Photo by Tom Rumble on Unsplash

This post is an excerpt from BCCIC’s shadow report: Where Canada Stands – Vol II.

Major societal and economic changes in Canada resulted in a steady decline of young adults living in rural areas. Among the G7 countries, Canada has the third lowest portion of the population living in rural areas. According to Dr. Penelope Gurstein, Urban Planning Professor and Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning, northern and southern communities have disproportionate economic development opportunities.

Unlike the dense metropolitan communities in the south, northern communities are scattered in remote areas and therefore have limited opportunities for economic development. Drawn by those opportunities and resources, rural migration and new immigrants settling in urban centres has resulted in an upswing in housing prices as land becomes scarce. There is therefore a need to establish a range of affordable housing, beyond homeownership, by strengthening rental agreement and tenant tenure protection policies.

In particular, young adults between the ages of 15 to 29 have been migrating from rural dwellings into urban areas – a figure projected to increase over the coming years. In 2011, only 17% of the young adults lived in rural areas.  Chris Bell, a Masters candidate in Urban Planning at the University of Waterloo, Summer Associate for Infrastructure Ontario, and Regional Focal Facilitator for the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth, notes that cities and communities need to rethink the traditional North American cultural construct of residential landscapes and single family dwellings. Single family dwellings are not only unaffordable, but are not energy efficient in a high density population from an environmental standpoint. Instead, he believes that communities should shift the focus of residential land use toward protecting farmlands that surround the city, and adapt to a more densified community by accepting an alternative compact way of living.

Living in a more dense and compact lifestyle provides affordable housing and is more apt to supply appropriate homes for young people, Indigenous Peoples, and other vulnerable groups since they can offer better access to services and more supportive community structures. Some communities are beginning to take steps to incorporate a youth perspective into their affordable housing planning by establishing their own youth council and advisory boards. Bell, however, had difficulty seeing the result of these youth initiatives because there has not been a lot of evidence on how youth consultation and engagement will result in changes or what kind of recommendations will show follow through. Nonetheless, the renewed interest in youth is a stepping stone to incorporating youth voices in addressing problems across all levels of government.

We need to update relevant building codes and regulation policies to integrate and reflect the different cultures within the urban core.

— Andrea Reimer, Vancouver City Councillor