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
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
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. 1 for transit if you are near Cambie (subway line)
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
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
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. Parts of it are already served by rapid transit, the remainder will be by 2011 or 2012. Commuter rating 4 for car and transit. Parts of
Community adjacent to Coquitlam, but a little
to the east. Commuter train access to downtown. Will be near a
new Skytrain route by 2012.
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 1 for transit. The new subway line to downtown was completed in Aug 2010.
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
Abbotsford & Mission:
These 2 communities are located out in the Fraser Valley east of Vancouver on either side of the Fraser River, & are at the extremes of the Vancouver Transit System. Mission is located at the end of the West Coast Express Commuter train system & Abbotsford conencts to it by bus. House prices are more resoanable than in Vancouver. The East side of Abbotsford is the best area, some of the western portions are a bit rough. I actually live here myself now, since I retired & downsized. Abbotsford has its own international Airport with domestic flights, & flights to India plus some US destinations lke Las Vegas.
Current and proposed
Rapid Transit Lines: (Note line to Richmond & Airport is now complete)