After Canada’s ugly episode of racism in the early 20th century, Vancouverites feel uneasy talking about how this beautiful but unassuming city became one of the world’s least affordable: an unprecedented flood of capital from China.
Over the past year, the price of a single family house in Vancouver increased by an incredible 30%, to an average of $1.4m. It’s just the latest, most dramatic jump in an already dramatic long-term trend that has turned the beautiful but unassuming Canadian city into one of the world’s least affordable, with a housing price-to-income ratio of 10.8. That’s third after Hong Kong and Sydney, and well ahead of London, which ranks eighth at 8.5.
“Here’s one,” says Melissa Fong. She’s browsing online real estate listings in a cafe near Vancouver’s City Hall. Behind her, the mountains of the North Shore – the view that launched a thousand bidding wars – rise through mist. “Three-bedroom townhouse, 1,400 sq ft, C$1.5m (£800,000). You could start a family in a place like this. Way, way out of my price range, though.”
Fong moves on, scrolling through half a dozen homes, each smaller than the last, until she arrives at a tiny, 500 sq ft condominium on the east side of the city. “Unassuming” would be a generous way to describe how it looks from the photos, which, tellingly, are all exterior shots. “You could live there if you only had one kid, right?” she says with a grim smile.
An urban planning researcher, Fong divides her time between Vancouver, where her elderly parents live, and Toronto, where she’s finishing a doctorate. She grew up in Vancouver, has deep roots in the city, and plans to settle here with her husband, a home renovator. But she has looked on with a mixture of frustration and horror as the cost of housing in Canada’s famously liveable city rise beyond the means of young professionals like her.
“When you think it can’t get any worse, it does. So you keep adjusting your expectations, you know?”