Reflecting Vancouver

Urbanism and Life on the West Coast

The Kits Boomer Dilemma

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Vancouver Spring 2016 001.JPG

Working at the Kitsilano Collaborative Garden this past weekend, we were approached by a few passing patrons of the Community Centre. A silver-haired woman in colourful clothing and friendly mood tentatively inspected a bed of perennials near the sidewalk.

“I like how you’ve separated the soil with rocks. I was thinking of doing that in my garden!” I encouraged her to try bricks instead. The crushed rock was cheaper, but seems to perpetually fall out of place.

“So do you live nearby?” I asked.

“Oh yes, just on Balaclava. But the maintenance on my house is a lot of work, especially for my husband. I wish we could downsize and stay in Kitsilano, maybe with a smaller garden.”

I had encountered the typical Kits Boomer. She bought around 1980, as the neighbourhood emerged from boarding house dilapidation to heritage desirability. She has a room full of books. She carries a distinctive beads-and-granola air. She knows her neighbours and has always loved living here. But she’s tired of taking care of an aging house, and wonders if she should cash out. The classic Kits Boomer dilemma.

Some have chosen to take the money and move on. Others have become reluctant landlords. A few have even hired developers to restore and stratify, where zoning allows it. But I suspect most will simply stay put, perhaps deferring property taxes. Which leads me to the next thought: what will happen as the Kits Boomers pass away?

Will their children inherit the homes? Will the neighbourhood become wealthy legacy families and UBC students only? Or will the lure of investor money, assuming no collapse of home values, be irresistible to their benefactors? Will Kitsilano retain its latent values of environmentalism and progressive politics — already under threat — as the aging personalities of the counterculture disappear?

I like to think of my block as one small bulwark against the demise of Kitsilano as a healthy and conscious community. But I see how many Kits Boomers number among my neighbours. What will my community be like when they are gone?

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Author: Chris

I'm the author of Reflecting Vancouver, a West Coast blog devoted to urbanism, culture, politics, philosophy, and everyday living in Vancouver.

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