CommunityNewsPeopleRon Baker

Vancouver – Back Alley Perspectives

I’m just back from a week’s vacation to Vancouver. Relative visiting was the reason!

As I reflect back on those days I’m struck with the wide gulf between small town Saskatchewan and Urban Centre British Columbia! I am acquainted with both small town and large city. I’ve lived in Kindersley, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, Toronto, Edmonton. I’ve always maintained there are differences – but the gap seems much wider now.

As I traversed on foot some of the areas of Vancouver I was both delighted with the richness of culture and despairing of the socio-economic gaps.

Granville Island was an experience in itself! Create a small town, dress it up like a doll house, and sell the ambience to those who arrive. Tourism sustains this island – Come, tour, eat, spend and leave. I bumped more elbows in a few minutes on the island than I have in weeks here in Kindersley.

We visited a botanical garden in Queen Elizabeth Park. We experienced the Vancouver Aquarium. We sat on Kitsilano Beach. We drove the streets, paid parking and walked a lot!

One day we walked a back alley in Vancouver city proper. I say that to distinguish Vancouver from outlying regions that surround “downtown” Vancouver.

The houses in the area had been renovated and were often two storey abodes. As we walked the back alleys we soon became aware of “alley homes/ carriage houses” that sat at the back of detached home regular sized lots.

Our first chat was with a fellow hanging out in his garage. There was a bike with a child’s trailer parked at one end of the garage. We asked if he had children. His reply was telling – the quick answer was – “No”. He said he lived in a “commune” of three families – all lived in the house that was located on the lot. His home country was Turkey and he was newly immigrated.

The second chat was just down the alley. The young adult was from Ottawa, had moved before rent spikes happened and was able to still afford rent but the amount was no longer comfortable. He had been encouraged to relocate to Saskatoon but was not ready to move.

The third conversation was in another alley and on the property where our relative is renting. The property footprint is no larger than that of most homes in Kindersley. Five young adults rent the six bedroom home (not a large home and the bedrooms are not expansive). A recent rent increase pushed the cost of rent to over $4,000 per month.

Returning to our AirBnB, we looked down the back alley at a For Sale sign. Our curiosity overtook us. We looked online and found the house. The house had two full apartments and a carriage house also occupied the lot. The renovations and interior design were well done. As was the price – $3.8 million dollars. A mortgage for that amount alone would run you well over $20,000 per month.

We came home.

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