Opinion
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Transportation

I Commute from the Suburbs. Is Anyone Thinking of Folks Like Me?

We need affordable housing options, too. Part of a student series on finding home in the region today.

By Andriana Lanji 3 Jul 2019 | TheTyee.ca

Andriana Lanji is a student from Simon Fraser University’s Semester in Dialogue, and hopes that the conversation about the housing crisis will extend the bounds of Vancouver.

I’m a proud commuter. I know, weird, right?

I’m a student at Simon Fraser University, which means I spend large amounts of time in and around Vancouver. When new acquaintances ask where I live, I reply: “Abbotsford.” The usual response is a sympathetic glance or a friendly pat on the back, assurances that everything will be OK.

Abbotsford is a large and growing city about an hour outside of Vancouver. It’s large both in area and population size. Despite what some may think, it’s not the boonies.

There’s an automatic assumption that I’m commuting from Abbotsford because I can’t afford to move any closer. It’s true that Vancouver is out of my price range, but that’s not what’s keeping me in Abbotsford.

I simply don’t want to move to the big city.

I love visiting, but I love leaving it behind even more. Vancouver is such a busy bustling place, leaving this young suburban woman feeling exhausted.

I’m entering my fifth year at SFU, and during that time have lived in Surrey, Port Moody, Burnaby and Abbotsford. I’ve commuted by bus, SkyTrain, car and, most recently, the West Coast Express. There’s such a negative connotation around the word “commuting,” but I haven’t found that to be true. Rather, the time and physical space separating my home and school has been a source of peace and bliss.

Clarity. That’s what I feel when I’m outside of the city, surrounded by nature, less crowded. I can hear myself think and — big bonus — no tourists. I don’t feel like I’m taking up space, but instead filling space with a positive presence. I can sense my blood pressure drop on the train as the city fades into the distance.

Over-stimulated and part of the unco-ordinated urban shuffle: that’s how I feel after spending long periods of time in Vancouver. I think of strangers passing one another, urgently trying to get to their destinations, sirens in the distance, gum-littered sidewalks and the persistent faint smell of urine.

Still, I do love to visit for short periods. I can hang out on the seawall, go to Stanley Park, and there is actually nightlife — something that you can’t find outside of the city. But more than visiting, I love going home.

This perspective is rarely discussed when we talk about housing, a hot issue in Vancouver. I’m the young adult who can’t afford to own a home in the Fraser Valley but doesn’t want to move into the action. The housing crisis has spread past the boundaries of Vancouver, but the conversation hasn’t followed.

I live in a four-bedroom house with my dad, brother and our two dogs. Our house is tucked into the suburbs; we have a decent sized yard and wonderful neighbours. However, transit service to our neighbourhood — like many areas in the region — is terrible.

There is a lack of housing options for folks like me. We need affordable rentals close to a ramped-up transit system that would allow us to journey throughout our valley region and downtown with ease. There is a need for the middle ground between the single-family residences on large acreages and high-rise apartment buildings.

Words such as “displacement” and “gentrification” are thrown around when Vancouver housing is discussed, but they are also becoming real issues for many Fraser Valley residents. The coming SkyTrain line from Surrey to Langley will likely increase those pressures if they are not carefully managed.

We have an opportunity to learn from past mistakes and ensure that mid-range, human-level housing flourishes in the less urban communities that currently populate the Fraser Valley.

I am a proud commuter. Give me the housing options to stay that way.  [Tyee]

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