Thursday, February 18, 2010

Vancouver, the Most Liveable City on Earth?

I've always been sceptical of global livability rankings. They always seem to be based on the quality of life of wealthy executives, rather than average denizens. Needless to say, when the Economist ranked Vancouver as the most livable city on earth, I took it with a grain of salt. Wendell Cox at New Geography has confirmed my suspicion. Using the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, Cox confirmed that housing in Vancouver is the least affordable major city in the English speaking world.

According to the survey criteria, housing prices in an affordable market should have an index of no higher than 3.0 (meaning that average housing should cost no more than 3 times the average annual gross household income). Vancouver came in at a staggering 9.3. The second most expensive major Canadian city, Toronto, has an index of only 5.2.

There are some obvious reasons why Vancouver is such an expensive city. It's proximity to world class skiing facilities, and it's temperate climate are certainly factors. More significant is it's natural shortage of land. There simply isn't much room to grow. However, David Seymour from the Frontier Center for Public Policy argued that there is still plenty of land left, but onerous land use regulations are preventing it from being developed. I have little specific knowledge of Vancouver's land use policies, but I do know that there is a strong (and obvious) correlation between restrictive land use policies, and high housing costs.

Though I will not offer a solution to this problem, I post this merely to remind people that survey's such as the Economist's Global Liveability Report should be approached critically, and with a good deal of scepticism.