MACNAIR: Impact of home ownership struggle reaches deep

I’m a renter. Always have been and, sadly, probably always will be.

Like many post-Gen Xers, I took a long time finding my career path and lost a good 10 to 15 years of time I could have spent gathering savings and building equity.

Now at 40 with two children, I’ve accepted the fact I’ll never own a slice of Canada. All of my savings go into a registered education savings plan so that the next generation will get the head start I never did.

Not that I’m alone in this struggle. A vast number of 40-and-under Metro Vancouver residents have been disenfranchised from home ownership by a combination of housing scarcity and foreign land speculation – a recent PriceWaterhouse Cooper and Urban Land Institute report revealed Vancouver is a "hedge city" dependent on foreign investors to keep the real estate market afloat. God forbid protectionist legislation keep single-family houses below the $1 million mark.

The good news for renters is that we’re not immediately liable for short-term disasters like replacing a roof or a hot water tank. The landlord pays for that.

The bad news is that over a 20-year renting span, it’s hard not to feel sick to your stomach that you’ve handed over $300,000 to pay off somebody else’s mortgage. So, in essence, you kind of did pay for that roof and hot water tank.

The idea that Canada’s working underclass is subsidizing the middle class is one I’ve never really come to terms with. It’s not exactly Dickensian levels of exploitation but to walk away empty-handed – not to mention in debt from impossibly large student loans – after 20 years of working is more depressing than the weather in late November.

According to a new province-wide survey by B.C.’s Non-Profit Housing Association of 517,000 rental units, nearly a quarter of people are spending more than half their gross income on rent and utilities. The BCNPHA used the data to create an affordability index which found, unsurprisingly, that the Lower Mainland is in a "critical" situation.

The housing affordability crunch is one of the most-discussed problems in our region,

and yet few seem to properly associate it with our equally disturbing social problems. The topic of crime was top-of-mind during the recent Surrey civic election and yet more police officers was the only suggestion most candidates offered as a solution.

B.C. has the highest poverty rate (12 per cent) and the highest child poverty rate (18 per cent) in Canada according to data mined from Statistics Canada in 2011. Although the vast majority of the working poor are law-abiding, criminal activity and poverty are closely linked.

If the cost of social/subsidized housing is considered too expensive for the provincial government, these figures may be sobering: According to a 2011 report entitled The Cost of Poverty in B.C. authored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives the cost of crime to the B.C. taxpayer is $3.3 billion, of which $131 million is attributable to poverty.

But while there are certainly regional differences in housing and income, one commonality seems to span the entire country, if not the developed world. In a report released by the Conference Board of Canada in September, the income gap between older and younger workers have expanded massively since the 1980s, leaving today’s 20-something workforce the first generation of Canadians to be worse off than their parents.

The income gap has risen so dramatically that, according to the report, the average disposable income of today’s 50-to-54-yearolds is now 64 per cent higher than 25-to-29-year-olds.

Today the boomers are using their wealth and equity to help some of their children gain entry into the housing market by offering to make the downpayment or loan them the equivalent. The bank of mom and dad is currently the best subsidized housing solution on the market.

We can do better than that – we must do better than that. The rhetoric that the children are the future must be about more than a political catchphrase.

By putting each new generation of young people in greater debt from student loans, entering into professions with diminishing returns for their educational investment, all the while offering them no opportunity to buy into asset ownership and equity growth, we’re disenfranchising our own children from prosperity.

I’m willing to give up on my own dreams of owning a piece of the country but I do want more for my children. Don’t you?

amacnair@thenownewspaper.com.

Send us a letter at edit@thenownewspaper.com.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police watchdog finds cops blameless for deaths in 2019 Surrey hostage-taking

Woman was killed as ERT officers fired on man holding a knife to her throat and ‘what appeared to be’ a gun in his hand

Surrey’s two largest hotels are now closed due to COVID-19; room bookings plummet elsewhere

Guildford’s 77-room Four Points property remains open with ‘minimum amount of business,’ GM says

Some Surrey landlords ‘kicking out’ businesses that can’t make rent

Surrey Board of Trade CEO suspects situation will be worse in May

UPDATE: Catalytic converters stolen from four ambulances being repaired in Delta

The thefts were reported on March 31, and police say they have no suspects at this time

First Nations, remote communities need special attention in pandemic, Freeland says

Health-care workers, seniors, Indigenous Peoples some of people most at risk, health officials say

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

VIDEO: Dog missing in Lower Mainland since winter sees his family again for the first time

Aldergrove helped find Buster, says dad, who has now witnessed ‘the power of social media’

COVID-19: Social media use goes up as country stays indoors

Overall messaging is up more than 50 per cent over the last month

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Call before you dig into spring projects during isolation: BC 1 Call

BC 1 Call gives free checks for utilities in the area of a desired outdoor project

B.C.’s intersection speed cameras putting more tickets in the mail

One Nanaimo location delayed after speed limit reduced

Update: Coquihalla re-opens, after incident requiring a medevac

DriveBC warns of continued delays and congestion

Most Read