Families say sacrifices to live in downtown Vancouver well worth it

Say goodbye to blue skies. Cloud has moved in to southern B.C. and there is a chance of rain and thunderstorms over the long weekend. Christine Tam/Global News

Vancouver consistently ranks as one of the most liveable cities in the world, but it’s also one of the least affordable, causing families to make sacrifices if they want to live downtown.

When the average cost of a two-bedroom condo in downtown Vancouver is nearly $700,000, and affordable three-bedrooms are nearly non-existent, families are forced to downsize if they want to live near the beautiful waterfront.

For families who want to take advantage of the conveniences of being downtown, one of the biggest disadvantages is the area’s lack of schools.

Downtown’s Yaletown neighbourhood is a perfect example of how the city and developers worked together to get urban planning right, but city planners never imagined it would become a hub for families.

Created in the early 1990s on the north shore of False Creek, Yaletown is built on land where CP Rail once had a rail yard. The Roundhouse still stands and has, quite literally, become the centre of the community.

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Initially, 25 per cent of the condo units were designated for families, but urban living is proving to be much more popular than developers or city planners imagined.

“The city once upon a time didn’t anticipate so many school-aged kids in the downtown,” said Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson. “Now we’re constantly asking for the B.C. government to support more schools in the downtown because people are having to ship their kids to schools outside the downtown.”

For many Yaletown parents, the convenience of being downtown comes with a price, whether it’s the lack of schools, or having to downsize, but they say it’s well worth it.

“The main benefit is everything on your doorstep. Shopping, eating, convenience of having everything when you’re new to the city,” said Yaletown parent Terry Ford.

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Elsie Roy is one of only two public Elementary Schools in the downtown core and there’s a lottery to determine who gets in and who doesn’t.

But with another school slated to open in the nearby International Village in 2015, many parents are willing to risk the lottery system, if they can find a place they can afford.

Realtor Ryan Kubeska said affordable homes for families downtown are hard to come by.

“What they’re looking for downtown is actually very hard to find.  There’s not enough product for that right now,” Kubeska said.

In fact, with just over 1,000 downtown homes for sale in April, only 87 were three-bedrooms, and only 10 were under a $1,000,000.

“I blame the real estate marketers. The price point is going to be too high they say, because they’re not concerned about creating communities,” said Michael Geller, adjunct professor at SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Development.

Still, many families are willing to sacrifice space for the area’s amenities, which include many parks and playgrounds.

“The kids have seen and done more things down here in less than a year than we ever did in Coquitlam,” said Yaletown parent Brianne Gibson.

Gibson’s husband Graham agrees.

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“Everyone talks about the suburbs as being this great family area,” he said. “We have more friends and do more things than we ever did in the suburbs.”

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