Is Vancouver a mind-numbingly boring city? Are we too safe and cautious to be fun?
The Economist’s business travel section recently pinned Vancouver as the perfect example for what happens to cities when they strive for high livability standards.
“It is one of those intractable problems,” reads the blog post. “Cities strive to become nicer places in which to live. Yet the more they succeed the less interesting they become.”
Of course, the publication also consistently ranks Vancouver as one of the world’s most livable cities. In the most recent ranking, Vancouver came in at third place ahead of Melbourne and Vienna.
“Vienna, Vancouver and Geneva always seemed to do well,” the post goes on. “Pleasant cities, yes, but mind-numbingly boring. What right-minded person would rank Vienna a better city than Rio, or Vancouver preferable to Paris?”
The annual livability rankings are meant for employers to use to determine the level of hardship allowances relocated employees will receive.
“The trouble was, measuring things such as crime levels, transport efficiency and housing stock, meant that the most anodyne cities inevitably rose to the top.”
The Economist’s post looks to New York and London as examples of cities that have recently taken a focus to improve their livability. But in the process of become more pleasant, they have lost their gritty charm and become less interesting.
The writer asks, ‘where is the fun in nice?’
While it might be fun to visit Rio de Janeiro and Paris, most people would likely opt to raise their family in cities like Vienna and Vancouver.
There is no question that the city of Vancouver is highly controlled and regulated, which in turn also affects the business and social aspects of the city. Such restrictions, ranging from noise to hours of operation, do not permit spontaneity for unprogrammed and uncontrolled events and activities to occur as experienced in world-class cities.
Moreover, the city is more outward-oriented than inward-oriented, in that social life and city design revolves around the enjoyment and preservation of the region’s mountains, beaches and parks rather than the development of nightlife, cultural institutions or other ‘fun’ activities that may be deemed unsuitable ‘commercial’ activity by some Vancouverites.
Lest we not forget that a vast majority of household incomes in the city go towards housing costs. About 90 per cent of the household income of single-family residence owners goes directly towards supporting ownership costs.
This is a rate far higher than other Canadian jurisdictions, including Montreal where housing ownership costs against household income range from only 40 to 55 per cent.
With such high housing costs, that means there is less disposable income to spend on shopping, concert tickets or even a night out with friends at restaurants or the bar – businesses that support nightlife.
But at the same time, we are North America’s youngest major city. It takes time for cultural institutions to develop and mature whereas many cities on the East Coast, for instance, have had a 200 year head start.