When 604s Attack
Real estate is as hot as ever in the Cariboo. It brings prosperity for some and raises tough questions about a region in need of re-imagining. We are looking for answers.
Few people are as insufferable as those who buy before a real estate boom. Count me among the smugly-propertied. Not long after my partner and I bought a small house on a one acre lot at 108 Mile Ranch, Cariboo house prices began a sharp rise that shows little sign of stopping. Add in a global pandemic, more work from home options, plus growing numbers of retirees and the result has been demand ‘from the Coast’ ratcheting up prices, driving down supply, and putting huge pressure on the tiny amount of rental and affordable housing stock available here. All this in a region of roughly 60,000 people spread across an area the size of Austria — with too few resources to support those need it. But at least we know who to blame.
My name is Chris and I am a 604.
‘604’ for those new to British Columbia and its history, was the area code assigned to the entire province before the phone system was updated and another area code was added (250). The city mice (Metro Vancouver) got to keep ‘604’. Country mice (everybody else) switched to ‘250’. And then everyone agreed that it was just a number and no insights could be divined about a person’s character by knowing their area code. Did you LOL?
In the Cariboo context, 604 is an epithet. It stands for city folk who come here with a SUV load of naiveté about rural life, unreal expectations regarding infrastructure, and then drive either too fast or too slow for conditions; this judgment being largely dependent on the complainant’s own mood and time-management skills. In many respects it is a short-sighted and divisive label with concerning hints of xenophobia. But here’s the thing. The locals aren’t wrong about what’s happening. The 604s are markers of change. House prices are going up. Good-paying resource extraction and processing jobs are disappearing, and the roads, which always sucked, suck even more.
Meanwhile, no level of government in Canada is providing a realistic vision for rebuilding and remapping rural economies, so they can thrive in a digital 21st century. We have gone ‘all-in’ on modernity and urbanity as answers to our climate change emergency. In my opinion it may yet prove to be a foolish bet. I think we overlook rural resilience at our peril.
And it’s not just the Cariboo. Resources are insufficient to the task of rural revitalization and sustainability all across the province, arguably the country, perhaps the world. While we have pinned our hopes on reducing the global carbon footprint through urbanization, it is only a solution to today’s most vexing issues, seen through a lens of more must be better, be it money or people. I believe there will be a vital role for small, rural communities to play in a greener future.
This blog proposes to look for reasons, answers, and inspiration towards a rural futurism. Along the way we are going to showcase the Cariboo region in all its glories and with all its warts. We will examine this region’s past to provide context for the present. We will probe the issues currently impacting the Cariboo, such as the economic, physical, and emotional toll of natural disasters, relations between settler and indigenous communities, and the potential for the North to be a refuge for humanity and modernity as climate impacts continue to heat the globe.
In just a couple of years the beauty and potential of this place has got its hooks in me. My wish is to see the Cariboo become a signpost of hope for us all, ecologically, culturally, and economically. I hope you will come along for the ride. Subscribe to be notified every time a new post is published.
This is timely and on point Chris! Thanks for raising these issues and possibilities. I’m sharing this link widely within our own rural/urban community on Bowen Island. Activating community (the in-person kind) and local resilience both came more into focus here as a result of the pandemic’s social divisiveness. Look forward to seeing where you take this!