News / Vancouver

Don’t have $1 million: Vancouverite’s Twitter campaign draws attention to unaffordable city

Eveline Xia thought it just wasn’t right when she read about a young doctor leaving Vancouver because he couldn’t afford to raise a family in a city where the average price of a single-family home is a million dollars.

“If people who are medical doctors, with the top income in society, if they can’t afford the city, what kind of chance do I have?” said Xia, a 29-year-old with a Masters degree in forestry and environmental science.

The doctor's story, coupled with a widely-shared blog on the same topic by tech company president Saeid Fard, inspired Xia to act.

Determined to raise awareness about how difficult it is to stay in the city for young, middle class citizens – she means everyone who doesn’t make six figures, whether they’re artists or musicians or lawyers – Xia took to Twitter. She created a hashtag campaign called #DontHave1Million that encourages people to post pictures of themselves with the hashtag, their job and their age.

Xia, a Mount Pleasant resident who had never used Twitter before, hoped the campaign would grab the attention of politicians and policy-makers and encourage them to tackle the unaffordability problem.

“If you look at other cities, other countries where locals are being pushed out, they have done something about it,” she said. “Do we want a city hollowed out of the middle class?”

A vacancy tax on empty condos was pitched during the 2014 municipal election, but local politicians have yet to take decisive action on the hot button issue complicated by foreign ownership.

Xia has been overwhelmed by the response to the campaign, 99 per cent of which she said is positive.

“It has been almost a relief,” she said, adding she now feels like she’s not the only one struggling to stay in the city. For her, that means being able to afford to buy a house or a condo large enough to raise a family. She doesn’t want to come across as entitled, but doesn’t think it’s an unreasonable dream.

Xia is certainly not alone. Statistics Canada data shows a net loss of residents aged 20 to 30 from the Vancouver area as they move to more affordable pastures across the country.

And the problem is expected to get worse. A VanCity report released in March predicts house prices will double to an average of $2.1 million by 2030.

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