Looking at shelter costs and household income separately is not a good measure for comparing housing affordability in different cities, because for instance, people in larger cities might have higher incomes than smaller cities but same dwelling costs. To get a more accurate measure, we can use a ratio of shelter cost over median income. This ratio is called the “Multiple Median” also called price-to-income ratio, which is used in 11th Annual Demographia Housing Affordability Survey. This ratio is reliable and easily understood. It is “essential structural indicator for measuring the health of residential markets and facilitates meaningful and transparent comparisons of housing affordability” (2015). This survey was done by experts and professionals in the field of urban planning and should be trusted. These experts provided housing affordability ratings. In other words, they have indicated what ratios are affordable and which ones are not. Here’s a table that summarizes their findings:

Median Multiple Rating
<3 Affordable
3-4 Moderately Unaffordable
4-5 Seriously Unaffordable
>5 Severely Unaffordable

I have used the ratio and the ratings from this survey to compare housing affordability in the cities of Vancouver and Montreal using GIS. Figure1, shows that there’s no affordable area in Vancouver, whereas, most of Montreal is affordable. However, it’s important to note that affordability does not mean liveability. Affordability simply mean the ability of the population to afford housing, while liveability is a complex measure of various factors such as natural environments, social stability, economic prosperity, educational opportunity and etc. Therefore, Vancouver might not be an affordable city but that doesn’t mean it has low levels of liveability.


Figure 1 – Affordability Maps

Accomplishment statement:

Compared datasets by appropriate classification of quantitative data retrieved from Canadian Census Data

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