The neighbourhood has an immediate sense of community, and it doesn’t take long for you to appreciate what an ideal place it is to raise a family. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, the average family is no longer able to afford to live in the neighbourhood. – Josh Braby
On a typical weekday evening at Gaston Park, in the East Vancouver Collingwood neighbourhood, you’re likely to see some combination of young children playing as they wait for their parents to come pick them up from school, a group of teenagers shooting hoops while their friends hangout on the sidelines, a game of catch between a parent and their child, sunbathers, a couple friends kicking the soccer ball around, a game of cricket, dogs playing fetch, and so on. Gaston is just one of the many parks in the Collingwood neighbourhood and chances are they’ll all be filled with families and friends interacting as you walk by. The neighbourhood has an immediate sense of community, and it doesn’t take long for you to appreciate what an ideal place it is to raise a family. Unfortunately, there’s a catch, the average family is no longer able to afford to live in the neighbourhood.
At Renfrew Collingwood Food Justice, we promote equitable access, intercultural learning and community leadership around food, including sustainable growing practices, local food, food security, diverse food traditions, and healthy eating in the Renfrew-Collingwood neighbourhood. So why am I writing about housing? Well recently in the Collingwood neighbourhood the issues of food justice and affordable housing merged (as they tend to do) when the City of Vancouver announced that it had received a rezoning application for a 32-storey, 293-unit, mixed-use building on Joyce Street which would almost certainly replace a row of important cultural food assets in the neighbourhood. Not only would these cultural food assets in the neighbourhood be squeezed out, but the new building will likely contribute to already unrealistic real estate prices in the neighbourhood squeezing out many of the current inhabitants.
According to Stats Canada, the average (pre-pandemic) income in Vancouver is $52,000 and the average Vancouver house price is now over $1,300,000, which is 25 times the average income. In the Collingwood neighbourhood specifically, the cost of a two bedroom condo is approximately $700,000 or 13 times the average Vancouver income. The brand new condo development near the Joyce Collingwood Skytrain station that will be finished later this year has listed unit prices ranging from $540,000 for a one-bedroom 400 sq ft condo, to $1,350,000 for a 1400 sq ft three-bedroom condo. No wonder a recent Canadian poll found that 36% of folks under the age of 40 have given up on the possibility of home ownership.
Rennie Marketing Group of Vancouver estimates that almost 90% of young people applying for mortgages in Vancouver are getting financial assistance from their parents. A recent report from Mortgage Professionals Canada says $2.8-billion was withdrawn in 2020 for the purpose of transferring money to a family member to buy a house. In other words, financial support from family is effectively a prerequisite for young people to be able to enter the local housing market.
If this trend continues the Collingwood neighbourhood will not only witness the cultural displacement of local food assets but also local community members, and ultimately community as a whole.
“Josh Braby is a neighbour in the Renfrew Collingwood community. He has been supporting environmental and Indigenous food restoration work at the Norquay Food Forest since 2020 as well as volunteering as a key advisory member on the Renfrew Collingwood Food Advisory Board. Josh is a worker, renter, and student on Unceded Musqueam, Squamish & Tsliel-Waututh territories. Josh cares deeply about the cultural preservation of the Renfrew Collingwood neighbourhood and hopes it can remain family friendly for future generations.”