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Madeleine Tsoi and Jessica Ye have started a new group just for young adults at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House.

Live-at-home young adults want more from their community

As Vancouver’s high housing costs force more young adults to live at home, they are realizing there’s not much in…

By Lien Yeung , in City , on November 20, 2013 Tags: , , , ,

Madeleine Tsoi and Jessica Ye
Tsoi and Ye have started a new group just for young adults at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House.

As Vancouver’s high housing costs force more young adults to live at home, they are realizing there’s not much in their neighbourhoods to support their lifestyle – and some are demanding change.

Three young women have launched the first program to serve the interests of their peers in Victoria-Fraserview, a suburban-feeling Vancouver neighbourhood that  is home to the fourth-highest concentration of 18- to 24-year-olds in the city.

Madeleine Tsoi founded the young adults committee this October at the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House with her friends Jessica Ye and Theresa Law.

The trio found it challenging to participate in traditional on-campus activities on their far-away campuses.

“I would join clubs and attend the first two meetings but it was hard because of the meeting times,” said Ye, a third-year SFU student recalling her first year.

“[Meetings] would be at 6 p.m. on campus and I didn’t really want to go back to campus after a morning class. So I completely stopped volunteering and focused on work and school.”

Changing neighbourhoods

Ye and Tsoi couldn't find the opportunities they wanted so they created it.
Ye and Tsoi couldn’t find the opportunities they wanted in their neighbourhood so they created them.

Back home, the local neighbourhood house hadn’t thought about putting on any programming for young adults. Staff there believed no one would want to come out to anything after commuting home from university.

The catch-22 these young women are going through is part of a trend across Vancouver where recent high-school grads live at home because they can’t afford to go out on their own, explained Penny Gurstein, director of UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning.

“Young people aren’t able to become independent,” she said. “They’re reliant economically. There’s delayed childhood and all sorts of socio-psychological implications.”

[toggle title=”Where are Vancouver’s youth living?”]Percentage of 18-24 year olds in Vancouver’s communities 
[column size=”one-half”](Source: Census 2011)
[/column] [column size=”one-half”] Arbutus Ridge [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.62 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Downtown [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.78 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Dunbar-Southlands [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 10.42 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Fairview [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 6.61 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Grandview-Woodland [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 7.71 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Hastings-Sunrise [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 8.96 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Kensington-Cedar Cottage [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.28 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Kerrisdale [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 11.27 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Killarney [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.19 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Kitsilano [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.22 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Mount Pleasant [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 7.69 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Oakridge [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 11.37 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Renfrew-Collingwood [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 11.01 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Riley Park [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 7.85 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Shaughnessy [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.48 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] South Cambie [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 8.27 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Strathcona [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 5.59 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Sunset [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.80 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Victoria-Fraserview [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 10.49 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] West End [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.86 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] West Point Grey [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 10.32 [/column] [column size=”one-half”] Overall City of Vancouver [/column] [column size=”one-half” last=”true”] 9.37 [/column] [/toggle]

This trend appears to be impacting several of Vancouver’s historically senior-dominated communities like Oakridge, Kerrisdale, and Dunbar-Southlands, which all now have above-average numbers of young adults.

Mixing business with youth

Young adults in south Vancouver are not only facing a lack of activities from local community centres. Businesses are also not catering to their habits.

“A lot of the places around here don’t open late enough at night. For all those businesses, maybe we just don’t have the money to keep them open,” said Joel Law, an SFU student who lives in the Killarney area.

A similar trend is happening along nearby Fraser Street, which is now home to a growing population of young people.

JJ Bean is known to open late in many neighbourhoods but its Fraser location now closes at 6 p.m. after being open for just six months.

“Everything around here quiets down around 5:30 p.m,” said Rebecca Gray, JJ Bean supervisor.

“Nothing stays open except maybe the grocery store. It’s almost a little bit of a ghost town at night. The more shops and restaurants that stay open later, hopefully it’ll get busier and more people will be out.”

Learning to adapt

Ari Ng (right) and his friend meet up at their neighbourhood JJ Bean on Fraser street for coffee.
Desmond Niles and Ari Ng meet at their local JJ Bean on Fraser Street for coffee before riding off.

Even though Tsoi and her friends are hopeful their work at the neighbourhood house will provide a social outlet, they too say they still have to travel beyond their community to have fun.

“Metrotown is really a hub for people to meet up because there are things to do,” she said. “There are opportunities for young people to get together in south Vancouver but not in a large setting.”

Other young people say they tend to gravitate towards areas with more commercial establishments like downtown Vancouver, Kitsilano, or Main Street.

“I do find myself driving out to Main to meet up with friends,” said Law, who also wishes for more music and park venues in his home neighbourhood.

The trade-off for young people

Although south Vancouver’s young adults have a wish list for their community, they wouldn’t trade living at home for a better social life.

“If I can go to school and stay home, why not? I can save everything I have for my future,” said Nick Wong, an SFU student in his final semester.

But Gurstein, whose own 19-year-old lives at home, said the situation is even bleaker than young people describe and she is urging action.

“The city has to get serious about housing,” she said. “There are no affordable rates in order for young people to move on.”

“They are left in limbo.”