If there’s anything Hollywood coming-of-age movies, all inexplicably starring Micheal Cera, have taught us, it’s that there are certain milestones we must pass in life at a certain age: fall in love adorably at 15, lose your virginity at 16, win an epic battle of the bands at 17, and move out and become independent at 18. The last one especially has a greatÂ significance in North American culture: you’ve graduated, you can vote, you’ve moved out, you’re your own man/woman now! But just how true does this stereotype hold up in this day and age, and in this city?
To put it bluntly, not so well. Let’s hear from some local youth:
I live in a basement suite with a friend,” says Ms. Jen Houghton (name changed for anonymity), a Vancouver youth of 19. â€œWe pay $1,000 for rent every month including utilities, but we got a good deal because my roommateâ€™s aunt lives upstairs.
â€œHow do you pay for the rent?â€ asks the handsome interviewer.
My dad helps me out,â€ confesses Ms. Houghton. â€œI work during the school term, but not enough to pay for the rent. Iâ€™ve been working full-time this summer, but I didnâ€™t make enough to cover for the year. I do feel guilty about taking money from my dad,â€ she hastily adds. â€œBut I feel as if I work any more during the school year, my grades will suffer.
Â â€œThatâ€™ll be all. Thanks for the interview, Ms. Houghton,â€ says the dashing interviewer.
Thanks for being so good-looking,â€ replies Ms. Houghton, as if she was waiting for the opportunity to say that all night.
â€œNo problem,â€ says the reporter, â€œno problem at all.â€
As far as I know, most of my friends live a life of semi-dependence, if not full dependence on their parents. Many work part-time, but the wages are such that it is often barely enough to pay their living costs; students are often forced to choose between paying for tuition, housing, or food.
Of course, it certainly does not help that Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to find housing in North America. According to a recent report, Vancouver is the third most expensive place in North America to buy a house, and the CMHC forecasts that housing prices will rise by 14% more by the end of 2011. It costs at least $500 a month to rent a room, and with utilities and other housing-related costs, the annual housing bill for a student can easily exceed $8,000, a substantial cost for a student. University dormitories are no cheaper; UBC charges students $5,000 for the academic year (September-May), and one has to find housing for the summer on their own.
This is why more and more Vancouver youth are choosing an option that would have been unthinkable even ten years ago: staying home until theyâ€™re well into their 20s, or even later. What was once a mark of shame is now, forced by the immovable hand of market realities, a common living arrangement. Without having to worry about paying for rent and food, students can focus on their studies or buy more booze.
The lifestyle of many students today fall somewhere on the spectrum between complete independence and dependence, and more and more are moving closer to dependence, whether they would like to or not.
Photo from www.diylol.com