Squeeze Story: Nazma Lee
I'm a lawyer and my husband an engineer. We're in our late 30s, work in the public sector, have two lovely children, good incomes, significant savings, no debt and we live frugally. Sounds great, except we missed the property gravy train and now find ourselves on the sidelines

Squeeze Story: Nazma Lee

Nazma-Lee-_-family.jpgI am a lawyer and my husband is an engineer. We are in our late thirties and work in the public sector. We have two lovely and active children, aged 1 and 4. We have good incomes, significant savings, no debt and we live frugally. Sounds great, except our focus on travel and working abroad in our early careers means we missed the property gravy train, and are waiting on the sidelines to finally get into the market.

I was born and raised in Richmond and grew up in a modest but spacious duplex my parents had managed to buy within two years of landing in Canada as refugees. My husband is also the son of immigrants who also managed to buy a small home in Calgary within a few years of moving from Hong Kong. Both our families managed to "get on the ladder" through hard work and frugal living.

Growing up, I didn't think that life in a modest suburban home, with a yard that lent itself to hours spent bouncing a ball against a wall, on a quiet street that lent itself to spontaneous play dates, sprinkler play, and bike rides, would be out of reach for me. And yet, despite having professions and incomes that our parents could only dream of, that life increasingly seems like a pipe dream.

We are stuck renting a 2-bedroom condo in Olympic Village for $2,500/month. As we outgrow our small space, we are sinking into despair because we know there is little available close to our jobs and precious (hard-to-find) daycare with at least 3 bedrooms and a little yard for under $1 million. Moreover, large rentals are hard to come by for under $3,000, and there is always the risk of eviction (for landlord sale) as happened to us when we were expecting our second child.

Pause for a second and digest that two frugal professionals, boasting 6-figure salaries and stable positions in Vancouver’s tight job market, are trapped in a rental. We are angered when couples like us are chastised for feeling “entitled” to live in Vancouver. Why should a hard-working family with roots in the Lower Mainland be exiled to the Valley, or Squamish, far from our jobs/social and familial networks/The Doting (and aging) Grandparents? Time we should spend with our children will be spent commuting. But more than anything, Vancouver is our home, and we have so much to contribute. 

But we know we are luckier than many. At least – being in our late 30s - we have the financial means and job security to even consider entering the market. Imagine the young graduates and professionals just starting out. Or those essential to our communities such as childcare providers, nurses, teachers, bus drivers, police officers. How about those in the service industry? When high-paid professionals like us cannot access the market, we end up renting and pushing up demand and rental prices. When it comes to buying, because we are priced out of the detached market (which would have been an option for double income professionals not long ago), we end up competing for units at the middle and lower end of the market, making it impossible for households with median incomes to ever dream of purchasing.  There is a trickle down effect across the Lower Mainland and even across BC, and this is something many are blind to, thinking this is a "Point Grey Problem". It's great that Generation Squeeze is highlighting how widespread the problem is.  

Be clear: this is madness, this is a crisis, and Vancouver will be a ghost town bereft of young workers and families - possibly us too - if we don’t act soon.

Nazma is a Gen Squeeze Backer: a monthly contributor helping us push for solutions.

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Squeeze Story: Nazma Lee
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