Sunday, July 2, 2017

What are we entitled to?


There are regular news stories and articles about the cost of housing in Vancouver and Toronto.   In Britain, housing and accommodation is even more expensive.   I came from a poor immigrant family but grew up in Vancouver.   But that was then and this is now.   Is there an entitlement to live in the location one chooses?

A large cities has many amenities, sources of entertainment, easy access to top medical facilities and good rapid transit.   These are all things that are either lacking or present in much smaller quantities in small towns and rural areas.   I imagine that their presence is part of what drives up the cost of urban housing.    Perhaps only one or even no vehicle is required in the city;   a considerable cost saving.   Vancouver has an ever increasing number of bicycle lanes, lovely to use when the weather cooperates but can't be pleasant from November to March.   

Of course, one must accept the crowds, the traffic jams and the cost of paying for parking so there are trade-offs.   Some people love the big city atmosphere -- the buzz.   There's always something happening, there's something for everyone.   Alternative ways of living are more easily accepted and there's more privacy as it is easier to become lost and faceless in a city.  This can lead to more loneliness, paradoxically.


If you grew up in a big city like Vancouver or even if it is everything you want in your choice of personal venue, are you entitled to live there?   Assuming you have the correct immigration status, the answer is yes.  But don't leap for joy yet, there's that small matter of the cost of housing.   You can't live in Vancouver unless you either:

a)  bought a place to live years earlier and can afford the mortgage;
b)  have a GOOD paying job.   I would estimate $100,000 annual salary for a       single, $150,000 for a couple, maybe even with 1 child.   This is to own or rent.
c)  still live at home with your parents
d)  Are exceedingly frugal, clever and original in your thinking about housing.

You may be wondering about what is meant by the last option.    It means you are prepared to think outside the box in terms of housing and live in a tiny house in a place that permits it, share a 5 bedroom house with 5 like-minded people, or do the usual climb the property ladder game with great patience, buying a $250,000 studio condo, making double payments on your mortgage and moving up each 5 years or so until you can buy a fixer-upper in an undesirable neighbourhood.   Your children will thank you as they will likely be the ones to move to the home you always wanted after you depart this life.   Housing becomes a generational thing.

People protest about housing costs;  does it help?   Everyone wants the maximum they can get when they go to sell their house.   Should landlords subsidize their tenants?   If you are not employed, do you need to live in Vancouver, much as you might like to?   Some people live in a tent city in a local park;   the residents generally protest vociferously.     But everyone should have a roof over their heads and those unable to provide it must be looked after by others.   Switzerland requires that all relatives, older and younger provide assistance first, before the state will invest tax revenues.  So both grandparents and children could be required to assist parents and so on.   Does this obligation extend to second cousins, twice removed? 

Governments promise subsidized housing built by the taxpayers as they have difficulty persuading developers to lose money.   Or adding cheaper housing to more upscale units becomes a condition of receiving a development permit at city hall. 

Young families contribute life and atmosphere to a city.  Without them schools close and playgrounds wither.   A city of retirees who were fortunate to buy when housing was cheap is not desirable from many perspectives.   Vancouver has put a tax on non-resident purchasers, something already present in other locales.   Does it help?   Starting this month, July, a tax is to be levied on homes that are not occupied at least six months of the year.   I imagine enforcement will be onerous.   As was done with illegal basement suites, the city ends up relying on neighbours calling to complain.   Is that the right approach?   I imagine there will be work available for companies to supply individuals to make the rounds of empty homes,  turn on the lights, crank up the heat and leave the faucets running, all in aid of raising utility usage to acceptable levels.   Since government agencies provide these services they provide a means to track owners' presences.    Do we want this type of intrusion into our lives?   What if you follow recommendations to conserve energy and save the planet by using less power?   What would be an acceptable level to avoid suspicion?

We could start by looking at how other countries have dealt with this issue.  

1 comment:

  1. What a thought provoking article. We now have 50 year mortgages available in the U.S. in order to make monthly mortgage payments more affordable. Japan has 100 year mortgages, and England has 200 year mortgages. (Good heavens!) I'm not sure that's the right way to go, though. It just means the home owner will likely never get out of debt. What a grim prospect.