Metro Vancouver BC neighborhoods for retirees to relocate to
September 10, 2018 1:12 PM   Subscribe

My retired parents are considering moving from Toronto ON to Vancouver BC in the next 2 years. We're going to scout out some neighborhoods this week. Where should we go?? Requirements and preferences inside.

I live in Portland OR and my retired parents live in Richmond Hill, a suburb outside Toronto ON. They are considering moving to Vancouver BC so we can see each other more regularly and so I'll be better able to support them when they need help in the future. We've been to Vancouver but only as tourists. Considering their requirements and preferences below, what neighborhoods should we definitely check out? We'll be staying in Burnaby. I keep hearing that Vancouver is expensive, but it's still possible for normal people to live a modest life there, right?

- Safety. Is Surrey safe? My parents are under the impression it's not...
- Price -- under $800K?
- Home size -- 600 sq ft to 1500 sq ft; 2 bedrooms; condo/multi-unit/townhome are all acceptable
- Reasonable access to some Asian stores and restaurants; within 30 minutes drive or transit is fine

More about my parents
- They speak English well enough to socialize and work in English-speaking environments
- They should be able to drive for the next 5-10 years still. I'd like to plan ahead so that they settle in an area with transit options though
- Similarly, bonus points for areas where there are good assisted living options for them to transition into, when the time comes
- They would enjoy having access to a community center and a fitness center. My dad is involved in their local senior hiking club right now through the municipal community center.
- They like going for walks and easy hikes. Proximity to small nature parks would be great.

I would also appreciate any common traps you know of for people moving to BC. I've read up on health premiums and it seems like a pretty small amount per month. How is your experience with health services there?

Thank you in advance!
posted by bread-eater to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not from BC but in general for Canadian real estate is great for browsing what's available within your budget in the regions you're interested in.

(everyone I personally know in the Vancouver area either a) had their home before prices got crazy, b) have generational wealth, c) literally won the lottery, or d) are getting out as soon as they can because housing prices are too high)
posted by Secret Sparrow at 1:44 PM on September 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

In terms of affordability and access to a wider selection of Asian stores, they'd likely prefer Richmond BC. It is expensive, but not as much as Vancouver proper and has community centres and accessible transit. Surrey, while not unsafe, is a little harder to get to Vancouver from and is more spread out.

For under $800k I expect you are certainly going to be looking at townhomes and not single family housing.

If they are low-income their MSP premium will be waived. The health system is great; no different from what they're finding in Ontario.

Portland is still a fair distance away such that which part of the Lower Mainland you decide on won't considerably affect travel time.

Good luck!
posted by Pomo at 4:05 PM on September 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Would proximity to airport or the border be a consideration, if you'd be flying/driving in regularly to visit?

I've only ever lived in Richmond and Vancouver, so the info I provide is based on that.

In Vancouver, I've heard that the Hillcrest Community Centre is the best of them all in terms of amenities. Close to that, Fraser St. between King Edward and 49th has lots of South Asian restaurants and grocery stores. Some Filipino stores in there, too.

The whole city of Richmond is full of Chinese grocery stores and restaurants. There are portions of River Rd. (the road that circles almost the entire island) that are nice and walkable, not necessarily a trail or a hike, but something to do with a view of the water. Lots of new developments near Richmond Hospital / Gilbert Rd. / Richmond Olympic Oval area. Steveston has that small town, "slow" life feel, although rapidly gentrifying near the water so may be quite expensive in terms of housing. I regularly see groups of seniors practicing tai chi and other gentle exercises in malls and parks in Richmond, but I think these are mostly Chinese folks so if you don't belong to the group/speak the language, might be hard to break in? The airport is technically in Richmond!

If access to hiking trails is a must, then maybe you'll consider being closer to the mountains (North Van/Lynn Canyon, Buntzen Lake area?). Never lived there, though, so don't know what the communities are like.

Transit is generally fine within one city, so I think no matter where you choose it will be OK. It's crossing city boundaries where you have to really time your trip right, otherwise you could be waiting 30 mins to 1 hr if you miss your connecting bus.

You mention they speak English well enough to socialize and work, maybe this means English is not their first language? IME Metro Vancouver social services really knows their community and has lots of programs in languages other than English, provided there is a big enough population to take advantage of those programs. In Richmond, lots of programs in Mandarin or Cantonese. In my current neighbourhood, some programs in Spanish or Punjabi. If you think they'll want something like that, then it could be advantageous to know which neighbourhood has a lot of [whatever ethnic/language group they feel they belong to].

Surrey is a big city, but they're probably thinking of Whalley if they're thinking crime/gangs/"unsafe."
posted by tinydancer at 4:19 PM on September 10, 2018 [2 favorites]

Surrey is huge with many neighbourhoods. I actually need to wander around and get to know them because I need to move closer to work which is moving further away.

Which sub-Asian ethnicity? An older condo can be had for 800k in the areas I mention below.

An area that might make sense is New Westminster. It's a little bit closer to the airport than Surrey, although Richmond would be the closest, especially if you're near a skytrain station. There's also the Royal Columbian Hospital right next to Sapperton station.

An alternative is South Marpole - if you can find something close to the Marine Drive skytrain station, it's literally only minutes to the heart of Richmond. Being in Vancouver (South) proper, 800k might not go very far.

If you're looking at Richmond, perhaps focus on the areas close to the Aberdeen/ Lansdowne/ Brighouse stations. Richmond General is kind far away from Brighouse station.

There are still some not-insanely prices (older, primarily, but that brings its own problems) condos around Metrotown/ Crystal Mall. As long as your close to Patterson/ Metrotown/ Royal Oak(/ or even Edmonds) it's really convenient to get to concentrations of Asian shopping/ restaurants. The Burnaby Hospital is kind of a (relatively) pain to get to via public transit, though.

I understand that your folks still drive, but the skytrain is pretty awesome.
posted by porpoise at 4:59 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

New Westminster is really up and coming, and there are lots of nice places near the Quay that you may want to look into. My friend's dad lives in one of the condos near Riverfront Market and he walks along the waterfront every day. It's really lovely and accessible and close to lots of amenities and the Skytrain. There are lots of parks to hike in that are accessible by bus or Skytrain from that area.

I'd recommend New West over Surrey, personally, not because Surrey is generally unsafe; it's just that the nicer areas of Surrey are very suburban and car-oriented, and I don't think that makes sense for older people who may not be able to drive in the next few years. My parents (who fall into Secret Sparrow's category A of having bought their place before prices went through the roof) live within walking distance of several Skytrain stations, and they do not have a car--it's worked out very well for them and they don't miss driving (or parking) at all. Public transit and Skytrain afford a lot of independence when people don't drive.

In terms of accessibility of Asian stores and restaurants, they'll be able to get to Metrotown from New West in under 20 minutes by Skytrain and Richmond in under an hour, where they'll have access to Asian stores/restaurants galore, but they may not need to go that far. Just the other week I had amazing dim sum in New West at Kirin, and it was absolutely packed.

The other thing you want is a sense of community--if you can get them into a place where there are other nice folks around their age/demographic that they can make friends with, it makes a difference. Single family detached dwellings--which are not going to be easy to come by anyway, for under $800,000--don't really foster the same sense of community from my observations among older family members living in the Lower Mainland.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:27 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

They may find that they like Burnaby. My parents are retirees and live in a fairly nice condo near Edmonds Skytrain Station. I think condos here are within their budget. I'd say their building is maybe 35, 40% Asian (mostly Chinese)? There are Asian stores, grocers, and restaurants everywhere here – there's no need to go to Richmond for that unless you want to anyway.
posted by Beardman at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'd suggest White Rock or Crescent beach, as it has easy access to the border (Peace Arch crossing).

Personally I'd rather live in Burnaby (Metrotown) or Richmond, but I'm not sure if it's possible to find housing at your price point there.

Your parents could always consider Victoria, which is cheaper than Vancouver and is quite a nice place to live.
posted by JamesBay at 5:48 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'll plug New Westminster, since I live there! It's incredibly well-served by transit (5 skytrain stops!) considering its geographical size, and has its own community feel given its history as BC's original capital city. It doesn't feel like a blah suburb like Burnaby, Surrey, or Coquitlam. You should be able to find a 2 bdrm condo here for $800k, maaaaaybe a townhouse but don't count on it. Lots of old people live here and it is a regional hub of medical services because of the hospital. It's also quite close to Little Korea which is just on the New West/Burnaby/Coquitlam border, so lots of Asian stores and restaurants are close by (though anywhere in the Lower Mainland will have this really). The big pool and rec centre is being reno'd right now, so it should be nice and updated in the next year or two.

PM me if you have any New Westminster questions - I love my city :)
posted by just_ducky at 6:20 PM on September 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

A house for under $800k they actually want to live in is not possible (short of a miracle) between Vancouver and Surrey. I’d go so far as to say that probably extends to west Langley and into the tri-cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody) but i haven’t actively looked there recently. I have house hunted in the last year in Surrey (including the less-desirable areas ie Whalley) for a house under $900k and it took months. Most we found were meant to be torn down. And things have gotten more expensive over the last year. You’d definitely be looking at townhouses or condos in that price range.

I’d suggest looking at Coquitlam Center area or along the Evergreen Skytrain line. It’s growing quickly but still quasi “reasonable” (hah, these are by Vancouver standards) and the Skytrain line means transit is definitely accessible. And there are so many places
to walk/hike in nature very close by!! Community centers too. But the area is not quite as Asian-influenced as others mentioned (Richmond, Burnaby) if that is what you are looking for. Within 30min to at least a T&T Supermarket is possible just about everywhere in the Lower Mainland however.
posted by cgg at 9:55 PM on September 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Re: living in Victoria - it's really not much cheaper than Vancouver and i think it'd be a lot harder for them to find a large retired Asian community here, as it's simply not as big or populous as metro Vancouver. Transit isn't as good in the areas outside of downtown either, where they'd likely settle.
posted by elke_wood at 6:59 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Coquitlam can be a bit dicey on transit. It is studded with nice green space. Just make sure your parents are prepared to deal with the resulting possibility of a bear encounter!

There are two H-Marts in Coquitlam, btw.
posted by praemunire at 8:45 AM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone! Your responses are so very helpful. When I passed through New West 12 years ago it felt really small and far removed, so I didn't have it high on my list, but given all your recommendations we will definitely be checking it out! Appreciate all the comments on other neighborhoods as well -- we will at least swing by most of them. Great points about airport proximity and Surrey being car-centric.

And sorry I wasn't quite clear but my parents are perfectly fine with a condo and don't particularly want a house. Also, we are Chinese (Cantonese-speaking), but they have pretty wide ranging tastes in food and cultural activities, so would probably find things more interesting if it's a multicultural neighborhood.
posted by bread-eater at 3:00 PM on September 11, 2018 [1 favorite]

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