Take it easy, Vancouver

It’s ok if other cities win something once in a while.

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by

Online only.

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I’m beginning to notice a trend in the comments to our Best Places to Live list.

It seems that where you live in this great land of ours has a strong influence on how you’ll react to our findings.

For example, folks from Ottawa are (unsurprisingly) supportive of the study’s findings and rhyme off the reasons why they love their town.

Torontonians are largely AWOL from the comments section, and I think I know why. After coming in 88th spot (solidly mid-pack) two years running, there’s not much to say. Hear no evil, see no evil …

Meanwhile, Maritimers and Newfoundlanders lament their hometown’s showing on our list, but in their opinion it’s the greatest place to live in the country and that’s all that matters. Even the Mayor of last-place New Glasgow — who has ample reason to be annoyed with us — was nothing less than friendly while he told me he believes our methodology is flawed.

The few Northerners who took the time to comment seem content to have garnered a mention, and Albertans love the fact that five of the top 20 places are in Wild Rose Country.

However, the howls of indignation coming from the West Coast are nothing short of amazing. I’ve received so many emails that begin with “How can Vancouver not be on your list?” that it crashed my computer. “Where did the writers of this article get their education?” an enraged West-Coaster demands. “Vancouver is not even on this list… go and get it right people.”

It seems that for Vancouverites, expectations for their city’s showing on such lists are on par with those of Canadian Olympic hockey. Silver medals — while shiny — are for losers.

The outrage seems to stem from the city’s back-to-back wins in the Economist’sMost Livable Cities” list. If such an august authority as the Economist deems Vancouver worthy of No. 1, what’s the deal with MoneySense?

The difference, in a word, is audience. Here at MoneySense, our audience is everyday Canadians who are trying to get the most out of every dollar they make and spend. For the most part, our readers are not rich. They are working, middle-class folk with a job, a mortgage, a family and all the associated expenses. This is why our Best Places to Live list is focused on financial issues such as job prospects, real estate values and taxes. It is aimed at the average Canadian who might be considering a move to another city. A quick look at our list will give them a good idea of the fundamentals of a place they’ve never visited, which may help them in their decision.

The Economist’s list is a whole different story. Even a cursory browse through that magazine makes it very clear that John and Jane Public from Main Street Canada do not fit their target demographic. The Economist caters to the world’s elite: executives, diplomats, hedge fund managers and politicians, all of whom typically have salaries with more figures than my SIN number. Their “Most Livable Cities” list caters to people who have the luxury of buying a property anywhere in the world. If you belong to that club, then yes, Vancouver is where it’s at: mountains, ocean, lots of beautiful parks and a temperate climate are but a few reasons to call the city home.

However, for the average Canadian Vancouver has some substantial obstacles to overcome. First of all, the average house price is $795,000, putting it dead last when it comes to housing affordability. This pushes the “time to buy” figure (average price divided by average 2011 estimated household income) to 9.47 years, dead last again.

Were Vancouver’s household income levels the best in the country, this wouldn’t matter so much. In this category the city scored 52nd — not a bad score, but not enough to balance out the astronomical real estate values.

Crime and job prospects are problems too. Vancouver ranked 111th (out of 180) in overall crime and 110th in unemployment. In crime severity, it ranked 148th.

And then there’s the weather. While relatively warm, the city gets 170 days of precipitation a year (ranking 134th) for a total of 1,275.5 mL of precipitation. If you like rain, Vancouver is paradise. But anyone who has spent time there knows that grey, wet skies can stretch on for weeks at a time, which can be hard on your mental outlook. There’s obviously nothing Vancouverites can do about this, but it does affect the overall “happiness” factor.

A note about the environment: Few will argue that Vancouver’s skyline places it amongst the most beautiful cities in the world. However, that can’t be measured in an empirical way, which is why “natural beauty” or “epic sunsets” are not found in our methodology.

So please, keep the comments coming. We’re all about interactive journalism around here. But before you let loose a scorching missive based on your city’s ranking, have a close look at the numbers. They don’t lie.

To the citizens of Vancouver, it’s great that you take pride in your city. But sometimes the truth hurts.

Just ask Toronto.

40 comments on “Take it easy, Vancouver

  1. Yes, I'm from Vancouver and really appreciated this money sense article… it's super expensive to live in Vancouver and not that liveable if you want to buy a piece or real estate, although rents have crept up a lot too. Enough to make you want to relocate, not something I would have ever considered when I was growing up.

    Reply

  2. Well said. I am a Vancouverite (born and raised) and agree with you. I've lived in many of the world's large cities…and feel that Vancouver is at the top in terms of world class cities HOWEVER you will either become or remain a pauper if you choose to live here (especially if you have a family and god forbid want to have a stay at home parent situation). My husband and I entered the real estate market in the mid 90's and were able to pay down a lot of our mortgage during our dual-income earnings years. That is the ONLY reason why I can be a stay at home mom during our kids early years. We are not naive to think I'll be able to stay home with them throughout their school years, but we've committed to having me here until my youngest is in grade 1. We clip coupons, hubby carpools for work, limit our kids extracurricular activities, do home birthday parties and still struggle to pay all our bills. Note: As a detective for the Vancouver Police, my husband makes over $100,000 a year (including overtime). It may not be pertinent to your wide breadth of national readers, but a future editorial idea may be to focus on some families that live in area codes or provinces that manage to live on one income or two moderate incomes where housing/living is on average over $700 K (or is that just crazy Vancouver). Keep up the good work – really enjoy your magazine, its personality and tremendously helpful and insightful information.

    Reply

  3. My opinion,the best place to live,is where you have quiet,lakes,river,forest,beaches in Summer,good schools,quality of life and where your money can buy more…

    For me,it's Saint John in New Brunswick!!!

    Reply

    • From what I read, Saint John has a big problem with gangs, thugs, drugs, poverty. It's considered the worse city in NB and one of the worse in the Atlantic Provinces though, as with most cities, it does have some nice parts.

      Reply

  4. I am born and raised in Vancouver. I have never lived anywhere else and have often wonder where else I would go (in Canada). The weather indeed is a "issue" … rain, rain, go away, and DON'T come back another day …. but it alsways does :-(. Ok, and the housing? WOW! It is absolutely ridiculous. I am single and own my own apartment. I did make some sound financial investments and received an inheritance to help get me there. I often wonder what the heck people do that don't have the money/help/investments I did, that have children (and want to live in a house with a yard, etc), and that want to remain in the city are supposed to do. It is quite daunting and I would be surprised if Vancouver did make your list. Is it a great place to live? Absolutely … but when considering it takes money to live here, it's a no-brainer that it missed the list.

    Reply

  5. I tink every city has it's good and bad points. It depends on the eye of the beholder so to speak and what is important to each person/ couple or family. Personally our city dropped 17 pts from last year. I dont take it personally…could be worse, could be better. We have great friends who just became Cdn citizens who immigrated from India. They love their home country and city and miss some aspects but also love thier new life as Cdns in their new city.

    Reply

    • You tink?
      heh.

      Reply

  6. It was a great article and made some very good points. Guess I'll go out on a limb and state that I happen to love Toronto. It is a wonderful city , lots to do, great restaurants, theatre, sporting events, shopping and nice people.

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  7. Good article… I'm surprised so many Vancouverites would complain about this. Beautiful city, mild weather, great culture and international flavour. I've lived here my whole life and love it… you get used to the gray skies. But in a financial magazine, no one could argue that it deserves a higher ranking. It's mind-bogglingly expensive to own housing here. Our family income puts us in the top 5% of Canadians, but it's still inconceivable for us to ever own a decent house with a yard here without taking on an irresponsibly large mortgage.

    Reply

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  34. Survey off a bit. Don't deduct points for less than 700mm rain a year us in Alberta do fine with half that. live in Alberta highest income in Canada good health care considering the influx of people from other parts wanting in on the money. Work here enjoy yourself and at 50 retire to southern BC. Alberta has no sales tax lots of high paying jobs, good income our roads are good our cities are booming new buildings everywhere. Housing costs average for home but homes are newer than most cities elsewhere. Would not choose Edmonton over Calgary too much crime. Grande Prairie is good, Red Deer. Calgary is close to US to save money on things you will want to spend with the extra cash. Surprised Fort Mac so far down on the list relatives there worked there chain stores same price as other cities but repair shops etc highest in Canada. Ontario has cities with high income lakes culture close to US a plus. Worked with many people from all parts of Canada here in Alberta they would prefer to stay where they came from but jobs are not there. Maybe for 2012 find someone to do the survey who does not ride a bike to work likes to live in a newer house likes hot summers with few rainy days like to drive new vehicles on good roads and with there pay can put their kids through college.

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  35. Try Kelowna…although that place is getting expensive too!

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