I've been involved in an abusive relationship for the past 8 years and I'm finally breaking free. I fell in love with Vancouver back in the 90's when it was a city of SkullSkates and hippies. I moved here in 2009, pre glass condo boom. Since then I've had lots of good reasons to break up with the city I once loved (precarious work, low wages, unaffordable housing, terrible dating scene, social isolation). But then again, it's not uncommon for the abused to ignore the signs. We struggle until we can't struggle anymore. And then we move.
Yes, I'm breaking up with you Vancouver and moving back to the east coast. And for the record I feel exactly like Justin Bieber, "My mama don't like you and she likes everyone. And I never like to admit that I was wrong. I've been so caught up in my job, I didn't see what's going on."
True. I've been caught up in my job and believing that if I just worked a little harder things would get easier. Time to admit that I was wrong. I have three university degrees, exceptional experience and a broad skill set. Yet I've had to make due with five different contract positions over eight years. Sure I managed to pay rent on a 380 square foot apartment and eat take-out sushi once in while, but I definitely haven't saved for retirement or been able to afford to give birth yet. I've spent most of my 30s on the west coast (land of economic opportunities?) while I watched my friends on the east coast (with less education than me) buy four bedroom houses and multiple cars. Sure they shovel snow but they also run across the street to borrow sugar from the neighbours. They trade gardening tips with the Elders living next-door. Their children play in the backyard. They are happy and connected. In Vancouver I'm lucky to get a hello in an elevator.
You've disappointed a lot of people Vancouver, and the smart ones have already left (net loss of 25-44 year olds from Vancouver total over 1,000 for every year since 2012). The poor ones can't afford to leave (31.5% of single adults in Vancouver are living in poverty). And the ones like me? Expect a Dear John letter from them soon too because they're barely hanging on. Even high-profile tech companies like Hootsuite can no longer recruit qualified people.
Goodbye Vancouver. You have lost a politically engaged citizen and a Big Sisters volunteer. You have lost a social-justice advocate and a caring neighbour. I'm leaving because I can't afford to live here anymore. I can't afford to pay rent and utilities that increase every year when my salary doesn't. I can't afford to wait 23 years (the average time it takes to save for a down payment) for a home in this city. I can't afford to delay having children any longer. I can't afford the time it takes me to commute or the extreme effort it takes to make friends in a city of growing isolation and disconnection.
And no, it's not me. It's you. Your people and politicians have failed me. You can throw some blame on your older brother (the province) too. All provincial parties have remained silent on plans to fix the broken housing market. B.C. now has the lowest minimum wages and highest child poverty rates in the country. That really makes those braggy "The Best Place on Earth" license plates come alive!
But you've got lots to be proud of after all, B.C.'s economy outpaced all other provinces this year. And with house prices accelerating 24.5% last year, congratulations Vancouver, you are now the top performing luxury real estate market in the world. I can tell you're delighted. You look in the mirror, fix your beautiful hair and call yourself one of the "most liveable cities" on the planet, maybe even "The Greenest City". Those of us who are leaving know the truth. And in the wise words of the Biebs, "If you like the way you look that much, maybe you should go and love yourself."
Jennifer Fox coordinates social media for Generation Squeeze. Among her many contributions to Vancouver, she co-orgnaized the Housing Affordabiltiy rally in May 2015.
This op ed was originally published in the Province newspaper on March 28, 2016.