Why Gen Y Can't Buy - The Carpenter

By Tim Shepherd

As a young carpenter, I dream of one day building my own home or renovating my very own condo in a lively area of Vancouver.  I currently rent downtown and love the proximity to areas such as Stanley Park, English Bay and Yaletown where there are many bars, restaurants and fun places to spend time and relax with friends.

I make a reasonable living renovating established homes and businesses in the metro area while my girlfriend works for a global engineering firm located downtown.  In any other Canadian city we would have without a doubt saved enough to build our own home by now.  What I don’t understand is why my generation and friends my age, who all work hard and earn decent incomes in Vancouver, are stuck paying substantial rents in this city instead of having the opportunity to secure our own property futures. 

Well, being in the building industry, I kind of do understand housing problems and how to fix them.  What I don’t exactly understand is why the needs of my generation - now the largest demographic having surpassed the Baby Boomers - seem to be ignored by politicians in favour of elder generations who just happened to be fortunate enough to get into the housing market long ago.  The property rich seem to be getting richer while the property poor (Generation Y) make them rich and stay stationary in the market.

When I pass through the West End on my way to English Bay on my day off, it is a regular occurrence that my girlfriend and I attract BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody) types interested in petitioning our signatures for the purpose of opposing the latest development proposal.  What these FRUITs (Fear of Redevelopment, Urban-Infill and Towers) don’t understand is that their vocal and often politically influential opposition to such projects leaves me out in the cold on two fronts.

It means there are fewer work opportunities for carpenters like me, not to mention all the other trades in the building industry, and my girlfriend’s engineering firm which relies on jobs new housing projects bring.  It also means fewer homes are being built in my hometown – fine for older folks who already own but not my generation – which ultimately means higher prices and skyrocketing rents.  Vancouver needs its youth and should not be a playground just for the super-rich and old money.

This city is a fantastic place but its one failure lies in pricing my generation out to the tedium of suburbia, or worse, to somewhere like Toronto.  The burden of responsibility for that not only lies with BANANAs but the politicians that seem beholden to them. 

Maybe Gen Y needs to be more vocal with politicians who can tend to take the side of older generations to our detriment, although personally I am generally more worried about finding my next carpentry job and living my life rather than spending my best years at public hearings.  Did I mention we are now the largest demographic and we vote? 

3 Comments

Tim valid point you made there; our generation should become more involved and voice our concerns. It seems like owning your own property here in downtown is just getting more tough by the day. As a qualified engineer in my mid twenties I also would like to start building my future and have my own place. I would like to live downtown, but it is just shocking what run-down places cost here in the West-End of Vancouver. Give us more affordable housing VanCity!

Peter

Well written. This is precisely why I have left the city. Countless friends have as well.

well said Tim  love Aunty