House prices in northwest B.C. are going up in many communities, reports the BC Northern Real Estate Board. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)

House prices in northwest B.C. are going up in many communities, reports the BC Northern Real Estate Board. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)

Ben’s Blog: Why home ownership is a pipe dream for many young people

We need to talk about home ownership. I’m looking at you, boomers.

Canada’s surface-of-the-sun housing market has received plenty of attention from the news media. It is not just limited to the big cities like Vancouver and Toronto anymore. Terrace experienced a real estate boom in the first half of 2021 with houses selling faster, for more money.

Recently, I waded into the comments of a Terrace Community Bulletin Board post about the high cost of rentals, that in a tenant’s view, do not match the quality of the unit.

What struck me was that many of the commenters (older homeowners) did not seem to have a grasp of today’s reality for young people and young families.

“Build your own house!!! Problem solved!!!”

“It has nothing to do with privilege! It’s 100% effort.”

Or my favourite: “I was just thinking about all the stuff I missed out on as a 12-18 year old working for a pay cheque, a university student working nights and weekends to pay rent and tuition, young woman working to pay for student loans, and working mom with young kids. Sacrifice was the name of the game! My choice though!”

One commenter even linked young people’s expensive cell phones to a reason they may not be able to afford a house.

I’m 23-years-old, and I’m not trying to lay blame or point fingers at older generations, but comments like that show that some people don’t understand the situation. Let me be clear, and I’ll say it loud for the boomers that might be hard of hearing: Owning a home today is an immense privilege that many young people today will never have, which is no fault of their own.

Young people, including myself, miss out while working for a pay cheque. University students today work just as hard as they used to. I worked nights during the week plus a manual labour job from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weekends and showed up to class Monday morning. The majority of people I knew were in a similar boat.

Young adults work to pay student loans, the difference is now they have more to pay off. Sacrifice is still “the name of the game,” and a choice that as many young people make now as they used to.

I’d like to share some statistics, courtesy of Generation Squeeze, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in Vancouver that advocates for intergenerational equity.

In 1976, the average income for someone aged 25 to 34 was $58,300. Today it is $53,000 — over $5,000 less.

In 1976, 30 per cent of people were post-secondary graduates. Today, 70 per cent of people have graduated from post-secondary.

In 1976, students graduated with an average of $16,000 in student debt. Today it is $23,000.

In 1976, the average house price was $224,000. Today it is more than double that figure at $568,000.

Since 1976, Canadian governments have increased per person spending on retirees four times faster than for young people.

So, there are far more people graduating with post-secondary credentials, with far more student debt, making less money, trying to afford houses that cost more than double what their parents paid.

There are bigger forces at play than cell phones and expensive coffee. In no way am I trying to minimize or discount the work older people have put in to earn what they have, but those people need to realize that the landscape isn’t what it used to be.