If you’ve ever heard the “avocado toast” story in relation to housing, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
For those who haven’t heard this, here’s how it goes.
A senior citizen who bought their house decades ago lectured a person in their 20s by saying that young people can afford to buy a house if only they stopped paying for frivolous things – like “avocado toast” and going out to restaurants.
The point being that cutting back on such things will translate into enough money to buy a house in today’s housing market.
In response to my recent column about how some Victoria house owners oppose any kind of density – from townhouses to condo buildings – in their single-family neighbourhoods, I received several responses making this same point.
This includes Jerry, a 69-year-old Victoria resident who challenged me to be “like a man” and respond to his email. He also told me to stop “crying and whining” about this issue, which is fair because I used the same language.
So Jerry said young people, like my daughter who is 24, just need to sacrifice more like he did when he was her age.
“Perhaps she should work and scrimp and save, the way I did,” writes Jerry. “And buy a house when she’s 37 years old. Which is what I did.”
Oh and Jerry says that if you can’t afford to live where you are, then you should just move away instead of building affordable forms of housing.
I wanted to make a note on this point about just trying to scrimp and save like he did back in the day.
I did the math on Jerry’s age and he would have bought his first house in 1991. Well, a house bought in 1991 would have been a helluva lot cheaper than buying a house in 2023 – where in Victoria that will run you about $1.2 million.
Sure, Jerry’s wages were a lot lower than they are today, but not that much lower. There are reams of studies showing that house prices have skyrocketed far higher that the pace of people’s wages.
So it was far, far, far easier to buy a house in 1991 than it is in 2023.
No amount of avocado toast will make up that difference. That’s just facts.
I’m not doubting that Jerry worked his butt off to afford that house. But it’s a fact that the housing market is in a crisis here in Victoria.
All I’ve been saying in my columns is that there are other forms of housing that are much more affordable, including non-market rentals that are aimed to be affordable.
For the sake of our young people, we should be open to them instead of telling them to just go move somewhere else.
I’ll let Jerry have the last word: “My real beef is with the developers who cooked up the ‘missing middle myth.’ And who are now holding local government feet to fire, in order to have their own way. You could build housing all day long, every day of the week and there’d still be a shortage here. It’s Victoria.”
Chris Campbell is an editor with Black Press Media in the Victoria hub of newspapers. You can follow him on Twitter @shinebox44.
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