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Andy Yan has a thoughtful and well researched approach to the subjects he studies. He is fearless in approaching the affordability debate, and is affiliated with Bing Thom Architects and UBC. He is also the acting director of SFU’s City Program .

Andy is on the Vancouver Magazine’s Power 50 list, and recently was interviewed  by Vancouver Magazine‘s  Trevor Melanson. Andy found out that the median income for degree-holders in Vancouver was $9,000 less than in the ten biggest cities in Canada.

B.C. university graduates also carry the most student debt and have the highest interest rates on that debt.  A debt they have to pay, as well as deal with finding affordable housing. As Andy says:

It’s really hard to create a garden of new economic activity under an inch of concrete as represented by student debt. We may very well attract some of the smartest and brightest around in this country, but to saddle them with at times very significant debt I think limits their potential—and if anything is a motivation to get out of a region that may not pay as well as other regions. Take a tech worker that has trained at a local university. It’s only rational for him to move to other places like San Francisco or Seattle. There’s a very specific logic to that. It’s not about talent attraction but retaining talent, which is probably one of the biggest challenges for Vancouver.

It’s also the reality that when you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’re in the most mobile period of your career. And in an economy that’s increasingly dependent on young talent, the ability to capture and retain that talent—it’s a major economic challenge. And housing costs don’t particularly help the situation. There are going to be four consequences of this housing market: one is overcrowding, two is over-indebtedness, three is sprawl, and four is ultimately migration out of the region.”

Andy sees three strategies for economic development as hunting, fishing and farming. New talent is hunted for jobs, a pool of amenities and  great lifestyles anchor why people want to come to Vancouver, and lastly, local firms are nurtured to grow and attract more opportunities.

As Andy states “We actually have all these small head offices in Metro Vancouver, and really our challenge is to help nurture them to have the capacity to grow, as opposed to only attracting new firms in the region”.

Vancouver needs a strong strategy to attract, maintain, and allow young workers and families to thrive. Andy Yan has pointed out what needs to be done.