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We're very grateful to Alice Irwin from the Irish Women's Network of BC who kindly prepared this information for young families in planning their move to Vancouver.
Information for young families: Housing
Remember that if you relocate your family to Vancouver, you are going to be moving to a city that has one of the highest housing costs in the world. Vancouver has not really been hit with a housing recession the same way that the US or Europe has. It is very expensive to buy or rent a house here. We have rented since we arrived and currently pay $1895 for a two-bed in Kitsilano. It’s an old-style heritage house (Vancouver speak for around 100 years old) and there are two other suites here as well. Most houses are divided up into at least two, but usually three, units as they like to throw in a basement suite for maximum rental potential. A lot of basement suites are partially underground and therefore don’t have many windows and are often quite dark, though there are some exceptions to this.
My personal experience of trying to rent with children has not been a happy one. Even though it’s illegal to say so, I have been told by more than one potential landlord that they do not want children — just one added stress when you are trying to look for somewhere to live that’s affordable and in decent order. We finally rented from goldteam.ca. Have a look on their site if you are coming to Vancouver. See the Living section for more info.
You will need a full month’s rent in advance and also a half month as a security deposit. A check (“cheque” in Europe) or bank transfer will suffice, but don’t ever give cash in Vancouver. They love checks; you normally give 12 postdated checks for rent.
You should be able to open an international bank account before you move, which will be very helpful. Have a look online with whoever you bank with or ask at your local branch and see if they have any information. It’s only a small thing, but if you can set it up before you leave then do so.
Information for young families: Education
All-day kindergarten is available free at all public schools.
For children not born in Canada you have to register your child for a place at your school of choice from the November to end of January at the District Reception and Placement Centre (DRPC) in person with your child. The Vancouver School Board has a website, as has the DRPC.
School sizes are typically much bigger as Vancouver is a sizable city. If you check out the Vancouver School Board then you can see the school sizes for yourself.
See Schools in Greater Vancouver for an overview of the schooling system in Vancouver.
Information for young families: Recreation
Community centres are one of the best inventions in Vancouver. There is one for every major district and there is a class or an activity for everyone, from babies to seniors. Most have a gym as well, which costs around $45 a month for unlimited use, and some of the newer ones have pools that are included in your monthly pass, as well as ice skating. They have drop-ins for under-5’s, as well as a preschool a couple of days a week. You need to put your child’s name on a waiting list for the preschools.
There are also playgrounds in a green space every couple of blocks. The opportunities for kids are wonderful, with loads of stuff for them to do all year round. The outdoor pools open up for the summer in May. These offer a great family day out as the facilities are amazing. The community centers also offer sports and swimming lessons for kids. Check out the Vancouver Park Board website to see the range of facilities and activities supported.
Information for young families: Transition
My son was four when we got here and was very sad at first. To be honest, the first six months were tough for both him and myself. My daughter was only 18 months old and still a baby so she was fine. His anxiety manifested itself in refusing to eat, but it did sort itself out in the end.
I was also fairly shocked by how expensive food was here. Supermarkets can be expensive but there are cheaper alternatives if you look. See the Grocery Shopping article for more info.
It is a wonderful place to raise children. They will be happy if you are!
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