In this week's GIS class I have created a map of housing affordability in Vancouver and Ottawa using Census 2011 data.
Here, I have presented an affordability map in 4 different classification methods. While the data is the same in all maps, affordability can be represented in different ways according to how prices are grouped or classed together.
For example, if I wanted to emphasize housing unaffordability as a journalist reporting to locals, I would use the Manual Break classification. However, if I was a real estate agent looking to attract a UBC student to rent nearby, I would use the Equal Interval classification as it symbolizes UBC in dark yellow while other classifications symbolize it in orange or red.
Both decisions carry ethical implications as they manipulate tracts to look more or less affordable according to the classification method. As well, because the difference in intervals of housing prices may not be obvious to viewers without
closely examining a legend, it is easy to present either map as a truthful representation of affordable housing rather than a representation that depends on the chosen intervals.
Affordability in Vancouver and Ottawa
In the above map, I have compared the housing affordability of Vancouver and Ottawa using the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey's categories. Affordability is measured through the ratio of median house price to median income. This ratio produces a better indication of affordability versus just the housing price as it compares how much one spends on housing in comparison to how much they make.
These housing affordability rating categories use the "median multiple" - median house price divided by gross annual median household income, according to the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, an international report on metropolitan housing affordability conducted in 2016. The median multiple categorizes affordability with multiples of 3.0 and under as affordable, 3.1-4.0 as affordable, 4.1-5.0 as moderately unaffordable, 5.1 and over as severely unaffordable.
Affordability as 'livability'?
While there are many indices used to measure "livability" and Vancouver is consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world, it is clear through the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey's classifications, that even in international standards, Vancouver is one of the least unaffordable. Livability and the quality of life depends on many factors beyond material living conditions which may be harder to measure such as happiness, leisure and social life, education, health, safety, human rights, and environment, all of which are experienced subjectively for each person.
Here are some skills I picked up in summary:
- Created a comparative map of housing affordability of Vancouver and Ottawa using Canadian Census data and the Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey's standards
- Acquired and spatially joined tabular data of Canadian Census 2011 income and housing cost to spatial data of census tracts to visualize census information
- Presented affordability using 4 methods of classification: natural breaks, equal interval, standard deviation, and manual breaks to illustrate the ability of maps to manipulate meaning