Is Vancouver Worth the Money?

While doing laundry at the local laundromat I happened to have a conversation with a gentleman who, like many Canadians, enjoyed to pass the time by complaining to anyone who would grant him an audience.  Of all the complaints this man went through, only one seemed valid:  the mass evictions by property managers in order to sell or rent residences at ridiculously high prices.

Since winning the bid for the 2010 Olympics, the Vancouver area seems to have become a prime area for price gouging.  Food costs more, transit costs more, houses have more than tripled in price since 2000 and the population is expected to grow by a significant factor through to 2020.  As expected, much of this can be attributed by people who stand to profit the most.

In the last 12 months there have been large protests by people who have been forcefully evicted from their homes in order for the property managers to clean the building up and or sell the apartments at twice their previous value.  In the case of this man, he had a two bedroom apartment that was comfortably large, and had lived there for a total of 10 years.  Rent was a respectable $780 a month (the going rate for an apartment of that size in this area of Vancouver).  Last summer he received a notice from the property manager that the rent was going to be changed to $1590 a month at the end of his contract, which was due the next month.

Much like his, my response was "WTF?"

This is quite illegal in British Columbia, and the tenants took the property manager to court for this.  Of course, the court ruled in favor of the tenants, and the rent was not increased by such a ridiculous amount.

The next attempt to remove the tenants involved notices advising massive renovations.  The tenants would have to leave for at least a year, but they were given the option to return first when the renovations were complete.  Of course, the expected rental value would be about $1600 a month after the work was complete.

This didn't go over well at all, but many of the tenants became fed up with the treatment they received and moved out to prevent the property managers from making any more money at their expense.  So after only a few months, the building owners managed to get what they wanted.

The building this man had lived in had work crews inside for a total of four months.  After this time, the building opened up again and was accepting tenants.  More out of curiosity than anything else, the gentleman arranged a tour of the renovated building and found that aside from a fresh coat of paint and new carpets, the building was no different than before.  The same cracks existed in the walkways, and the parking lot was just as littered with trash.

Rent for a third floor, two bedroom apartment with view of Oak St:  $1575

I'd like to know where this will end.

Last year I had worked several side jobs in conjunction with my primary place of work and earned more during the 2006 year than I did during 2001, 2002, and 2003 combined.  I live alone and make more than many people in my family who have kids.

Yet despite all of this, I can easily say that I will never be able to realistically afford a house within 75 km of my work.  Houses are insanely expensive to the point where it is beginning to look as though Vancouver is no longer a valid place to live unless one's annual household income is 70+K.

As it sits, I don't think I can realistically afford to stay in Vancouver past 2010.  Reiko and I have plans to raise a family in Japan, but I'm wondering just how much we can save while living in this part of Canada.  I've been lucky so far, in that most of my landlords have not been heartless businesses.  But the people I rent from have the same issues.  They have bills to pay and costs incurred.  How long until I'm forced to pay drastically more or face moving farther from work in order to save money?

I work hard for every dollar that I earn, so I tend to justify expenses in terms of hours worked.  Two years ago my notebook cost me 62 hours at a time when rent was 26 hours ofwork.  In all, both were worth the effort.  This notebook has performed exceptionally well in the 17,500+ hours I've asked of it, and rent is a necessary expense.

Currently, rent takes approximately 30 hours to earn.  I've worked out that I can afford to pay no more than 41 hours toward this.  I haven't had a rent increase in almost two years, so I may be due this coming March.  But this begs the question ... is living in Vancouver really worth the expense?

This is a great city to live in.  It's a shame that people need to be rich to enjoy it.