Five years ago my wife and I moved from our single family home in Queens Park into an apartment in Downtown New Westminster. At first glance this probably seems like an unusual move for a growing young family to make. Although we loved our 125 year old heritage home and the neighbourhood we lived in, we were motivated to make the move for a number of reasons. The first and probably most important was that we had outgrown our house. The functionality of our charming but quirky home started to become an issue when child #2 (aka Leah) arrived. Our home only really had 2 bedrooms, no closets and no built in dishwasher. So we started house hunting.
When my wife and I first started looking, we immediately began looking at larger single family homes across our city. Although we fell in love with a lot of homes during our search, we didn’t fall in love with what our future mortgage payments would be. Then we were shown our current apartment, we loved it, but immediately discounted it. After 3 more weeks of frustration in trying to find a home that was in our price range, we asked to see the apartment again. It had 3 bedrooms, closets and was within walking distance of a lot of the places we loved to visit. Having grown up my entire life in traditional single family neighbourhoods, this was definitely a difficult decision for our family to make. The more we began to think about it though, the more it seemed to make sense and fit with our goals of living in a neighbourhood that was walkable, transit friendly and interesting.
So having lived this urban experiment for the past 5 years, I have a number of observations and thoughts:
- We are not alone. We were surprised how many kids we discovered that lived in our building and neighbourhood. We are not even the only 3 child family in our building. Whether it is because of economic reasons or a desire to raise a family in walkable urban communities, we need to recognize our urban areas are filled with kids.
- We save a lot of money on gas. Our minivan spends a lot more time in the parking garage, and there are some weeks we don’t even use the vehicle at all.
- We spend a lot more money on Starbucks. Living right across the street from Starbucks, has made it more tempting and easy to get our morning fix of caffeine.
- Public green space is so important. Our backyard is our neighbourhood, so I realize now more than ever the importance of having green space in urban areas. The new park and playground at Qayqayt Elementary is a huge bonus for the neighbourhood.
- We don’t know our neighbours as much as we used to. Although we have gotten to know a few of our neighbours (especially those with kids), the building form doesn’t seem as conducive to creating solid connections with neighbours.
- Although we love the walkability of our neighbourhood and walk with the kids to a lot of destinations, we worry a lot more about traffic and pedestrian safety.
- We save a lot of time not having to maintain a yard and a house. Like many busy families, time is often more important than anything else and there are many crazy weeks I am thankful to not have to cut the lawn.