‘Impossibly unaffordable’: Housing report ranks Vancouver 3rd most expensive in the world

Click to play video: 'Vancouver ranked ‘impossibly unaffordable’'
Vancouver ranked ‘impossibly unaffordable’
Vancouver has once again been labelled one of the world's most expensive cities. This year, researchers added an additional category when it comes to home ownership - impossibly unaffordable. Cassidy Mosconi reports – Jun 17, 2024

Vancouver is “impossibly unaffordable” on a global scale, according to a U.S. report.

While the news may not come as a surprise to British Columbians, new data is reaffirming Vancouver ranks among the world’s most unaffordable and outright expensive cities to live in.

A report by Chapman University in California analyzed median house prices alongside median household incomes, comparing 94 cities across eight countries including Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Hong Kong was crowned the most unaffordable market in the world, followed by Sydney, Australia then Vancouver.

A total of 11 markets, including Vancouver, were deemed “impossibly unaffordable,” meaning median house prices are more than nine times the median household income.

None of the cities scored an affordable rating.

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Vancouver holds hearings into increasing density in Shaughnessy neighbourhood

“To get a mortgage on the median priced house in Vancouver, you’re going to need an income of 200,000 maybe more,” said report co-author and international urban policy consultant Wendell Cox.

Cox’s report claims the cost of land is one of the major driving factors of unaffordability, particularly following the COVID-19 pandemic. He says it stems from land use policies that restrict housing supply, limit sprawl and increase density.

“Any time you basically say, ‘You shall not build anything beyond this point,’ you create an excess of demand over supply,” he said Wendell Cox. “And that’s exactly what’s happened in Vancouver.”

The province says less than five per cent of B.C.’s land is designated for agricultural use and it needs to be protected as farmland.

Click to play video: 'Impact of rate cut on housing affordability'
Impact of rate cut on housing affordability

Vancouver has ranked among the top three least affordable major markets in the report for the last 16 years. The report notes the impact of housing prices is now spreading to other B.C. markets in the Fraser Valley, Okanagan and Vancouver Island.

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Among the six Canadian markets evaluated, Toronto was ranked the second most unaffordable, and ranked 10th among the 94 markets surveyed. Edmonton and Calgary faired the best within Canada and were rated moderately unaffordable.

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Metro Vancouver mayors push back on housing targets

The cost of housing has prompted many British Columbians to move to other provinces, with Alberta being a popular choice.

Last year, B.C.’s interprovincial migration was negative for the first time since 2012, according to Statistics Canada.

Earlier this month, an Angus Reid poll found 36 per cent of British Columbians said they are “giving serious consideration” to leaving B.C. due to housing affordability.

One Western Canadian moving company has experienced the recent exodus first hand.

“In the years leading up to the pandemic, we were moving people to B.C. over Alberta, two to one,” said Two Small Men with Big Hearts Moving CEO Addison Parfeniuk.

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“Through 2022, people are moving in droves to Alberta instead. We see that peak Q4 2023, it’s about two to one at that point.”

While the report notes there was some improvement on housing affordability in 2023, it was not enough to return to the pre-pandemic affordability levels. The number of severely unaffordable markets dropped from 52 to 42, but the number of seriously and moderately unaffordable markets increased.

The new rating of impossibly unaffordable was added to the report this year due to a level of unaffordability that did not exist three decades ago, according to the report’s authors.

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