Saturday, October 14, 2017
How Ottawa and Victoria Fed Vancouver to the Wolves.
Vancouver is reeling.
The first house I bought in Vancouver, 30+ years ago, illustrates the decay. It was a nice neighbourhood of 40s vintage, 'neat as a pin' bungalows in the 'desirable' west side. 50 X 100 foot lots where a 33 foot lot was standard. Clean, quiet, lovely. I picked it up for about 170 thousand.
Today that lot is worth well over two million, bare land value. Those bungalows are all gone. Honking big, lot-line to lot-line, multi-storey McMansions own the neighbourhood now. Two mill for the land, another mill for the house, five car garages full of Mercedes, Beemers and exotics. And guess what? It's the poorest neighbourhood in Vancouver. The people who own those houses and drive those cars, they have no money or at least no declared income. The people who own those houses often don't even live in them. The kids may be there, going to school. The grandparents may be there, taking advantage of the health care regime. Just nobody making any income, not here anyway. Poverty stricken multi-millionaires.
No gas stations anywhere in the downtown area these days. The guys who might have bought them in the 70s are retiring and, guess what, there is nobody who'll buy those properties except for redevelopment. The land cost means operating as a gas station is out of the question.
Lots of jobs. Jobs everywhere. Help Wanted signs abound in shop windows. Only nobody can afford to take those low-wage jobs. Vancouver is just too damned expensive.
The high-priced help is leaving too. My ex had a family doctor who hit 70 and felt he wanted to retire. So he scouted for a young doctor to buy his practice. By the time he turned 75 he looked into recruiting someone to take his practice, free of charge. Then, when he turned 80 he started offering cash to anyone who would take over his patients. Finally, just before he turned 85 he told his patients they would simply have to find new doctors on their own.
I ran into a thoracic surgeon in Nanaimo, freshly minted out of UBC medical school and internships. I asked her why she came to Nanaimo when there were so many openings in Vancouver. She said almost none of her classmates would consider Vancouver. She didn't want to have to work crazy hours for decades just to afford a decent house. She was able to settle in Nanaimo and buy a water-view home. She thought she would be old before she could afford that in Vancouver.
For some time there's been an exodus of retirees from Vancouver relocating to other cities, Victoria and environs, Kelowna and such. Why stay? Their kids would never be able to afford to live where they had been born and raised.
Now another ominous development. There's a class of Vancouverites who aren't waiting for the gold watch before they split. For a host of reasons from traffic congestion to the city's compromised livability, to housing prices, people at the peak of their careers - late 40s to mid 50s - are also cashing out and moving to other places more pleasant to live. They can collect the windfall profits from selling their homes and just move on, do something else, relax.
That's how a city gets hollowed out. Low-wage workers can't afford to live there. Young professionals look for better lives elsewhere. Retirees and high-wage types at the peak of their careers just cash out and relocate. Commercial land and the businesses once established there are cleared and redeveloped into more high-density residential properties.
It's like a castle with all the little people needed to keep the place running pushed out beyond the moat.
Slum has taken on a new meaning in Vancouver where even a rundown, east end crack house can fetch a million and a half, maybe two. Anyone who can remember Vancouver from the 60s or 70s can't help but be saddened at what it has become. It's been fed to the wolves and they're staying because they're not finished with it yet.