News / Vancouver

MLA says he can’t afford to live in Vancouver, and neither should you

Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness says he can’t afford to live in Vancouver on a base salary of $102,878 but “there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness.

Screengrab/lauriethronessmla.ca

Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness.

A heated debate on housing prices took a sudden turn in the British Columbia legislature Monday when a sitting MLA said people don’t have a “God-given right” to live in Vancouver.

While debating a motion on affordable housing, Liberal MLA Laurie Throness, of Chilliwack-Hope, rejected the notion that government intervention is required in the housing market.

“I wanted to live in Vancouver, so I explored that option. I didn’t even explore the option of buying a detached home, but I looked for condos and soon found I wasn’t able to afford to live there,” said Throness, who makes a base salary of $102,878 and claimed $20,209 in expenses in 2013/14. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t go to the papers. I didn’t complain to government. I didn’t complain to the opposition. I didn’t go to the Human Rights Tribunal. I bought in Abbotsford.”

He said the notion that everyone should expect to be able to afford to live in Vancouver is “incorrect.”

He suggested NDP Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby – who has been demanding government action on skyrocketing housing costs, suspicious real estate activity and urging for more data on the potential impact of foreign money in the market – should move if he finds the city too expensive.

“The member could come to Hope. He could come to Agassiz. He could come to Harrison Hot Springs. They’re all beautiful places to live and very affordable,” Throness said. “We can’t change what I would call the major structural elements of the Vancouver housing market. In fact, I would say that many homeowners are very happy about the rising value of their homes.

“No one has a God-given right to live in a particular place. We all have to tailor our expectations to our income,” he concluded. “That means that people like me will probably never live in Vancouver, but I do not consider myself a victim.”

Eby said Throness’ comments were “dismissive” of residents’ needs in a city where housing prices now exponentially outpace the median family income of $73,290.

“He’s telling people to give up on Metro Vancouver. That’s an astounding attitude to a major economic engine for the province,” said Eby. “Most people’s work is tied to where they live and here you have an MLA saying it’s your own damn fault for not buying in Chilliwack. He doesn’t understand the impact [house prices] have on the local economy and on local people, young people in particular trying to get a start.”

Throness qualified his comments by saying the Liberal government has invested $4.4 billion in affordable housing since 2001 and provides plenty of grants and credits to lower ownership costs.

If people move to more affordable regions of B.C. companies and jobs would follow suit, he argued.

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