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In a review of just released Statistics Canada data, Andy Yan, director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University made a surprising discovery~Vancouver is becoming a city of the very rich and the disenfranchised poor. As reported by Joanne Lee-Young in the Vancouver Sun, “Vancouver outstripped the 10 most-populous “census metropolitan areas” in Canada for having the highest percentage (16.5) of residents living in low-incomes households. Looking at median incomes Andy Yan ascertained the threshold for a two person household after tax as being an income below $31,301. In Vancouver 16.5 per cent of households are low-income. “In comparison, Toronto had the second-highest percentage of residents living in low-income households (15.6 per cent), followed by Montreal (15.3), Winnipeg (15%) and Hamilton (13%).”
While some of the statistics may be due to underreporting of wealth from residents avoiding tax implications, Andy Yan points out that there are “anomalies” of low-income levels in areas with high house valuations. Andy Yan observes “What is the state of seniors and where are they concentrated? If you take a look at Chinatown and Gastown and the Downtown Eastside, where 71 per cent of seniors are living in low-income categories, you can ask, ‘How does this inform the fight for 105 Keefer?” This development was originally going to be 12 storeys and contain 106 condo units and 25 social housing units. (Local advocates felt the building was too high, out of context for Chinatown and should have more social housing. The revised application is nine storeys with 111 condo units and no social housing.) Andy Yan’s statistics clearly show that seniors in this area have marginal incomes, and have a need for governmental social housing support.
The study also shows that there are areas of low-income people increasingly in the suburbs, and that these areas have higher poverty levels compared to the rest of Canada. In Richmond’s City Centre, over 35 per cent of people were in a low-income household, compared to 40 per cent in the Downtown Eastside. Access to jobs by good transit could be a factor in this cluster, but the statistics inform government about the housing and affordability disparities that occur when the cost of living rises, but income stays the same. As Andy Yan observes “Are these the beginnings of the bifurcation in Vancouver between the rich and poor? And how it’s on its way to being an exception in the world of real estate appreciation, but not an exception when it comes to levels of income equality in other cities in the world? This city has always been expensive, but the absurdities of the mismatch are growing.”