If you are Vancouverite (like me) not a lot of time goes by until you hear or experience how unaffordable this city is. Vancouver is widely recognized as one of the world’s least affordable cities. To say affordability is an important issue would be an understatement.
However, just because we treat something as important doesn’t mean we’re right about it. Now I’m not saying that “No, Vancouver is very affordable”. What I’m saying is our conventional definition of affordability gets which parts of the region are affordable and which ones aren’t wrong.
See, traditionally when we think of affordability we think only of housing costs when really we should be thinking of the housing AND transportation costs. The distinction can be seen when comparing urban and suburban areas. Many people move to the suburbs because housing costs are (usually) lower there. However, what these people forget in the suburbs you often have to own a car and with that comes with high transportation costs. In most cases, this additional cost offsets any savings in housing expenditures.
For the past few months, I’ve been working with a group on a study that examines affordability in Greater Vancouver when looking at both housing and transportation costs. It is based on the work done by the Center for Neighbourhood Technology. Our research seems to support the notion that urban areas are generally more affordable than suburban ones. We calculated the housing and transportation costs using 2006 Census data and 2011 Translink Trip Diary data. The most affordable areas in the region were found to be the West End and Metrotown, whereas the least weren’t found at the periphery in Surrey, Coquitlam, Port Moody and West Vancouver.
So, the truth is Vancouver (proper) is more affordable than we think, but the region is much less affordable than we think.
In our study, we also looked at the correlation between walkability and transportation costs and which areas are in greatest need of improvements in affordability. Instead of boring you with the details, I will let our FinalPresentation to do the talking. If you are a super geek, have a look at our Final Report.
Thoughts? Observations? Let me know in the comments!