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Survey lists Vancouver as most unaffordable city in North America

And one of the most unaffordable cities in the world
House and coins
Vancouver has ranked one of the most unaffordable cities in the world for homeownership, according to a new report. Photo via Pixabay

A new survey sees Vancouver drop to the third most unaffordable city out of more than 90 major global markets.

The 2022 edition of Demographia International Housing Affordability looked at cities in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore and Hong Kong. Of the 92 cities surveyed, Vancouver was only behind Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia. Last year Vancouver was ahead of Sydney.

The survey uses a median multiple to assess affordability. That's a ratio of income to housing prices, using the local median for both. An affordable city would see a rating of three or below.

Vancouver scored 13.3, up from 13 last year.

Unfortunately for residents of Australia's biggest city, Sydney saw a much bigger bump and hit 15.3 this year. Hong Kong continues to be well ahead at 23.2. The study's authors note Vancouver's market spreads well beyond municipal boundaries.

"Severely unaffordable housing has spread from Vancouver to smaller markets, as metro Vancouver has shed domestic migration to smaller markets in British Columbia, such as Chilliwack, the Fraser Valley, and Kelowna and markets on Vancouver Island," states the study's authors.

None of the major Canadian cities were rated as "affordable," and, in fact, only one city (Pittsburgh at 2.7) was deemed affordable by the survey. Edmonton scored a 3.6 though, which was the fourth-best of those surveyed and best in Canada. Both major Albertan cities were deemed moderately affordable; Calgary was second-best in Canada and in the top 10 most affordable at number 4.

Ottawa (5.6) and Montreal (6.1) were close and both were considered severely unaffordable. Toronto was in the same category, but much closer to Vancouver with a 10.5.

"The markets in Canada have a median multiple of 6.0, up from 4.4 in pre-pandemic 2019," state the study's authors. "This increase of 1.6 years in median household income is the largest among included nations in the report."

The study notes that urban planners have tried to work on unaffordability.

"However, even with densification, housing affordability has deteriorated substantially, for example in Sydney, Auckland, Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, Seattle and many other markets," state the authors.

The survey was released by the American Urban Reform Institute and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, an independent Canadian think-tank that's often described as neoliberal or right-wing; they've also been involved in controversies regarding climate change denial and a radio ad about residential schools.

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