Andy Yan and Millennials in Van


Andy Yan has a thoughtful and well researched approach to the subjects he studies. He is fearless in approaching the affordability debate, and is affiliated with Bing Thom Architects and UBC. He is also the acting director of SFU’s City Program .

Andy is on the Vancouver Magazine’s Power 50 list, and recently was interviewed  by Vancouver Magazine‘s  Trevor Melanson. Andy found out that the median income for degree-holders in Vancouver was $9,000 less than in the ten biggest cities in Canada.

B.C. university graduates also carry the most student debt and have the highest interest rates on that debt.  A debt they have to pay, as well as deal with finding affordable housing. As Andy says:

It’s really hard to create a garden of new economic activity under an inch of concrete as represented by student debt. We may very well attract some of the smartest and brightest around in this country, but to saddle them with at times very significant debt I think limits their potential—and if anything is a motivation to get out of a region that may not pay as well as other regions. Take a tech worker that has trained at a local university. It’s only rational for him to move to other places like San Francisco or Seattle. There’s a very specific logic to that. It’s not about talent attraction but retaining talent, which is probably one of the biggest challenges for Vancouver.

It’s also the reality that when you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’re in the most mobile period of your career. And in an economy that’s increasingly dependent on young talent, the ability to capture and retain that talent—it’s a major economic challenge. And housing costs don’t particularly help the situation. There are going to be four consequences of this housing market: one is overcrowding, two is over-indebtedness, three is sprawl, and four is ultimately migration out of the region.”

Andy sees three strategies for economic development as hunting, fishing and farming. New talent is hunted for jobs, a pool of amenities and  great lifestyles anchor why people want to come to Vancouver, and lastly, local firms are nurtured to grow and attract more opportunities.

As Andy states “We actually have all these small head offices in Metro Vancouver, and really our challenge is to help nurture them to have the capacity to grow, as opposed to only attracting new firms in the region”.

Vancouver needs a strong strategy to attract, maintain, and allow young workers and families to thrive. Andy Yan has pointed out what needs to be done.

Published by Sandy James Planner

Vancouverite! City planner, writer, former master gardener, perpetual public space champion. I'm interested in pace, space and place. Micromobility and accessibility, best environments for free range kids. She/her. Dogs. I really walk a lot. Editor~ Viewpoint Vancouver Urbanism/Insight/Evolution Managing Director of Walk Metro Vancouver, www.walkmetrovan. Twitter: @sandyjamesplan My current writing:

3 thoughts on “Andy Yan and Millennials in Van

  1. A very insightful commentary by Andy Yan.

    Regarding the comparison to Calgary’s number of large head offices, this element is detached from short and medium term economic considerations, like house prices. This is the second year of low world oil prices, and the Alberta economy has been hit extremely hard due to its over-dependence on this one commodity. During this time, the prices for detached dwellings in Calgary decreased by ~13% while apartments decreased by ~16%. The benchmark housing price hasn’t been lower since the 2008-09 recession. [Source: Calgary Real Estate Board]

    Concurrent to this, Alberta’s unemployment rate has reached its highest point in 20 years.

    Meanwhile, BC’s economy chugs along as though oil prices don’t matter, and its economic growth has surpassed Alberta’s two years in a row. In fact, BC’s economy is one of the healthiest and most diversified in the nation, but it is influenced in part by unaffordable real estate prices. The outmigration from BC to Alberta has reversed.

    I don’t think the number and size of head offices is as important as some pundits say when there is a fundamental flaw in the economy of the jurisdiction they occupy. Oil prices will return to $100 a barrel again, if only because the laws of physics apply to the consumption and decline of finite resources and prices climb to the affordability ceiling. There is no guarantee international climate change mitigation and cheap renewables won’t affect oil prices further. And no one is advertising the fact that heavy bitumen is very difficult to market to Asia even with pipelines to the sea that disregard any concept of value-added refining at home. An economy that bounces between a floor and ceiling of one commodity price is not a healthy economy, no matter how many large head offices are located within it and how hot their economy was in the past. Stability matters more when looking forward instead of backward.

    Living in a city with small head offices, high housing prices, lower than average incomes but a diverse economy may be better in the long run than living in a one-piston economy subject to bursts of life on the way to a slow death.


  2. Methinks it’s diverse local economy, some large head offices (or more), wide range of locals who range from service work to diverse knowledge based industries as well as a diverse manufacturing base in addition to strong tourism strategy year round. All of that combined in 1 flexible bundle. It is felt that Toronto does trump Vancouver in this bundle, especially with feeder knowledge based cities of Guelph, Waterloo, Hamilton, etc. within Metrolinx commuting distance. The whole southern Ontario, Golden Horseshoe Triangle dynamic is just so much more mind-boggling than the Lower Mainland, in choices of jobs, economies and housing.

    The problem with tourism is that it’s service industry jobs which don’t attract university educated folks long term, looking for next/higher paying job beyond leading tours, hotel or restaurant work.

    Right now, there is an ongoing problem in the tourism dependent places (which are pleasant places to live..if you want long winters, etc.) with great views, environment: Whistler, Canmore and Banff town need workers –now. But pay is low and local accommodation that’s affordable for such workers, is an ongoing problem. Ironically with thousands of Albertans unemployed, local businesses are forced to hire temporary foreign workers from Australia, Germany, etc. looking for some money combined Canadian wilderness/skiing/snowboarding adventure for a year or so. Many unemployed locals don’t want to commute/relocate to these areas for these wages.

    Look beyond this Vancouver BC problem. There are other factors that contribute to affordable housing problems in beautiful areas of Canada but a local economic base is tends to be single piston oriented, offers a lot less wages and less room to grow salary-wise.


  3. Vancouver is a great place to work FROM.

    Many folks who live in Vancouver come from elsewhere and have incomes and/or assets elsewhere.

    This means the real work is done elsewhere, i.e. mining, export/import, shipping, real estate development, owning assets in places around the world. THAT is Vancouver.

    I moved here 7 years ago because I finally could afford it, after having lived here in the late 80’s as a lowely software developer. Many (Asian) immigrants have business elsewhere.

    Young folks are well advised to leave the cozy, pretty nest and make some money elsewhere, then return. It is very hard to live in Vancouver if you only source of income is derived locally. Taxes are high. Real estate is very high. Traffic is lousy. Public transit is very lousy. Once you leave the waterfront there is little beauty. The beauty is the mountains, the sea, the walks along the sea. Living in a tiny shoebox with a view of another condo tower is not a dream many aspire too.


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