Jock Finlayson and Ken Peacock have reported in Business in Vancouver on another startling casualty of rising housing prices.
Late last year, British Columbia started to experience a surprising drop in people moving here from other provinces. While migration across Canada has historically risen and fallen with economic swings and employment potential, this drop in the influx of new residents may be more directly attributable to the increasing cost of housing in British Columbia.
This province has Canada’s lowest unemployment rate, and “by mid-2014, interprovincial migration was adding more than 5,000 people to B.C.’s population every quarter – upwards of 20,000 annually. Over the subsequent three years, net interprovincial migration ranged between 4,000 and 6,000 per quarter. But in the third quarter of 2017, the net inflow plummeted to 500, and it stayed low (at 800) in Q4.”
In examining the reasons why there is less migration to British Columbia, Finlayson and Peacock feel that good labour markets in other provinces are available as baby boomers retire. In Alberta, which has just gone through an economic crisis, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.7 per cent to 6.3 per cent in one year, suggesting that potential interprovincial migrants were able to find work in their own home province.
Out-migration of workers from British Columbia to other provinces has also increased. While a good job market could be one reason, ‘push factors’ were also identified, “notably the high cost of housing in B.C.’s urban centres, are probably more important. The combination of unusually steep local housing costs and brighter job prospects in other regions may be prompting more British Columbians to pick up sticks. High housing costs are also discouraging some potential migrants from other provinces from relocating to B.C.”
This brings up two issues for British Columbia — if good labour markets exist in other provinces, labour mobility from across Canada to B.C. may continue to be low. The provincial government has assumed a net migration of 10,000 to 15,000 annually over the next ten years.
If this does not happen, “B.C. is poised to become even more reliant on international immigration to meet its future labour needs.” In a future scenario where workers will be “in short supply across the country” affordable housing stock will be needed.
Christopher Cheung noted in The Tyee that high housing prices are already making it challenging to attract new recruits to the Vancouver Police Department, which reports that 83 per cent of officers don’t live in the city. The Hospital Employees Union and the Secondary Teachers Association report similar challenges.
Once again, access to affordable housing appears to be key to addressing labour shortages and keeping people in British Columbia cities.
Photos: 2 Burley CBC.ca