Commuting may cost more than avoiding a million-dollar Vancouver home: expert

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) — If you thought you were saving money by driving to work from the suburbs, you may find you are paying more than you think.

Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, says even if you found a cheaper mortgage than what you would find in Vancouver by heading to outlying communities, you might not be saving in the long-run.

“It’s the money of maintaining a vehicle, keeping it insured, there’s also going to be a social cost, the time away from family — you can also imagine the time of being away from a community that you can have ready access to, where you’re being stuck in a commute.”

Yan has been calculating housing and transportation costs and found, on average, people who commute spend around $230,000 more than people who live in Vancouver proper.

“In Metropolitan Vancouver, we find that [million-dollar-plus homes] are 41% of the single-detached homes in the region, but once we factor in transportation costs, that number of million-dollar homes actually goes up to 92%.”

Yan showed his data to this week’s Union of BC Municipalities convention and found that while million-dollar-plus homes are concentrated in Vancouver if you factor in travel costs, million-dollar homes are spread across Metro Vancouver.

Yan says when you factor in 25 years of transportation and personal sacrifice, you might not have saved at all.

“With Vancouver prices hovering around Honolulu and San Francisco prices, we’re talking of incomes of Metropolitan Halifax,” he says.

“It’s intended to make people think about, not only the issue of housing affordability but really the kind of trans-ancillary costs, at which transportation is really the second-largest expenditure.”

Yan told the UBCM meeting the Lower Mainland can’t just rely on sprawling neighborhoods to fix the housing situation.

He says the high cost of living in Vancouver has already caused a number of job vacancies including the service sector and conventional office jobs.

“We’re increasingly having a real-estate market that is shaping our economy, as opposed to our economy shaping our real-estate market.”

The City of Vancouver is working on a 10-year strategy on housing affordability.

Tuesday, the city’s Housing Leadership Team will be talking about what they’re working on at a keynote luncheon.

That includes ideas to expand rental housing options, meet the needs of low-income families, and better work with all levels of government.

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