Lower Rural Prices a Benefit

Commentary, Housing Affordability, Frontier Centre

Did I read this article correctly?

Does it really take 7 years of median income to pay for a median house in these markets?

If one takes the CMHC affordability measure of 30% of total income devoted to housing as being an “affordable” budget, then it would take this median income person or family 21 years to pay for a house in these urban centres.

Out here is the supposedly “depressed” regions of the rural prairies, the median price for a home is still under $50,000 and the median income is approaching $35,000 (I need to update these figures with Stats Canada), which would translate into a housing affordability ratio of under 2 and a period to payout of about 6 years.

Personally, I paid cash for a house by deferring the purchase of a new (used) vehicle by 2 years.

In light of these global trends, I cannot understand why public policy in Canada and Manitoba is still tilted towards motivating rural people to move to urban centres.

o Why are we spending billions of dollars upgrading urban infrastructure systems when it could be less expensive for people and Governments to encourage increased migration to rural areas?

o Why are all of our post-secondary education institutions located in urban centres instead of rural communities?

o Why is public sector investment in innovation, research and development tilted disproportionately toward urban industry sectors such as aerospace, transportation and electronics manufacturing instead of sectors where rural companies have a solid position in the competitive economy?

o Why is our immigration system still biased towards restricting people from moving to rural Canada?

By the way, for over 10 years, the unemployment rate in our rural area has been under 3% and our labour force participation rates for people aged 25 to 55 has been approaching 90%. For a lot of people under 25 years of age in our area, they are not in the labour force because they are upgrading their skills. For a lot of people over the age of 55 (or even 45), they are not in the labour force because they have achieved the level of financial security required to migrate into early retirement.

Our local schools have been winning provincial and national awards for innovation in education. Our local school division is rates among the most effective investors of public funds to produce excellent educational outcomes (including analysis compiled by FCPP).

Our municipal Government has one of the lowest tax rates in the province due to prudent management and investment.

I wonder why public policy commentators or media outlets never highlight these extremely positive traits of many rural Prairie communities like ours?

We are no where close the to the typical Toronto-based media portrayal of rural areas as being places of no jobs and no hope to earn a living. However, we are achieving this success in spite of, instead of because of, national and provincial public policies.

As an independent policy development organization, I hope that FCPP can take a fresh look at how public policy (beyond ag policy) in this country affects rural vitality and development. For too long, we have allowed the rural policy debate to be dominated by distractions such as the Wheat Board monopoly and Ag Safety Net discussions.

Rural Canada definitely includes agriculture in its fabric, but it is about a lot more than agriculture policy and programs. We have a distinct culture and economy, one that thrives in spite of implicit and explicit official government policy.

It is time for senior levels of Government to wake up to this fact and start working with us to achieve our full potential instead of pouring more money down the sink hole of supporting city expansion in a failing effort to create idealistic urban environments where living conditions become more and more unaffordable and unbearable for the average citizen and family.
– E-mail from rural Manitoba