Zig on out to the country

When everyone is zigging, you should be zagging.

In a recent article in the Straight, the Vancouver newspaper reported that East Vancouver City Council had updated it’s standard for “affordable for-profit housing”. The number that qualifies under their incentive programs as “affordable” was about $3,700. I don’t recall if this was a 2 or 3 bedroom home, but smaller homes had different criteria down to around the $1,600 mark for a studio apartment. The affordability math according to the commonly used “keep your housing costs under 30%” rule is that to afford $3,700 per month in rent your net income (after taxes) would need to be $120,000.

According to Statistics Canada, the average wage for Canadian employees is currently $952 per week – or just under $50,000 a year.

For low and even average income earners Vancouver housing is increasingly priced out of reach. This is a trend in many of the world’s cities. In Vancouver the current mayor has made a lot of efforts to create affordable housing via new taxes or levies designed to curb speculation or tax empty homes, and has pushed for low income modular housing to be installed as a solution to homelessness and housing shortages. Personally I applaud the efforts of the mayor, and especially the perserverance they’ve shown when faced with opposition to many of these proposals. Still I think we need to take a step back and see the big picture.

I believe many people who currently live in cities would be better off if they left. And also that the city, and the people who stay in it, would be better off if a significant number of people left. The fundamentals of economics are powerful forces. When people work against them it is often like swimming against a strong river current. You could apply this analogy in a positive light when it comes to why people have moved into cities to begin with. For many the job prospects are far better, the lifestyle more convenient, it just seems to be the sensible and logical choice for most people. Yet I think now we may be beginning to see a tipping point. A point where the benefits of city life might for many be surpassed by the benefits of rural life, or small town living.

Like many people who want to design a great lifestyle and prosper, I’ve often asked myself where should I be. After all I have had perhaps the luxury of not having any significant roots that would stop me from either travelling or relocating. Originally from Vancouver myself, I’d grown up in the interior of BC and lived in the province most of my life since an early age. Yet when I looked at return from Spain after 3-years of the digital nomad life and visiting 14 nations, I didn’t really have anything to return to. Entering the rental market, knowing I could not immediately purchase a home and that it would likely be out of reach for many more years, I looked instead for a piece of land. And to my surprise, given I thought all land in Canada was priced like that in BC where acreages are often in the 100K+ or even multimillion dollar range, actually there is relatively affordable land in Canada still available. I purchased 5-acres in New Brunswick. Only 45-minutes from Moncton, 25-minutes from the Atlantic coast. Nestled amongst several small townships. A place to call home, a place to build, a woodlot lined with maple trees, birch and fir. Enough timber to build a home.

Currently I’m less than a year into my homesteading adventure. So far it’s been rewarding financially, and given me a sense of purpose in terms of developing new skills, learning a new way of life. It’s exciting, yet at times very challenging and even frustrating. Progress has been slow in building, many challenges both expected and unexpected have made it a relatively difficult path. Yet I remain a believer that this zag is better at least for some than the zigging city life. And I feel that what would make the transition from urban to rural living easier is some form of framework, a structured approach to helping people establish their new lifestyle. What I imagine is similar perhaps to the concept of an ecovillage, but not exactly in that format. It’s a work in progress, and that’s all I can share for now. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more updates from New Brunswick.