From the outside, Vancouver seems like the perfect place to call home. It’s surrounded by an ocean, there’s mountains and an endless amount of organic, vegan and gluten free delicacies. As every person who has ever moved here from another city in Canada likes to declare, “you can be kayaking on the ocean in the morning, snowboarding at noon and back in the city for a round of golf at sunset” (FYI this is the number one way to tell who is a true Vancouverite, no self-respecting person actually born in Vancouver would make this declaration).
But living in beautiful surroundings with temperate (although rainy) weather has it’s drawbacks. Particularly the rising cost of living, sadly most employers haven’t caught up with the needs for higher pay.
This summer my Nonna passed away, and I was lucky enough to live in her basement suite the past couple of years. This gave me a chance to see her more, hear stories about my family and grow closer with her. It also gave me the opportunity to live close enough to work that I could walk instead of commute, and live there at a very low rental rate. With her passing, my family is selling the house and I’ve been trying to navigate the Vancouver rental market for the first time in many, many years.
A lot has changed.
When I set out on my search for housing I knew I wanted to find a place where I could live without roommates, in an apartment and be fairly close to work. I consulted some budgeting websites and most agreed that your rent should be about 30% of your yearly salary. For me this equals just over $900.
I quickly learned this was impossible in Vancouver. Very few apartments were available in the city, most were being rented out as Airbnb since owners could make more money as a daily/weekly rental rather than monthly. The only places I could find were basement or bachelor suites in questionable neighbourhoods. Most required a long commute and the cost of transiting to work would drive me over my budget.
Unless my employer planned on paying me another $10,000 a year, I was shit out of luck.
I spent more than a few nights sleepless and worried about where I’d move to. Would I be a 34 year old woman moving back into her parent’s house? I mean, rent free with a retired mother to make me dinner each night sounded fantastic, but the hour and a half commute was a pretty big deterrent. As was the part about being in my mid-thirties and living at home (no offence to all the adult children still living at home with their parents, which sadly is a fact of life in Vancouver).
While complaining about this one day to my brother, Dave, while he was visiting from Edmonton, he casually said “move to Edmonton, you can stay with me for a couple of months.” In the past he’s always talked about how he loves Edmonton, he visits here and constantly bitches about the prices of things (and hipsters). My retort was always something about rain being better than snow and oceans being better than living in a dustbowl. But this time was different. I didn’t say anything against Edmonton, instead I thought about it for a few minutes. Then as we made our way to dinner I started peppering him with questions:
“How much rent would I pay?”
“Where would I work?”
“Will you get rid of all the guns in your house?”
(Fun fact! I have a fear of guns and my brother is in the army… he said no, but they’re locked up)
I didn’t make any decisions, but it was obvious I was thinking about this. I went to bed that night and thought some more. And thought kept on pondering. Then one day, Dave texted to complain that Kim Crawford wine (my favourite) was now $11.49. “That’s bullshit” he declared the rise in price. Compared to the $18 a bottle in BC, this sounded like another great reason for me to move so I replied that he was “going to have to find me a job to pay those inflated prices” and then asked if he was serious about me moving in with him, he said yes.
And so I guess my decision was made, I told him to get ready for a roommate and that I was moving in October.