the thirties grind

get up, go to work, raise kids, pay bills, sleep. repeat.

Whispers from the Westside: getting the hell out


A while back I wrote a post about how some Westside preschools were having to close down due to lack of enrolment.  Whether this is because of a need for more full-time childcare or because there simply aren’t enough children in the neighbourhood to fill them up remains to be seen.  I did, however, receive a very interesting e-mail from a reader (wishing to remain anonymous).  Read below:

I managed a bank on Dunbar street for 2 years and we lived on the Westside for 7 years! Only four years ago I begged, pleaded and smoozed to get my son into pre school. we finally went private at OLPH (Our Lady of Perpetual Help). Fast forward 2 years it’s my daughter’s turn and opposite problem…barely any (pre)schools left because families are leaving the area too fast to imagine.

At the bank I financed mortgages (which) I cringed at because it was foreign money and the neighborhood was emptying. I help(ed) extend credit lines of pre school teachers who were now out of work! It was the worst feeling. We lived in a house and two different apartments on the Westside, my bank sponsored many St. George’s (school) events. As a parent, I sent my kid to Queen Mary (I stood in line for kindy registration) and actually applied to three diff school because enrollment was tiiiight.

Last fall we decided to move. Housing prices and the crushing pressure of my morals not being aligned with the business I was in won and we packed up our perfect (expensive!!!!) condo by the beach And moved back to Alberta. I never thought I’d be THAT family. It was the right decision for us, it literally was wrecking our finances to stay put and we had great jobs! Our kids were some of the few English speaking kids in their classroom and pre strike my son came out of gr.1 way behind academically because the classroom was a cultural melting pot, which we tried to embrace but turns out the good boy with the English skills was left to his own devices to manage to read and write while the new kids had aids and support to learn English.

My heart loves the Westside. We lived worked and lived our community. Raised our babies at Westside family place, and had the beach for the backyard. We are educated and successful career people and STILL we had to make the decision for the future to go while we could still dig out of the whole.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts and to know if you have experienced anything similar in your neighbourhood.  It seems such a shame that good families like the one above are having to pack up an leave because they simply cannot see a future for themselves here.

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8 thoughts on “Whispers from the Westside: getting the hell out

  1. vancouver73 on said:

    I know of a family right now who is having to move out of the city because their family expanded and they were unable to afford the next jump to a bigger place (they were in a two bedroom). They thought they would be able to make the leap eventually from their starter condo to a larger townhouse or detached home but the prices of homes outpaced their salary increases. Vancouver’s housing market is non-sensical…it has become completely de-linked from salaries and we are losing wonderful families in our area all the time. Folks who are active in the schools, neighbourhoods etc are all leaving to more affordable cities. I know another family moving to the island to escape this insanity and another family who moved into the interior. They didn’t want to leave but felt they had no options. It makes me sad to think about what Vancouver will be like in 5-10 years from now. I am a homeowner (only because we had family help in getting into the market) but most of my friends are struggling to imagine how they will ever be able to stay. I would happily take a cut in my housing value if it meant my friends could live in the city with me. Christy Clarke is willfully choosing to do nothing to help. So much for her policy of “families first”…More like “investors first” –let the world use our city’s housing supply as a stock market and let those who work and contribute to our cities and neighbourhoods leave in droves. Gregor Roberston is in cahoots with the developers so he also has no incentive to do anything. Can they not see the long term effect this will have on the social fabric of our neighbourhoods, sense of community and business community (who can recruit staff to work here when they can’t pay a living wage?). I guess greed is blinding them…

  2. Morgan on said:

    I live in Dunbar and have three young boys. We love our street and our neighbourhood. Some preschools have dwindling enrolment in Dunbar but I think the major problem is that the schools are almost all parent participation preschools and/or parents need their children in full time daycare. It is hard for working parents (or parents with other kids) to do duty days (and if you plan on sending your nanny in your place, the nanny has to attend the monthly parent education nightly meeting). For this very reason, I ended up driving to a preschool near UBC instead of using the Dunbar preschools. Once my oldest son started kindergarten we met a lot more kids in the neighbourhood and more and more kids keep moving to our street. The proximity to UBC (which houses a ton of young families) is also really nice. The Westside is way too expensive but has tons of activities for families.

  3. Elisa on said:

    I moved to Vancouver 7 years ago. I shared a house with some roommates on Cambie than moved to Main with my boyfriend (now husband). We bought our first condo on Commercial and we had 2 children …. We moved to Port Moody 🙂 We make both decent salaries and with 2 children in daycare and no family supporting us there is NO WAY we would have been able to afford Vancouver. We love Port Moody and our community and it was the best decision for us 🙂

  4. I have rented on the westside for 12 years. My partner and I are both 40, and expecting our first child. We love it here, but none of our friends with kids are here. They left – one family rented off Granville until they had their 2nd girl, then moved to Calgary. They just couldn’t get excited about the math. Another couple left for Ontario because they knew they wanted kids and Vancouver was out of the question. A Third set is leaving July 1st for Nelson! They had a small townhome off Main St and were so utterly discouraged by the prices that they first tried a trial rental near deep cove, but the overall cost of kids activities + mortgage drove them out.

    This third couple – breaks my heart. They love it here – they share a sailboat with another family that is moored near Cambie bridge. They are social, active members of the community. A head nurse and an engineer. I will miss them.

    We love kitsilano. We ride our bikes to work and frequent our favorite eateries. Weekends are spent tooling around our neighborhood on foot. We notice in the evenings on residential streets many homes with all of the blinds drawn and no children playing. They seem empty. I heard about the schools closing. I wish families like us could stay here. With this baby on the way, we have been considering a mortgage for a small condo but even then a 2 bedroom is nearly $700,000 and i worry about how we will feel in 5-10 years with a child in grade 3! What school will they attend? What will it honestly be like for them?

  5. It’s so hard to know what to do – I have a very well paying job and my husband also works full time in a professional field. We rent a 2 bedroom apartment and are contemplating buying a condo (houses are completely out of question for us obviously), but we can’t afford anything bigger than what we’re currently renting, and we worry that a 900 sq. ft. condo might eventually be tough to live in when our boys get bigger (they are 2 and 6) or if we have more kids. I work 50+ hours per week in downtown Vancouver so the suburbs aren’t really an option if I want to see my kids. So what to do – keep renting and hope things get better? Commit to being a small-space family long term? Or find a job in another city (doable for me, next to impossible for my husband) and leave town?

    What I keep reminding myself is how privileged I am to have these options. I admit, it is disheartening to come to terms with the fact that I will likely never own a house if I stay here, but there are so many people forced into poverty by the lack of affordable housing for families in this city, and this is who this city is truly failing.

  6. I’ve lived in /around Vancouver the majority of my life. My husband and I are both working professionals. We have two kids, both in daycare. We moved to Port Moody and absolutely love it – EXCEPT the 1 hour commute into DT (I’ll spare you the side rant about Vancouver’s ridiculous traffic “planning” decisions). We bought our house in May 2015 for $1M (yes, gentle reader, that’s the new affordable).
    We have the opposite problem in PoMo as the family who moved from the West Side. Our local schools, daycares and preschools are CRAMMED to the absolute max. There is a wait list in our area for our CATCHMENT school. If you find good licensed, affordable (for Vancouver) child care, consider yourself lucky. It’s like finding a unicorn! Our govts at all levels are failing families so badly. There are simply no options. We barely make all our mortgage, daycare, etc. payments on our salaries, and we live a FULL HOUR commute from the downtown core! There’s nothing left for savings or paying down debt. It completely terrifies me. What will our children be able to afford?
    Yes, we could move into the interior or another province but both of our extended families are here and we feel it’s important for our kids to be near them. It makes me so sad to think we would have to sacrifice family and family support for an affordable lifestyle. WTF Vancouver?????

  7. Who can afford to live in Vancouver!
    My husband moved to Vancouver 30 years ago from Regina, I have been here for more than 10 years. We love the west coast lifestyle, our children love the ocean, the forest, the outdoors here. We make well above average income, yet we cannot afford to buy a home in the area we like. Even if we sell our home in the valley, we still need to carry at least 1 million dollar mortgage for an old house on the North Shore. We pay lots of taxes, we contribute to our community, we should be able to live in the community we desire – like any other developed counties in the world, just not in Vancouver! We are not guilty for wanting to live in the city we love!
    House hunting in the past year has been so stressful. I cried many nights, questioning if we should sell everything and move… But where to, you hear the same story everywhere in BC – happens to be the place we loved and lived for many years.
    I am sad, angry, disappointed. I am wondering what kind of future my children will have here.

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