Vancouver real estate is hella expensive, but it’s become ridiculous in recent years. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) crunched the numbers to find the wage needed to rent in Greater Vancouver. Breaking down the numbers further, we see how unsustainable the region has become. The average one-bedroom is now unaffordable to over half of the city. That’s if we include distant suburbs, and it’s even worse if we don’t.
Just because you can make the payments and not go into arrears, does not mean your housing is affordable. The term “affordable” is thrown around a lot, but there’s an actual definition used by the government. For housing to be affordable, shelter expenses need to represent less than 30% of gross (a.k.a. pre-tax) income. Shelter expenses include, but are not limited to, rent, mortgage payments, utilities, taxes. This is the definition used by the CCPA to determine “affordable.”
Living in an unaffordable situation isn’t necessarily defined as poverty either. In Canada, the low-income measure (LIM) is often used to define poverty. LIM considers a household in poverty if their income is below 50% of the median Canadian household income. Even if you spend all of your income on rent, taxes, transport, and not enough food – you’re not in “poverty.” Even by the restrictive measure, over 4.9 million Canadians that fit this definition. That’s about one in seven people. Basically, not being able to put food on the table after expenses is not poverty by many measures.
The Average One-Bedroom Requires An Income of Over $26/HR
Renting an average one-bedroom in Greater Vancouver requires a big paycheck. To afford an average one-bedroom, an individual would has to make $26.72 per hour according to the CCPA study. That works out to about $55,600 per year (rounded to the nearest $100). The number includes all of Greater Vancouver, not just the city. That’s important because it means the number is lowered by suburban rental prices.
Make less than $20 per hour, or $41,600 per year? Then there’s only six neighborhoods you can possibly afford in Greater Vancouver. North Delta is the most affordable requiring a wage of $17.85 per hour for an average one-bedroom. Maple Ridge follows with a wage of $17.93 per hour to afford an average one-bedroom. Newton comes in third with a wage of $18.01 per hour.
To find a place in the City of Vancouver, we need to jump to lucky number six. Marpole Remainder (Marpole less Marpole South), requires a wage of $19.25 to afford the average one-bedroom. That’s a minimum income of $37,200 per year to afford an average one-bedroom in Greater Vancouver. In the City of Vancouver, you need a minimum income of $40,100 per year to afford an average one-bedroom.
A fun point to consider – the most expensive neighborhoods are amongst the most dense. Downtown North is the most expensive neighborhood, requiring a wage of $38.66 per hour to afford an average one-bedroom. North False Creek follows with a wage of $38.12 per hour to afford a rental. South False Creek is just behind that, needing an average wage of $37.33 per hour. The minimum income to buy into these three neighborhoods works out to $77,700 per year.
Over Half of Greater Vancouver Can’t Afford A One Bedroom Rental
Bachelor(ette) pad? Hardly. The majority of Greater Vancouver can’t afford to rent an average one-bedroom today. The median income for individuals in Greater Vancouver was just $35,700 in 2017 – the last data point. If we assume a generous 5% compounded annual growth to this median, we get $39,360. The generous, okay very generous, growth would still only work out to $19.68 per hour.
This is a whopping 26% below the income needed for an average one-bedroom. Sure, they could nab the average in Marpole Remainder. But to put things in context, they couldn’t afford to rent an average one-bedroom in Whalley… which is disappointing to say the least. (Stop shuddering, no one said you have to aspire to Whalley).
The gap between income and rent in Greater Vancouver seems to be getting wider every day. Younger GVR buyers are already behind previous generations for wealth building. That is, they’re buying a home later, contributing to retirement plans later, and so on. As rents continue to rise faster than incomes, this sets them further behind. The growing gap consumes a greater percent of their wages, which comes out of consumption and diversifying investments. Both important factors that drive the local economy.
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