UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Housing and location of young adults, then and now : consequences of urban restructuring in Montreal and Vancouver Moos, Markus


Young adults, 25 to 34 years of age, decide on housing, residential location and commuting patterns in an altered context from when the same age cohort entered housing markets in the early 1980s. Neo-liberalization reduced the availability of low-cost, rental housing, and post-Fordist restructuring increased labour market inequality. Societal changes contributed to decreases in household size and delay in child bearing. This thesis asks how the contextual changes factor into young adults’ housing decisions in the Montreal and Vancouver metropolitan areas where restructuring occurred differently, and discusses implications for equity and sustainability. The young adult residential ecology is increasingly concentrated into higher density and amenity-rich neighbourhoods, particularly near transit in Vancouver. The trends are explained by shifts toward the service sector, declining real incomes and growing inter-generational wage inequalities that reduce young adults’ spending power in housing markets, especially in Vancouver with its speculative land market and wealthy immigrants. Holding other characteristics constant, young adults in Vancouver are less likely to reside in single-family dwellings than detached, row or apartment units. In Montreal the trend is toward single-family living. Commuting distances and modes are similar between Vancouver and Montreal but multiple-person households and those with children have longer and more automobile-oriented commutes in Vancouver. The changes reflect higher increases in housing costs and densities in central areas in Vancouver. Montreal has more sustained government support for housing, a larger rental sector and therefore less rampant increases in housing costs. The restructuring of Vancouver’s housing market makes it more difficult than in Montreal to keep accessible the more ‘sustainable’ locations to households of all sizes. Household structure and life-cycle stage, not social status alone, determine location and the commute. A greater sustainability challenge in Montreal will be to stem the shifts toward ownership of single-family dwellings. Generally, young adults’ housing outcomes are more evidently shaped by their position in the labour market, which is increasingly determined by educational attainment. The thesis works conceptually within structuration theory, noting how contexts shape demand but are themselves re-shaped by changing demand. Both contextual and neo-classical arguments have relevance to the overall argument.

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