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This section is mainly intended for anyone who is thinking of moving to Vancouver. I have given a brief description on some of the areas of Vancouver and their assets and liabilities. I have rated commuting to downtown on a scale of 1 to 5 with easy access by car or transit as a 1, and difficult as a 5. Car access does not take into account the difficulty you may have in finding parking. (not to mention the expense). I have also tried to give an indication of the racial mix of some neighbourhoods. I am not doing this from a racist point of view, but most people feel more comfortable settling in an area where there are a lot of their former countrymen, especially if language barriers have to be dealt with. I have provided links to the home pages of the following municipalities where possible. When I refer to crime rates, I mean property crime. Most of Vancouver has a low crime rate, especially when compared to American cities, but property crime (break-ins) are becoming a problem in some areas. These are generally crimes of opportunity and usually occur when homes are vacant and do not involve violence. At the bottom of the page, you will find a map of the current Vancouver rapid Transit System and proposed future routes, which may help you decide where to live. See also my Real Estate section for links to listings in each area.
As far as air quality is concerned, the further east you go, the worse it gets. Vancouver itself has ocean breezes which blows all the car exhaust & other pollutants up the Fraser Valley towards Abbotsford & Chilliwack. The Washington State government has just approved a new power generating plant fuelled by fossil fuel just below the border near Abbotsford. this will pump several extra tons a day of garbage into the air on the Canadian side of the border. Thank you governor, Locke, why don't you pollute your own state?
Earthquakes, Floods & other risks:
A large portion of Vancouver lies within the flood plain of the Fraser river, one of North America's major waterways. In 1948 a high snow pack followed by a warm summer put most of the low lying areas of the city under water, Especially hard hit was Richmond (site of the airport) which lies on reclaimed land and is actually below sea level in many areas. Despite extensive dikes around vulnerable areas, it is only a matter of time until this happens again. For this reason, I would avoid purchasing any property in these areas.
Vancouver is atop of the worlds most dangerous earthquake zone, the so called ring of fire, which circles the Pacific Rim. Several dormant volcanoes lie with a few hundred kilometers of the city, the closet being Mt. Baker & the most dangerous being Mt. Ranier, which is a serious threat to Seattle/Tacoma. Both Volcanoes erupted some time shortly before the arrival of the white man in the area and both are well overdue for another. Minor quakes of 2 or 3 on the Richter scale are common in Vancouver and are seldom even felt. Vancouver lies over what is known as a subduction fault. These are actually the most dangerous faults in terms of catastrophic earthquakes, although major quakes only happen every few hundred years. Unfortunately, we are long overdue. Geological evidence shows a huge quake occurred shortly before the arrival of the white man in the area. From geological evidence & Indian accounts, it may have been as large as 9 on the Richter scale. Most structures in Vancouver are designed to handle large quakes, and older structures & bridges are being upgraded. All skyscrapers built in the last 15 years or so are designed to withstand a strong quake, and fortunately the downtown core is on quite solid ground. Most residential construction in Vancouver is wood frame, probably the best to withstand a quake. Once again, the most vulnerable areas are those on the flood plain, where the high water content of the soil is likely to lead to a phenomenon known as liquefaction. This is where the ground literally turns to liquid. Richmond , South Delta (Ladner) and some areas of the Fraser Valley are most at risk. Insurance against earthquakes is essential in Vancouver. It will add about 50% to the cost of house insurance.
Vancouver has had one hurricane actually a typhoon because its in the Pacific (hurricane Frieda). It did a fair bit of damage. There has never been a tornado.
The last few years have seen the development of housing in the downtown core, usually in the form of high rise apartment buildings, often with the lower floors as business space. Some old buildings and warehouses have also been developed into loft style apartments.
This area is a high density area located between the downtown core and Stanley Park. It consists mainly of high rise apartment buildings, a mix of rental and owned. The area has a large gay population, but is not exclusively so. It is a relatively safe area. The ethnic mix is in about the same proportion to the overall mix of the city. A lot of single people live here. Close to beaches, Stanley Park, easy walking distance to downtown. Commuter rating 1 for car and transit. Here is a link to a community info website Vancouver - West End, English Bay - An online guide to this vibrant community.
This area is located on the south side of Creek Creek opposite the West End. It is generally an upscale area with a mix of single family homes and low rise apartment buildings. Good access to beaches and easy biking distance to downtown. Low crime rate. No particular ethnic flavour. Commuter rating 1 for car and transit.
This area to the east of downtown and north of Hastings St. is what most people would call Skid Row. The area is quite depressed with a low income population a high crime rate. This is also an area of cheap prostitutes and drug addicts. Commuter rating 1 for car (if its not stolen) and transit.
This area just east of the city and north of the Downtown East Side is home to many of Vancouver's 3rd and 4th generation Chinese. The nouveau Oriental immigrants tend to gravitate to the southern suburb of Richmond. The area has a medium crime rate due to its proximity to less desirable areas.
The encompasses the remainder of the Eastside out to the Burnaby border. It has a wide ethnic mix with a Mediterranean emphasis. A lot of Italians, Yugoslavs, etc. have gravitated to this area in the past.. Mainly single family homes on small lots or older low rise apartments. See the Vancouver Community Profiles link below for maps of this area. They have divided it into a number of smaller neighbourhoods. Commuter rating 2 for car and transit.
Southside / Kerrisdale:
Generally middle class to upper middle class area located due south of the city between False Creek and the Fraser River. Contains some very wealthy neighbourhoods. No particular ethic flavour. No particular crime problem. mainly single family homes, some low rise apartments. Large East Indian population in the Main St. & 49th Ave. area. Commuter rating 2 for car and transit.
Point Grey / Dunbar: /Shaughnessy
High income area located between Kitsilano and the University of BC and south to the Fraser River. No particular ethnic group. Low crime rate. Commuter rating 2 for car 3 for transit.
All the above are neighbourhoods in Vancouver City itself. There are others, go to City of Vancouver: Community Profiles for a description of the rest. The ones below are suburbs.
The wealthiest area in Canada. Located on the north shore across Burrard Inlet from Stanley Park and westward to Howe Sound. Low crime rate. Mainly single family homes, but some high rise apartments along the eastern beach front. Along with North Vancouver, the rainiest part of the city. Commuter rating 3 for car and transit.
Located on the opposite side of the harbour from downtown and eastward to Indian Arm. Areas vary from middle income to high income. Low crime rate, no particular ethnic mix. Mainly single family homes. Public transit to downtown by ferry. Along with West Vancouver, the wettest area of the city due to its proximity to the mountains. Commuter rating 3 for car and transit. See also North Vancouver or See the North Shore
Middle class area located to the east of the city. Large municipality. Medium crime rate. No particular ethnic mix. Good access to downtown by transit, Skytrain lines service both the north & south parts of the municipality. Mainly single family homes and low rise apartments, except for Metrotown area which has high rise apartment buildings. Commuter rating 2 for car and transit.
Older area located to the east of Burnaby, good access to downtown on transit. Some new high-rise development taking place in the vicinity of New Westminster Quay. Medium crime rate. Mainly older single family homes. Commuter rating 3 for car, 2 for transit.
Large sprawling suburb located on the east side of the Fraser River and extending down to the US border. The character of this area varies greatly. North Surrey has good transit access to downtown. (30 Min). Generally low to middle income and a high crime rate. Housing ranges from high rise apartments to single family homes. Mixed ethnically. Commuter rating 4 for car and 3 for transit.
The middle part of Surrey, known as Newton has a high East Indian Population, less crime than the north, and is mainly single family housing. All income levels represented. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit.
The south part of Surrey is mainly high income, single family homes (a lot of 1/2 million to 3/4 million dollar homes) or newer apartment buildings. Low crime rate, no particular ethnic mix. Along with Tsawwassen and White Rock, the sunniest area of the city. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit. See White Rock for Real Estate listings.
Small seaside municipality adjacent to South Surrey. Generally middle to high income area. The latest "in-place" to be for the Yuppie set. I live here myself, actually, but when I moved here it was one of the cheaper areas to buy a house. New bridges and better access have changed all that, now its one of the most expensive areas. Most housing is on the South Surrey side (see above). Low crime rate. Sunniest part of the city. Pleasant beach areas, here, and also in the neighbouring community of Crescent Beach. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit.
Although officially, it is part of Surrey, Cloverdale is a distinct small town with a distinctly Western flavour. This is the place to look for Western garb or a saddle for your horse. Cloverdale is home to the Cloverdale Rodeo, Canada's largest after the Calgary Stampede. It is held on the Victoria day weekend (See my Statutory holidays section). Cloverdale is also where the TV series "Smallville" is filmed (Superman as a boy). Commuter Rating 4 for Transit.
Large suburb located to the Northeast along the north side of the Fraser River. Middle to higher income. Medium crime rate. A mix of single family homes and apartments. Large Chinese population in some areas of the municipality. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit.
Community adjacent to Coquitlam, but a little to the east. Commuter train access to downtown. Will be near a new Skytrain route by 2011.
Small community located at the head of Burrard Inlet just west of Coquitlam. This used to be a run down area, but is now becoming quite pleasant and upscale despite the presence of industry along the inlet nearby. The City is distinguished by having its own police force, one of the smallest in Canada. Commuter Train access to downtown, will be on a new Skytrain route by 2010-2011.
Large sprawling suburb located south of the city, south of the Fraser River. Flat as a pancake and slightly below sea level (dikes). Very large oriental population. Most of the newer Chinese immigrants settle here. Low crime rate. Mainly single family homes and low rise apartments. This suburb will be toast if the big earthquake hits. Its susceptible to liquefaction, due to the high water content of its soil. I wouldn't live there. I have had it pointed out to me that the community of Steveston which is located in the southwest corner of Richmond is distinct from the rest of the community. This is quite true. I deal with Steveston in more detail in my "Things to See & Do" section. Commuter rating 3 for car and transit. The Skytrain Rapid Transit system will be extended to Richmond & the Airport in 2009 in time for the 2010 Olympics.
Area adjacent to Surrey west of 120th Street. Similar to Surrey with a high East Indian Population. Middle Class, low crime rate. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit.
South Delta / Ladner/Tsawwassen:
Located south of Richmond, between the south arm of the Fraser River and Semiahmoo Bay (US Border). Upper income area. reasonable transit access to downtown. No particular ethnic mix. Low crime rate. Along with white Rock, the sunniest area of the city. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit.
This is actually in The USA, but it is only accessible from Canada and is attached to the same Peninsular as Tsawassen above. The residents are largely Canadian and the border is very relaxed. This is a good place to live if you are American and want to live in Vancouver, but can't get immigrant status.
Maple Ridge / Pitt Meadows:
Large suburb located well east of the city along the north bank of the Fraser (east of Coquitlam). Middle class, mainly single family housing. Access to downtown by commuter train. Low crime rate. Commuter rating 5 for car and 4 for transit.
Large semi-rural suburb located east of Surrey and encompassing an area from the Fraser River to the US border. Middle income, low to medium crime rate. Commuter rating 5 for car and transit.
This is not the same as the area above, it it further North on the banks of the Fraser River. Ft. Langley is actually the oldest inhabited area of the city. The town itself is very quaint and artsy. The main population of the area actually lives in Walnut Grove a couple of miles to the west of the village. Commuter rating 5 for car and 4 for transit.
Current and proposed Rapid Transit Lines: