Since 2013, British Columbians have enjoyed a holiday in February. For six years, Family Day was observed on the second Monday of this month, putting the province at odds with other regions of Canada, whose residents rested on the third Monday. This year, Family Day falls for the first time on the third Monday of February in British Columbia, just like in the rest of Canada.
The holiday devoted to families provides an opportunity to look at the main worries of households in Metro Vancouver. A survey conducted earlier this month by Research Co. asked a representative sample of parents of children up to 18 about their concerns, their tasks and their views on the future.
The complications that millennials – those in the 18-to-34 age group – face in entering the housing market have long been documented, but the members of generation X – Metro Vancouverites between the ages of 35 and 54 – have also been affected by their inability to pursue either a home of their own or a different dwelling in case they have decided to expand their family. Lost in this discussion are baby boomers, many times maligned by their younger counterparts for having the good fortune of entering the real estate market at a convenient time.
When parents in Metro Vancouver were asked about the anxieties of everyday life, 34% said they have “occasionally” or “frequently” experienced stress over housing issues, such as finding a place to live or paying mortgage or rent.
We would assume that tension over housing would be greater for the youngest parents, but this is not the case. While 29% of those aged 18 to 34 have felt stressed over housing issues, the proportion increases to 34% for those aged 35 to 54 and 41% for those aged 55 and over. All age groups are feeling the housing pinch in one form or another.
Across Metro Vancouver, the same proportion of parents (34%) have also undergone a stressful time with financial matters. Three in 10 (31%) say they have felt anxiety “occasionally” or “frequently” over work-related issues and family-related difficulties.
Asked how difficult it is to perform certain tasks in their lives, more than a third of parents in Metro Vancouver (35%) say it is “moderately difficult” or “very difficult” to pay for child care.
We are still in the developing stages of the provincial government’s strategy to reduce the cost of child care – and new announcements were made in the most recent speech from the throne – so it will be important to see if these numbers change over the next few years. There is plenty of hope from parents that the cost of child care spaces in Metro Vancouver will ultimately resemble something similar to the affordability of Montreal and not the luxury of Toronto.
A significantly smaller proportion of parents (14%) find it challenging to pay for transportation, but two issues are clearly becoming a hassle: spending and saving.
In the survey, 45% of parents in Metro Vancouver report that it is difficult to pay for day-to-day expenses – a proportion that climbs to 58% for those living in Surrey and 52% for those aged 35 to 54.
But the hardest thing to do for families in Metro Vancouver right now is to save. Fifty per cent of parents say it is hard to set money aside in a bank account.
Along with the dire situation that many parents in Metro Vancouver are describing, an added layer of gloominess is observed when they ponder the future. We found that 42% of parents believe it is likely that their child or children will have to move away from the municipality where they currently reside due to the high cost of living.
In spite of all of the debates we have had over taxation, housing supply and foreign interference, this is the statistic that could make or break governments at the municipal and provincial levels in years to come. The uncomfortable realization that your children simply cannot make a go of it in their hometown can be more powerful and persuasive than any policy. •
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.