Demographic Inversion


Is it different here? 

In a 2008 article from The New Republic they document a migration phenomenon in American cities and call it demographic inversion.  Essentially this is a reversal of historical patterns where now the poor are migrating to the suburbs and the wealthy are migrating back into the city core:

Chicago is gradually coming to resemble a traditional European city–Vienna or Paris in the nineteenth century, or, for that matter, Paris today. The poor and the newcomers are living on the outskirts. The people who live near the center–some of them black or Hispanic but most of them white–are those who can afford to do so.

Later on in the article, there is specific reference to Vancouver as an exceptional example of this kind of shift:

… venture just across the Canadian border to Vancouver, a city roughly the size of Washington, D.C. What makes it unusual–indeed, at this point unique in all of North America–is that roughly 20 percent of its residents live within a couple of square miles of each other in the city’s center. Downtown Vancouver is a forest of slender, green, condo skyscrapers, many of them with three-story townhouse units forming a kind of podium at the base. Each morning, there are nearly as many people commuting out of the center to jobs in the suburbs as there are commuting in. Two public elementary schools have opened in downtown Vancouver in the past few years. A large proportion of the city’s 600,000 residents, especially those with money, want to live downtown.

No American city looks like Vancouver at the moment. But quite a few are moving in this direction. Demographic inversions of one sort or another are occurring in urban pockets scattered all across America, many of them in seemingly unlikely places. Charlotte, North Carolina, is in the midst of a downtown building boom dominated by new mixed-use high-rise buildings, with office space on the bottom and condos or rental units above. Even at a moment of economic weakness, the condos are still selling briskly.

(underlines were added by me)

The article is fascinating throughout.  You can read it at:

Dare I suggest this is a paradigm shift in the death and life of great cities?  I suspect this is a partial and plausible explanation for the high prices seen in Vancouver. 

What do you all think of this?  Will this have any lasting impact on home prices and land use in the City of Vancouver?  What about the impacts on surrounding cities?


9 responses to “Demographic Inversion

  1. Pingback: Friday Free-for-all | Vancouver Condo Info

  2. Yeah, the wealthy residents along E Hastings overwhelm me at times.

    In reality Vancouvers high prices are primarily because of BC becoming the Narco state of the north. Billions of dollars in drug money, laundered via real estate under the watchful eyes of a corrupt government and RE industry.

    The irony is that the players perpetuating this problem will be the first ones to have their children snatched off the streets and held for ransom. Or should I say grandchildren? as this will take a couple decades or so.

  3. Vancouver is not unique in this: Toronto has a vibrant downtown core as does Montreal and San Francisco, though they are slightly less densely populated compared to the West End and Yaletown. I think if you expand out the core to include a 4 mile radius of downtown the cities have comparable densities.

    I think the biggest story in Vancouver is the under utilization of family dwellings. Schools are closing in the near-suburbs like Coquitlam, North Vancouver, and well as parts of Vancouver, areas with high costs per available housing unit. Enrollment is increasing in the farther suburbs and denser parts of the metro area’s core, areas that happen to have cheaper unit costs.

    How long this dichotomy can continue is anyone’s guess but there are likely over 100,000 unused or underused bedrooms in the Vancouver CMA.

  4. Reverse-migration could explain high prices downtown, but doesn’t explain high prices in Maple Ridge or Surrey.

  5. The population of (greater) Vancouver is close to 2 million. 60K is 3%, not 20%.

    • I believe the article is referring to the approximately 500,000+ people that live in the City of Vancouver, not Metro Vancouver which is the 2 million number you cite.

  6. Hahahahaha renters=losers.

    All these housing bears are pathetic losers.

    I’m sitting in my plush den of my OWN home watching the equity rise and witnessing all of the squabbling between the “bears” to best explain when/how/why the crash will happen…..but once again these lunatics are DEAD WRONG

    VANCOUVER RE NEVER FALLS, do you get that now or do you need it beaten into your head through a few more cycles


  7. highRoad …and your point is?

    I could easily buy even at higher prices than now but if cab drivers and people like you think it’s a good time to buy then that’s an alarm signal and I wont buy. Clearly the prices are fantasy and you’ll see the hphoney wealth in Van evaporate quickly over the next year(s). BTW I’m renting in North Van, beautiful place, all included www, cable, heat, hot water, huge garden. But really the best is that the landlords have to do all the lawn mowing, snow shoveling and replacing the light bulbs ect. It’s so nice having someone to do that for free. Also, they never have time to enjoy their garden themselves because they both have to work really hard to pay off their 30y. mortgage and to reign in their HELOC.
    Hello, I’m Grok, I’m renting and it’s the best thing that ever happened to me in this city.

  8. Vancouver Real Estate =DrugMoney

    With a 10 billion dollar a year illegal drug trade, an illegal drug trade that is the driving force behind Vancouver’s real estate magic market for over 30 years. Starting with the arrival of the Hells Angels in Vancouver, an arrival that took place to exploit the Asian invasion real estate boom, which was more myth than fact, however that was soon to change. Drug Cartels saw a wonderful opportunity in British Colombia, a land rich in talented financial confidence men who had learned their trade pushing deals on the Vancouver Stock Exchange, where penny stocks plays in mining companies would be used much the same way that real estate is used today, laundering vast amounts of dirty money into magical paper where tax could be avoided but assets could be gained. Opportunity that was created by a fraudulent immigration system designed by a Law Society that is more concerned at turning crime into a for profit business than protecting the interest of the innocent.

    Using immigration as a perfect cover story, and creating deals that would recruit unsuspecting business
    investors, British Colombia created a new kind of drug mule, one that did not carry drugs but instead laundered the suitcases of cash that these international drug cartels had made from their murders trade in illegal drugs. A profitable trade that enriches criminals and rewards War Lords, a trade supported by your North American dumb ass kids. It was the perfect economic hit man strategy, for the cover story was true, immigration was taking place and people where buying homes, and a few did have strong economic holdings. But the vast majority of the real estate growth was due to international drug cartels money laundering activities in Vancouver real estate. A story where the proceeds of crime in British Colombia where simply made to look like they came from Asia. A pay day and a Canadian passport was what the the mythical Billionaire from the third world got, and loyalty, silence and a clean revenue stream is what organized crime operating out of Vancouver’s financial district purchased.

    Mysteriously, families and individuals from poverty conditions in third world nations where showing up in Canada with millions of dollars in capital assets. It was apparent from the number of application that there where far more millionaires in places like Vietnam, Somalia, India, Hong Kong, Brazil, Nicaragua, Sri Lanka and a whole host of other very beautiful countries, than their was in the entirety of Canada. But for soft headed Canadians this did not seem strange. And for those that did see the anomaly, the cartels propaganda machine went into action branding such doubting Tomas naysayers as racist or Neo-Nazi.

    The international drug cartels with the assistance of Canadian law firms went recruiting, for unsuspecting dreamers, with skills they needed that where required to look after the cartels interest. These organized crime syndicates where wise and knew that to suborn honest people to do their dirty work they would have to be creative. As threats to life meant nothing to people that had grown up in the tough third world nations, have nothing, except for their dignity, they would die before giving that up. No what British Colombia’s illegal drug syndicates needed as leverage to coerce these moral law abiding, talented, managers was not a threat on their life, but a threat on their hope. And with immigration to a new land they had the perfect leverage. Like a fish out of water, once the newbie arrived, in a unfamiliar land, strange language and customs, Organized crime had them right where they wanted them, If you did not do as they wanted, you would lose everything, your home, your business, your children future.

    Not content to stop there, International organized crime invested heavily into political parties and politicians, looking to turn public assets into their private property. With drug dealers and money launders central to on going scandals, such as the sale of BC rail, a public asset which has been mired in government cover ups. It is little wonder that honest business is closing up and leaving, all the while leaving little doubt as to the power of International organized crime, and the scale to which International organized crime dominates ever aspect of both the political life as well as the business community.

    Organized crime operates with impunity in British Colombia, with both the support of the political parties and the judiciary. Unlike Mexico where President Calderon has warned that if they do not get organized crime under control the next president of Mexico will be a drug dealer. British Colombia has already past this point of no return, with Drug Cartels running real estate agencies, law firms, security services, construction companies, busing and trucking companies and of course taxi services. It is little surprise that politicians have become associates in the service of international drug cartels, looking after shutting down investigations, staying of charges, the issuing of special permits for immigration. 10 billion dollars a year, in the marijuana trade alone, makes British Colombia the third largest illegal drug market in the America’s. An illegal drug trade that just calculating the lowest earning business enterprise, the trade in marijuana, accounts for over 6% of British Colombia’s GDP.

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