Monday, May 22, 2017

The back-yard dream

When John and I were planning to buy a place together in the mid-1970s, at one point he raised the possibility of a condo. To me, it was unthinkable. Farm girl that I am, space, privacy and greenery were what I wanted: a house with a yard was the only real estate for me.

We all know that it’s a different universe now for young working people in super-expensive cities like Vancouver and Toronto, where affordable detached homes reasonably close to downtown are only a dream. But a couple of stories this week made me think about how intensely (some) people still long for their own outdoor space, and how that conflicts with today’s received wisdom that they should just get over the idea.

“Canadians need to replace backyards with balconies,” is the headline on a May 20 Globe and Mail column by Doug Saunders, who notes that while apartment living is the accepted norm in Europe, “Canada suffers, almost uniquely in the world, from a priggish middle-class animus against homes in the air.” Condos are greener, cheaper and provide the density needed for transit, he says, and “we need to apartmentize ourselves a lot faster. . . .We need to welcome a generation of condo kids.”

But in “A goodbye to Vancouver,” published May 17 in The Georgia Straight,  theatre artist Emelia Symington Fedy says she’s made the heartbreaking decision to leave for Halifax. While she’s earned success in her tough field in Vancouver and loves the city, daycare costs of $2,500 a month for her two toddlers, a dicey rental situation and ever-increasing prices are driving her family out.

She doesn’t expect to own a house in Vancouver, eat out or buy new clothes, she says, but she’s adamant about one thing. “All I want is my kids to have a back yard. And for that, I have to move across the country and begin again.”

Later, in response to a question in the comments section about her desire to own property as opposed to co-housing or other arrangements, she says: “I think we all deserve some green space. I’d be happy to share it with as many people who wanted in, just to plant a small garden, or to dig in the dirt. My kids need that.”

I'm aware that it’s my background talking, but if I was a kid, I know which place I’d choose for my games of  hide-and-seek. And it’s not an apartment balcony.


Globe article:

Georgia Straight article:

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