Why More Young Professionals Are Moving to the Suburbs
Although Vancouver continues to evolve as a tech-savvy city and top destination for young professionals — with tech giants like Amazon expanding their workforce downtown — more and more young people in our job market are opting to settle down in the Lower Mainland’s suburbs. The downtown core remains a coveted destination, but for many young professionals, the surrounding municipalities are quickly gaining appeal.
It seems at first glance like a radical change; why is a generation defined by their love of big city culture retiring early to suburbia? When did Langley, Port Moody, Burnaby and New Westminster become attractive substitutes for city life in Vancouver? The suburbs are bringing their A-game and here are a few compelling factors to prove it.
Lower cost of living
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Many of Vancouver’s suburbs have seen their population of 25- to 39-year-olds increase dramatically in the past two decades. Data and analysis from Andy Yan, Director of Simon Fraser University City Program, shows that from 1996 to 2016, New Westminster saw an 18% increase in millennials, while Langley saw 14%, Port Moody 10% and Burnaby 11%.
While there are many reasons for this, the cost of living is undoubtedly the first to come to mind. For the eighth consecutive year, Vancouver has ranked as one of the world’s top three least affordable cities, with average rent prices just recently eclipsing the $2000 mark. By contrast, many of Vancouver’s suburbs have more affordable rental costs and provide reasonable transit options to the downtown core. For young professionals wanting to grow their savings, moving to the suburbs is a smart way to save a couple hundred extra dollars a month while maintaining a high quality of life.
The urbanization of the suburbs
Young professionals aren’t the only ones looking elsewhere: as affordable office space has become increasingly sparse, small businesses are looking outside the city as well. This creates a virtuous cycle: with more professional opportunities popping up in the suburbs, the workforce is becoming less reliant on companies in Vancouver’s core; as more people venture to the suburbs, these areas have responded by opening up businesses and attractions of interest for the urban creative economy.
Historically speaking, downtown Vancouver has been a hub of entertainment, arts and culture. This remains the case, but if you look to suburban cities in the Lower Mainland, you’ll see that many of them are thriving. New Westminster was recently referred to as BC’s Brooklyn for its revitalized waterfront and trendy restaurants and retailers, while Port Moody has earned praise as a craft brewery destination. With more suburbs gaining distinctly “cool” reputations, it’s no wonder they’re attracting young professionals, who are enticed by these lifestyles that promise lower price-tags than Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant or Gastown.
Less congestion and more fresh air
The rat race isn’t for everyone, and although Vancouver is only a medium-sized city, it still has its share of congestion and noise. While the suburbs may be seen as sleepier, they provide a welcome reprieve from the constant barrage of city life that characterizes urban capitals. In suburbs like Port Moody and White Rock, there’s also close proximity to the trails, beaches and mountains that make life in BC so attractive. With new commuting options like The Evergreen Line, it’s possible to avoid traffic altogether in favour of greener — and more efficient — transit.
With such a significant exodus from the city, it isn’t hard to imagine that the suburbs might look totally different in ten or twenty years’ time. Getting in sooner rather than later will mean more savings for young professionals and an easier time becoming established or raising a family.
Of course, with the right information and timing, buying and renting in Vancouver isn’t out of the question — but it’s nice to know that there are other liveable cities closeby if you’re ready for a change of pace.
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Inline: Renni, Shutterstock / Alex533, Rennie