The top destination for those likely to move was “elsewhere in the world,” followed closely by Alberta, according to a recent Leger poll. Reasons included the high cost of living and housing.

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After a family friend moved from B.C. to Alberta, the idea of leaving Metro Vancouver became less daunting for Audrey Mak.

“Our mortgage is up for renewal in two years,” she said. “That was an ‘ah ha’ moment for me. Why don’t we look around at what’s possible?”

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Now Mak and her husband are planning a summer road trip to Calgary to look at houses.

The couple is among a large group of British Columbians thinking about leaving Metro Vancouver as a way to get ahead of the high cost of living and housing.

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A survey recently conducted by Leger for Postmedia found 54 per cent of Metro residents have thought about moving out of the region, with 24 per cent “very” or “somewhat” likely to do so within the next five years.

The survey, which was conducted April 12 to 15, asked 500 adults a series of questions. The top destination for those likely to move was “elsewhere in the world,” followed closely by Alberta. The majority gave the high cost of living and housing as reasons for leaving.

Leger executive vice-president Steve Mossop said he was surprised by the number of people who have considered moving, but admitted it could be a “fleeting thought.” More astounding, he said, is the quarter of people who said they were likely to move within the next five years.

People in the 55-plus age group were the most likely to move, at 27 per cent, versus those in the 18 to 24 age group, at 20 per cent.

Mossop said the financial barriers that make it hard for people to live in Metro Vancouver may also make it difficult to leave. People in the older age category typically have the means to make a move, while younger people may feel more “trapped.”

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Still, it is unclear how many people will actually move, said Mossop, particularly given the amount of effort required to find a new job and home. “I’m not confident that this actually translates into a sizable number of people leaving.”

The survey falls in line with a clear theme in Leger’s recent polling of people across the country. More Canadians are feeling a level of “discontent” that Mossop hasn’t seen in his 35 years of conducting surveys.

“Food prices, inflation, frustration with government, and disillusionment with society” may be influencing people’s thoughts about where they live — and where things might be better, he said.

For Mak, that’s starting to look like Alberta.

She grew up in Vancouver and bought a presale townhouse in 2018. In 2020, she and her husband moved to New Westminster for more space. But even with two well-paying jobs, the couple feels like they work just to pay the bills.

“We don’t have the financial freedom to travel and do the things we’d like to do,” she said.

With one child and plans to have more, Mak said her husband has always wanted a detached house. But as interest rates and housing prices have risen, they are looking at a one- or two-hour commute to Vancouver from the eastern Fraser Valley.

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The looming refinancing, plus stories from a family friend who moved to Alberta and paid off their mortgage, have made Calgary an attractive option.

“I don’t want to move,” said Mak. “But I want to do what’s best for my family.”

In Kelowna, Stacy Rodriguez and her husband are also considering a change. They grew up in Vancouver before buying a home in Langley. In 2017, they realized they could upsize to a house by moving to the Interior.

As the couple approaches retirement, they have been talking about how to afford the lifestyle they want.

“We’ve lived in a condo before and we’d like to stay in a house,” she said.

Rodriguez figures they can save about $100,000 by moving to Alberta — a sizable nest egg that will allow them to travel.

“The cost of living, food, car insurance, housing — everything on average costs more in B.C.,” she said. The couple plans to move “as soon as we pull the plug on working.”

Edmonton-area realtor Adrienne Carlton said she has received multiple calls from British Columbians interested in moving. A home inspector recently told her about half his recent jobs have come from people moving in from out-of-province.

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“People say they want a future for their kids,” said Carlton, who works for eXp Realty. “They’re worried their kids won’t be able to afford a home with the high cost of living.”

Niall Jones, owner of Ouch My Back Moving in Victoria, said about 70 to 75 per cent of the enquiries he receives are from British Columbians moving to Alberta, with only 25 per cent going the other way. When he talks to customers, he gets the sense that while B.C. is “outwardly nice,” it’s lacking a sense of community and care.

“To put it bluntly, I think people are sick of it. The cost of groceries, bad housing. People are sick of holding their breath and wondering if they’re going to make it,” he said.

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