Dear Mayor and Council of West Vancouver,
My name is Paul Kershaw. I’m a UBC Professor, and Founder of Generation Squeeze, which is building a voice for Canadians in our 20s, 30s, 40s and the children we represent in the world of politics. I was born at Cherbourg Drive, and started school at Caulfield Elementary. In Caulfield, I was raised in a home with a beautiful back yard and swimming pool purchased by my mom in the early 1970s. She worked as a teacher, and raised me as a hard-working single mom. As a result of her great parenting and sacrifices for me, I have enjoyed much educational success and greater earnings than my mom did at my age. But so much has changed in the city where I was born that I, along with most others in my cohort, have been squeezed out of West Van. I now live at 17280 Ford Road in Pitt Meadows.
I write today on behalf of my organization, a coalition of more than 26,000 talented, hard-working Canadians. Our constituency would love the opportunity to live in your municipality, and hope that you will consider our voices in support of developing purpose-built rental at 195 21st Street alongside the voice of current residents in that neighbourhood. Normally consultations only listen to the latter. But that privileges the voices of those who won out in the lottery of good timing in the housing market – often people who started out as young adults some decades ago – while silencing those of us who enter the market more recently.
West Vancouver is now the least affordable district in the Metro Vancouver region. BC Assessment data show that there are no homes in West Vancouver that cost less than half a million dollars and provide access to more than two bedrooms. Back in 1976, after adjusting for inflation, half a million dollars would have bought two entire homes. Now it doesn’t by two bedrooms. This is a massive deterioration in the standard of living for younger generations, and puts at risk the sustainability of West Vancouver.
For the typical 25-34 year old, BC has experienced the largest decrease in full-time earnings of any province in Canada since 1976 (when today’s aging population started out as young adults). All the while, it is our province where home prices have skyrocketed more than anywhere else. Nowhere is this problem more acute than in West Vancouver.
Whereas it used to take 5 years of full time work for a typical young adult to save a 20% down payment on an average home in 1976, now it takes 23 years in the region of Metro Vancouver, let alone in West Vancouver specifically. The implication is that many more talented, well-educated, hard-working young Canadians will be renters for long periods of our lives, if not indefinitely. Our municipalities must begin planning for this transition. This requires prioritizing now the construction of purpose built rental, and scaling up such developments in the years ahead. Purpose-built rental provides far more security for tenants than does renting from small-scale condo owners who purchase the units as investment opportunities.
If West Vancouver wants to set itself on a path to intergenerational fairness, and intergenerational sustainability, it should approve the Hollyburn proposal for 195 21st Street. This development will represent the first purpose-built rental construction in decades. Not only is the development necessary to meet the backlog in demand for rentals in your municipality now, it boldly anticipates the future transformation in our housing market that will be required to deliver an efficient supply of suitable homes that are in reach for what typical young people can earn in our region – including those of us born here.
For further information about the data illuminating the #CodeRed housing crisis in West Vancouver and throughout Metro Vancouver, along with 10 propositions for policy reform to ease the housing squeeze, please see our study: "Code Red: Rethinking Canadian Housing Policy."
Dr. Paul Kershaw
University of British Columbia, School of Population & Public Health
Founder, Generation Squeeze