Vancouver non-profit backing daycare which saw expansion rejected

Click to play video: 'Housing advocacy group calling for daycare regulation changes'
Housing advocacy group calling for daycare regulation changes
Members of an affordable housing advocacy group are calling for changes to daycare licensing regulations. That's after a Vancouver daycare operator's application for an eight child expansion was rejected by the city. Grace Ke reports – Aug 27, 2023

A Vancouver non-profit volunteer organization, Abundant Housing Vancouver, has voiced its support for a daycare that saw its application to add spaces for children rejected.

Lisa McCormick and her partner own the Douglas Park Academy daycare on West 20th Avenue, with eight children enrolled at the licensed, multi-age centre in the downstairs of their house.

“We’re trying to just feed the neighbourhood and the community by offering another additional eight spots upstairs in the top level of our home,” she told Global News last week.

The application to add eight additional spaces was rejected at the City of Vancouver’s board of variance, with multiple neighbours having voiced opposition to the expansion in letters. The issue was first reported in The Vancouver Sun.

Abundant Housing Vancouver said it’s backing the small daycare business as it sees the same issues plaguing childcare spaces as it does affordable housing supply.

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“We see a lot of the same problems that have led to the shortage in housing in the shortage of daycares,” Peter Waldkirch, an Abundant Housing Vancouver director, said.

“This is a great example (as) this daycare was rejected for discretionary reasons.

“Even if you have all of the relevant safety and licensing all sorted out, the City (of Vancouver) still has the discretion to reject you, for example, if a bunch of local NIMBYS (not in my backyard) show up to yell about it.”

Waldkirch said daycares and housing issues go hand in hand and issues with one sector largely affect the other.

“It is so hard for young families to make it in Vancouver today,” he said.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how angry and on the edge people are with how unaffordable and how difficult it is. Between the shortages in housing and the shortages in daycare, it’s almost impossible for young families to thrive in the city.”

McCormick gave an update on the situation Sunday morning.

“Friday morning, we spoke to the City of Vancouver, just to check in and see the status of our application and they basically said, ‘Unless the neighbours are on board, it’s not going to happen,’” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Low wages leading to daycare staffing crisis in B.C.'
Low wages leading to daycare staffing crisis in B.C.

Last week, McCormick said she was shocked to hear the application was denied. She said she’s never received any complaints from her neighbours.

“We were quite shocked … with what the neighbours were saying,” McCormick said.

“Previous to that, not one person had complained personally. Most people in the neighbourhood have our personal phone numbers … we never received any backlash or comments even before all this.”

McCormick relayed that neighbour concerns were primarily with the likelihood of added parking congestion with the additional daycare spots, as well as noise from more kids playing in the yard.

Peter Desmet, a neighbour opposed to McCormick’s application, characterized those as “side issues.”

He said he and others are supportive of the existing size of the Douglas Park Academy, but the “main issue” is that its expansion would mean the owners have to move out of the house, “taking residential stock out of the market” and possibly creating a “precedent” in the area.

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“That became the issue. No one really wants a commercial or a residential property converted into a business,” he explained. “There’s lots of opportunities to look at, you know, alternative spaces that would be more acceptable.”

The neighbourhood is home to a second, half-day daycare with affordable rates, Desmet added. He said some felt that “under-used facility” should be developed instead of Douglas Park Academy.

McCormick said the daycare is willing to work with their neighbours to try and curb the concerns, like shifting outdoor time or going to the park to cut down on noise.

“We didn’t have a chance to work with the neighbours and the city because we didn’t know the concerns.”

— with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey and Cassidy Mosconi.

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