Here’s the thing: when I moved to Vancouver from the East Coast a few months ago, I knew there’d be challenges. Housing, job availability, transportation, to name a few. But, Vancouver also has mountains (!!!), a mild climate, and a vibrant, creative culture. Although I can’t find a decent, affordable furnished two-bedroom apartment for me and my roommate in East Van, although I have yet to find a part-time gig to supplement my writing income (and to be honest, make some friends), although I still don’t completely understand the bus schedule here—there is something about this city. It may be the scenery or the weather talking, but it feels real, positive, and—like home.
Last week, the Straight ran a story about the good and the bad parts of living in Vancouver. As a follow-up, I asked some Vancouverites to weigh in and give us their opinions on this contentious subject. I asked them about what it’s really like to live in this city, about the challenges they face, and about what keeps them living here. The answer? It’s a love/hate relationship.
Jocelyn, 32, University Teaching and Learning Librarian
“This city has really forced me to rethink what counts as success and what I deserve in my life. The two things I struggle with most are debt and space; one is massive, the other is tiny. I have to acknowledge that my debt has afforded me many privileges and that home ownership is not synonymous with success. Otherwise, I feel bitter that my partner and I make well over $100,000 a year and have no assets or savings. But I don't want to move. I love this city. I bike the seawall, I climb, I spend my summers at Kits Pool. I attend pop-up dinners and underground puppet shows and 24-hour board game marathons and silent films accompanied by live orchestra. I’m part of a sketch group in Vancouver's amazing and supportive comedy scene. I’ve taken classes in everything from bookbinding to Mandarin to hula-hooping, and I've trained as a birth doula.
"I won’t find these opportunities in Pitt Meadows or Gibsons or Kelowna. So I stay and live a life rich in experiences while paying someone else’s mortgage. I get to live here; I just don't get to own here. That’s my trade-off.”
Iain, 26, Electrical Generator Technician
“Vancouver is great. The beaches, the mountain views, Stanley Park if you live downtown. The scenery here is just awesome. North Vancouver, and tons of hiking, ski hills and bike trails are just around the corner. You can still have your downtown life and head 15 minutes outside the city and be in the mountains or the country. Even traffic here is great compared to other busy cities. Transportation is decent too, especially the SkyTrain, if you live in the Lower Mainland.
"To be honest, I don’t really dislike anything. It can be expensive, but I’ve rented out my basement to generate some income. I moved here from Toronto a few years ago, and Vancouver was a tough city to find friends and community in. But now that I have, I don’t think I’m ever moving back.”
Kathryn, 35, Marine Naturalist
“Vancouver has such incredible wildlife, scenery, and landscapes, and hundreds of thousands of people use our outdoor spaces yearly, but it does come at a cost. There’s a dark side to the beauty of our city. The waters of False Creek and English Bay are polluted, and every day when I drive a boat through False Creek I see our abuse of the environment. Cans, bottles, coffee cups, condoms, cigarettes, and plastic bags are just a few examples of what I‘ve seen on a day’s journey. Just last week, I berated someone at Granville Island after he tossed a cigarette into the water, saying 'Please don’t do that, people live and work on these waters.' Perhaps he was a tourist, but locals are to blame as well. After a long weekend, there does seem to be a spike in random litter along the sea wall, on beaches and in parks. I see the city workers do amazing work cleaning it all up but our carelessness is pretty obvious.
"The decisions we make regarding how we get around the city and how we treat our waste will determine how Vancouver looks. To remain Canada’s 'Most Livable City' we need to take care of it. I think we’re off to a good start in terms of recycling, garbage, and organic pick-up (I love the initiative that created the cigarette butt recycling bins), but we have a long way to go in regard to protecting the ecosystems we have and ensuring they’ll flourish in the future.”
Sára, 29, Artist / Barista
“I have a love/hate relationship with Vancouver. On one hand, it is a wonderful and vibrant city, which benefits me as a fine artist. On the other hand, it’s no surprise to anyone that it is very unaffordable to live here, making as little as I do. Canadian artists on average make less than $18,000 annually. The job market is highly competitive, and with two arts degrees, I am often passed over for work leaving me to sling lattes at a coffee shop to help supplement my income. The challenge of finding decent work in Vancouver is a problem for many who fall into the category of millennials and we often work more than one job, myself included.
"I often question the validity of those articles stating how livable Vancouver is. Vancouver is livable in so many ways: there is plenty to feed the intellectual or creative mind, it’s easy to get around via transit or foot, but these and many other livable qualities come with a price tag. Living in a run-down home with three roommates has certainly made life more affordable when you’re not making a living wage. The artistic community and opportunities are what drive me to stay and make Vancouver work for me.”
What do you think about the current state of affairs in Vancouver? What are the things you love about living here? If things are really as bad as people say they are, what is keeping you here in the city?
Vancity staff are very interested in your opinions. They’d like to hear what you have to say about things like housing, debt, career opportunities, and other important issues. Have you found any creative ways to make living here more affordable for yourself?
They’re asking readers to submit their own thoughts in the form of 30-second videos. Their goal is to understand how locals are feeling about these issues and help find solutions. The videos don’t have to be professional quality—authentic and real is what they’re after.
You can submit your video responses to www.vancity.com/dontgiveup or by adding the tags #DontGiveUp and @Vancity to any social media post. Each person that submits a video will be entered in a weekly draw to win a $1,000 Vancity Visa Gift Card.