So it was just more affordable for me to be living in the Kootenays to be paying less in rent and being able to do the rad outdoor things that I was so keen on doing” Mandy explains.

Not only is it an unfortunate reality that there is an obvious and evident contradiction between the Vancouver lifestyle and the cost of living that lifestyle in Vancouver, but the irony and inequity in the City of Vancouver’s mission statement is problematic. 


This article is a supplementary piece to our social issues campaign project for CMNS 425 at SFU: Goodbuy Vancouver.

Are you a Vancouverite thinking of leaving the city due to unaffordability? Are you someone who has already left the city? Please share your story with us below.







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