James Marshall lives with his partner in a one-bedroom condo in Metro Vancouver. Both are employed full time, in the tech industry and non-profit sector, respectively.
My friend-group of fellow millennials and I collectively rolled our eyes as we read the recent Island Voices opinion piece entitled “B.C.’s speculation tax flies in the face of logic, fairness.”
The most common response bandied about by our group of 20-somethings and 30-somethings was “boomers gonna boomer,” meaning: “There go the boomers again, doing what boomers do.”
As young people growing up in the midst of a climate crisis, a housing-affordability crisis and several other crises, we’ve had to develop coping mechanisms for when we see individuals completely missing the point and not understanding their own complicity in the problems that our generation faces.
This opinion piece was one of the worse examples, showcasing multiple views that have gotten us into the messes that we’re now trying to get ourselves out of.
The retirees who penned the article explain that they are Americans living primarily in Arizona, but that they summer yearly in their second dwelling in Victoria. They are frustrated by the B.C. government’s attempts to arrest the housing crisis by imposing speculation taxes on foreign buyers. They don’t want to rent out the dwelling that they leave empty for the majority of the year because they consider it to be a home, not a property intended for rental.
There are many issues to unpack in the complaints levelled by this couple.
First of all is their amazing obliviousness to the fact that they own two homes, at least one of which is worth more than $1 million.
People in my generation are struggling to even rent a single home, let alone purchase one. The idea of owning a second home on the other side of the continent, entirely for vacation purposes, is a completely foreign one. To many in our generation, it’s a notion that appears to be the height of greed.
The purpose of the speculation tax was twofold. It’s meant to discourage people from taking actions that create and worsen the housing access and affordability crisis. And it imposes a tax on those individuals who choose to take those actions anyway. The tax money goes into the public coffers to help offset the damage caused by the actions of those paying it. It sounds to me like it’s working perfectly in this case.
Second, there’s no mention or acknowledgment in the opinion piece of how the writers get back and forth between Arizona and Victoria. If it’s by flight, and they’re making the round trip at least once a year, a quick Google search shows that a roundtrip flight between the two locations puts 700 kilograms of CO2 into the atmosphere per passenger.
Many folks my age want to travel, but we have to balance that desire against our (more important) desire to have a livable planet.
Millennials don’t want to resent our parents’ generation, but the ignorance displayed by the retiree couple in this story makes it difficult.
The third trigger-point in this story is the casual attack on refugees at the tail end of the story: “Canada has admirably welcomed refugees from other countries, while pulling the rug out from under people who have lived in Canada for decades.”
The difference between these retirees and refugees, the writers somehow haven’t figured out, is that refugees plan to live in the community full time. They plan to live there, work there and raise their families there.
They don’t plan to fly in once a year and leave the dwelling empty for the majority of the time. And, most importantly, refugees are people who need help. Retirees with a $1-million extra vacation home are not.
The opinion piece just displays to us the massive gap between the issues that concern our generation and those that concern retired boomers.
I spend time thinking about what the world is going to look like in 2050 and 2080, and what we have to do now to ensure we have a livable world in the future.
I spend time thinking about where I’m going to live next year, in case I get “renovicted.” I spend time worrying about whether my job will disappear due to automation, and if the government is going to structure our society and economy in a way that I can still survive in a world with twice as many people and half as many jobs.
I don’t spend time thinking about how I’m going to afford paying the taxes on my international vacation home.
I would advise the writers of this opinion piece to spend some time talking with their kids, or their grandchildren.
I hope it might open their eyes.