microsoft-nordstorm-building-vancouverThe New York Times suggests that smoother immigration policies and Vancouver’s ambitious technological hopes can spark a “Cascadia Innovation Corridor”, noting that Microsoft has already located a Vancouver office here with 750 employees and salaries totalling 90 million annually.

But wait a minute-Nick Wingfield’s article then describes the downer.“One serious obstacle to Vancouver’s tech ambitions is its head-spinning housing costs. The median price for a detached home in the metropolitan area in August was 1.4 million Canadian dollars (about $1.06 million), a 27.8 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver. In the San Francisco metropolitan area, the median single family home price was about $848,000, according to Zillow.”

The pay is also not as good. Median pay for tech related jobs  in the San Francisco Bay area is  $112,000 a year. In Vancouver it is just under $49,000 in Vancouver, adjusted to the American dollar.  Director of the City Program at Simon Fraser University Andy Yan says it best, stating  We have San Francisco real estate prices with the incomes of somewhere between Reno and Nashville.

Last month, the Premier of British Columbia and the governor of Washington signed an agreement “affirming their shared interest in creating regional economic opportunities for innovation in the technology sector”. Suggestions  include the development of a high-speed rail line between Vancouver and Seattle, and/or a dedicated lane for driverless cars on I-5 and 99, the highways linking the two cities.

Vancouver has had only 1.78 billion dollars in venture capital going to local tech start-ups compared to 8.9 billion dollars in Seattle. But with immigration policies that can bring highly skilled tech workers in from other countries makes Vancouver an attractive place for big tech companies on the move. Hootsuite is an example of an early adapter, with the social media giant creating a start-up valued at over one billion dollars.

If we can provide more affordable housing and better salaries, will tech flock to the city?