Fleeing Millennials Threaten Vancouver’s Tech Economy

March 21, 2016

The word ‘fleeing’ tends to stir up images of characters in movies about the apocalypse packing duffle bags with the bare necessities in a panicked rush to get out of the city before the aliens/meteor/tsunami/nuclear bomb hits. Then they hop into their 1990s-era Jeep Wrangler (which for some reason drives like an F1 car) and outrun the danger as mushroom clouds and crumbling buildings appear in their rearview mirrors.

Fortunately, this isn’t the scenario that's starting to prompt a millennial exodus from Vancouver. 

It isn’t the threat of an alien invasion or a large asteroid hurtling toward the city that has millennials running for the hills. Instead, it is the massive housing costs associated with the Canadian city. Vancouver’s luxury real estate prices rose at a higher rate than any other city in the world--not in Canada, not in North America, but the world. And the rest of the housing market isn’t far behind. As a whole, Vancouver was ranked as the third-least affordable housing market globally in 2016, just after Sydney and Hong Kong, according to the Financial Post.

As a result, many millennials are raising the white flag and saying enough is enough. In 2015, the net number of people age 18 to 24 that were added to Vancouver’s population was 884, the lowest total ever, and the number of 35 to 44 year olds decreased by 1,300, which is the biggest decline since 2007.

With so many young people leaving the city, the large tech sector faces an uncertain future. The tech industry employs more people than oil and gas, forestry, and mining combined. But as young, tech-focused employees head to less expensive cities, the talent pool is thinning out quickly.

Remember what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron took his talents to South beach? Vancouver faces a similar problem with its tech industry. While it is leading the way right now, if millennials continue to head for open waters, the city could very easily lose its tech edge.

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