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There is, when it comes to real estate, the old adage "drive until you qualify."

The idea that the farther one gets from civilization, or where you would actually like to live, the more affordable homes become.

So when Premier Christy Clark and the minister responsible for natural gas and housing, Rich Coleman, chose an under-construction townhouse development in Cloverdale to announce their new, "match your down payment with an interest-free loan" scheme on Thursday, I thought: "Wow, that's a long way to go for a backdrop."

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But it apparently took driving to Cloverdale to find an example of an affordable family home.

Harvest at Bose Farm is a 222-unit townhouse complex with prices in the first-time-buyer range from $450,000 to $650,000 – providing those first-time buyers don't mind carrying a couple of mortgages that add up to as much as $585,000. (Maintenance fees and taxes not included.)

One of the selling features of Harvest is that it's in a low-density neighbourhood – exactly the sort of sprawl Metro Vancouver has discouraged in its Livable Region Strategic Plan but that continues in all suburbs.

Getting there by transit from downtown Vancouver will take you roughly an hour and a half; getting there efficiently by car means paying a toll to cross the Port Mann Bridge.

The regional plan says that greater density of development, carefully done, can reduce congestion, and improve the economics of transportation infrastructure and public services. It also preserves green space and is better for the environment.

Yes, people need a place to live and, no, I don't begrudge people for wanting to build some equity rather than paying rent, but suburban townhouse development does nothing to make this a more liveable region – especially without decent transit.

More than all of that, the choice of location for the announcement says everything about what housing has come to in the Lower Mainland. If you're looking for anything remotely affordable for a family, forget about Vancouver and get ready to drive.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman didn't put it in exactly those words, but he told me this week that when he thinks about who will benefit from help with a down payment, he casts his net wider than Vancouver, Richmond or Burnaby.

"A person in Penticton or a person in Clinton or a person in Prince George is also benefiting from this in housing markets that are also softer," he said. He also says that multimillion-dollar west-side homes have skewed the market to a point where talking about averages doesn't present an accurate picture of the state of the Lower Mainland.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson was generally positive in talking about the loans but he sees modest gains.

He's hoping the loans will help renters buy a first condo, thus freeing up more rental units in the city.

As a car-sharing, craft-beer-swilling, walks-to-work inner city dweller, I'll admit, I don't often consider the suburbs, let alone the hinterlands. I think I've crossed the Port Mann Bridge once in the past year.

When I hear announcements like this one I think about east-side duplexes selling for $1.2-million. Or the hundreds of "exclusive, well-appointed luxury homes" currently under construction on Cambie Street. I think about how the cost of housing outstripped wages in this city long ago, and how Vancouver is now out of reach for anyone who isn't sitting a pile of money.

I might be one of those "very narrow view" people Rich Coleman is talking about.

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver.