Editorial – City vs country

Jeff Burgar

A recent news report says the city of Lethbridge is one of many small cities and big towns across Canada seeing jumping home prices.

“We’re only a two-hour drive from Calgary,” says a Lethbridge real estate agent.

He adds that booming big city property prices, combined with the whole “COVID work from home” experience, has people looking at cheaper places. Agents say big yards, nicer homes, and a similar lifestyle to crowded cities without their high prices and often long daily commutes can be found everywhere.

This reminds us of two families who lived locally in a small northern Alberta community. The first moved from the bustle of Edmonton for new employment. After a few years, they moved back to the city. They missed the “big city” amenities and the “always something happening” excitement. In fact, that was the really big attraction. Theatre. First run movies right away. New restaurants popping up all the time. And of course, shopping at big box stores. At the time, such stores simply didn’t exist locally or within a three-hour drive.

About a year after their move back to city life, we asked how much time they spent with the “amenities.” Indoor swimming, not available at the time locally? Never. Theatre? Never. Movies? So so! Impulse shopping and dining out? Hardly ever, no money left over after living expenses and commuting cost.

So, was the move back to city life worth it?

“Absolutely,” they said. “Even though we don’t do almost all of the things, they are there if we want them.”

Duh!

The second family had a similar story. They wanted the excitement and bustle of a big city. But, after moving away, they came back to living local. For them, what attractions there were to city life meant nothing if one could not afford them.

These days there aren’t many offerings in city life country living doesn’t have. Plus of course, lots to offer city life in its own way does not have. And finally, holding down two jobs just to make ends meet has no attraction at all.

Anyone, living anywhere, has to pay for it. That usually means, if you aren’t independently wealthy or retirement age, having a job.

Job and business opportunities are one of, if not the biggest attractions in any community for most people, excluding the aforementioned who can live just about anywhere they can afford. Jobs are one of five pillars sustaining any community. The other four are quality of health care, quality of education, community safety and finally, recreation opportunities.

The idea that working from home is going to turn this upside down is attractive for those promoting living in smaller centres. Does living two or three hours from the office really make sense? Only as long as the job lasts. Lose a job for any reason, and suddenly life isn’t quite so rosy. Bills and mortgages may be less in a small community, but still have to be paid. Lose your remote job and can you just “dial” into a new one?

To be continued next week.

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