Why We Have Decided to Leave Vancouver Island and What’s Next

NOTE: Post updated to reflect recent events.

Life in Courtenay

We have lived in Comox/Courtenay for over a year and a half. It’s beautiful and we enjoy being here, and the near lack of winter is very appealing, but we’ve reached the point where we can no longer afford to live here.

For the last 8 months, we have paid $2,000 per month in rent. It wasn’t our first choice, but it’s what was available that was decent quality (seriously, that’s average rent for a 3 bedroom here), and we know they’ll have no problem renting it out again once we give our notice. The trouble is the demand and severe lack of affordable housing and the cost of what does exist. What we’re paying is pretty close to average, but that doesn’t make it okay, but it is the accepted reality.

Our House in Leduc

Our house in Leduc, Alberta was for sale for months (like many in Alberta). We finally received an offer this week and accepted it. In preparation in recent months, we have been eagerly researching over that time and that tells us that almost nothing is available anywhere on Vancouver Island that suits us, or at least that we can afford.

Update: The offer fell through. So the Leduc house is back on the market.

Moving to Lethbridge

So, after many hours of discussions, we’re moving back to Alberta. Specifically Lethbridge. While we had the offer on the Leduc house, we managed to find a house in Lethbridge that we loved, and even did a showing and inspection as part of our house hunting trip. Unfortunately, since the Leduc offer fell through, so did that Lethbridge house offer.

So, we researched rentals online and came across an apartment (condo) in west Lethbridge that we like, and secured it today. It’s very similar to the buildings shown above.

It’s a bit smaller than what we’re currently renting, but it’s certainly good enough for potentially the next few months until our Leduc house SELLS (not just an offer).

We absolutely will not fall victim again to pinning our hopes and dreams on an offer. We will wait until it’s done and the money is in the bank. Then, and only then, will we research houses, do any showings, or put in any offers.

Why Lethbridge?

I lived there for 3 1/2 years, partly during college, about a decade ago and enjoyed it, and I’m familiar with it. But the real reason is of the places we considered moving to, Lethbridge currently just happens to have the most to offer that matches what we’re looking for in affordable housing.

This wasn’t the plan

We have known since day one that housing prices are more expensive here. More expensive than in Alberta, but certainly less expensive that on Mainland BC. So, for a variety of reasons, we moved to Courtenay. A year and a half later, and housing prices haven’t stopped increasing, nor has rent. We love the fact it’s a smaller community that seemingly has a decent variety of housing options, but our research since has indicated what we’re now looking for is in short supply (2 or 3 bedroom with a legal suite or can easily be turned into a legal suite), and you get less for your money than in Alberta.

We even looked at places like Ottawa. We’re reasonably happy with housing prices there, but we don’t really want to move across the country right now.

A general example – a fairly new (1970s to more recent) and decent 3 bedroom 2 bath house with a main level (there are few basements here) suite or potential suite is $500,000 to $600,000 or more (sometimes less if you’re lucky), and even then they’re somewhat older, often need renos and to be developed, and only the potential to be a legal suite, including it’s own kitchen or kitchenette, and separate entrance. You can find the same thing in Alberta for $300,000 to roughly $400,000 range that is newer, needs little or no renos, and offers more value.

Another quick example – we also considered two separate apartments, condos, half duplexes, or townhomes in Comox and Courtenay. Those apparently start at between $300,000 to $400,000 each, so we absolutely cannot afford two of them.

So, basically an additional $100,000 to $200,000 or more just for the privilege of being able to live on Vancouver Island. For one, we can’t afford that. Secondly, we’re not sure the benefits justify it.

Comox Marina
Deer in a Comox neighborhood

It’s certainly beautiful here, especially the ocean (Georgia Strait), the local wildlife, and the close to lack of winter most of the time is certainly appealing, and the people are mostly great, but to us it just doesn’t justify the extra cost. Honestly, we’d rather save the money and go on vacations or cruises in the years to come. So that’s what we’re going to do.

Ridiculous Cost of Housing

It’s unbelievable how many people seem to agree that the cost of rent here is too high, yet so many insist on charging top dollar simply because they can because of the fact it’s Vancouver Island. Others are doing the same, and enough people are willing to pay it.

I was getting my hair cut the other day, and the lady was saying her friend somehow managed to get a rental in Campbell River (45 minutes north of Comox). The rent is high there, too, yet 20 people applied for that place alone. She said it, and I’ve heard it before, that people from places like Vancouver are unable to afford the sky-high rent there, so those that can move here do, and seemingly help drive prices up, because it’s apparently still cheaper then where they’re coming from.

People must know that contributes to the housing crisis, homelessness, and poverty, right?! Whatever happened to charging a reasonable amount, making some money, and giving people a place to call home that they can afford?! People seem to agree, but nothing changes. In fact, it’s getting worse.

A friend told me a couple of weeks ago that they had to use the local Food Bank. They were very busy, and while in line, staff commented that usage has DOUBLED in the past year, but resources (staff, donations) have not.

Conclusion

Anyway, that’s the story of why we’re moving to Lethbridge after having spent a year and a half on Vancouver Island. It’s made for one hell of a year, but we’re glad to be starting this new chapter in our lives with more emotional, mental, and financial stability.