Painful Truth: The slow death of your neighbourhood

Older neighbourhoods around Metro Vancouver are doomed by their own value.

Do you live in a single family neighbourhood in Metro Vancouver, in which most of the houses were built more than 20 years ago?

I have bad news for you.

Your neighbourhood is dead.

In the past few years, from Vancouver to Abbotsford, from the North Shore to White Rock, we have seen repeated clashes over change.

Any change in density is resisted. Townhouses? No. Condos? Definitely not. Subsidized housing? No way.

All of those will do nothing but damage the fabric of the neighbourhood, its character, say the residents.

The residents are wrong. These neighbourhoods died years ago. They are zombies, shambling along in a parody of life.

These neighbourhoods are still nice places to live. The yards are well tended, the streets safe, and the property values high.

It’s that last part that’s killing them.

Anything built in the 1980s or ’90s, much less earlier, has now doubled, tripled in value, far beyond any normal rate of inflation. Houses in Surrey and Langley that were once home to middle class and working class people – tradesmen, teachers, nurses, office workers – are now worth anywhere from $800,000 to $1.5 million. Their current residents, who are mainly aging, could never afford to buy those lots now.

The twenty-something children of all those middle class suburban homeowners? With a few exceptions, they won’t live in those neighbourhoods. They’re living in townhouses, in condos – or they moved east. Because that’s what they can afford.

So the old, lovely, dying neighbourhoods face two options.

One, they will be replaced piecemeal. Old houses will sell, be demolished, and be replaced by vast new mansions.

Or two, the whole area will be razed for denser development. Which is the only way people with middle class incomes will ever live there again.

It will take decades for these areas to die. The only question now is whether they choose to fight the inevitable.

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