Knowing thy neighbours in Metro Vancouver

posted on December 7, 2015

By Mario Canseco, Vancouver Sun |

By Mario Canseco, Vancouver Sun |

For the past year, our “sense of community” has become prevalent in discussions related to the future of Metro Vancouver. Whether we talk about houses or apartments that sit empty, the impact of development, or even transit improvements, the word “community” inevitably comes up. Regulations, guidelines and funding all hinge, regardless of whose side of a particular argument you prefer, on the notion of “building communities.”

One of the key elements of a community is a shared emotional connection. Insights West took time to look at the types of interactions that people who live in Metro Vancouver have had with those who live close to them, whether positive or negative.

The data suggests that we are not “loving our neighbour” as much as we might have imagined. Only one-in-four Metro Vancouverites (25 per cent) say they had their neighbours over for coffee, drinks or a meal in the past 12 months. Surrey tops the charts at 40 per cent, while the City of Vancouver scores a measly 17 per cent on this question. Simply put, you are twice as likely to be invited to a neighbour’s home in Surrey than in Vancouver.

Surrey residents also appear to be more in tune with the needs of those who live near them. While 37 per cent of Metro Vancouverites took care of a neighbour’s home while they were away (picking up newspapers, for instance), the proportion increased to 49 per cent in Surrey. Vancouver lags behind, at 36 per cent.

Every friendship begins with an introduction. Once again, Surrey leads the way in amicability, with 52 per cent of residents saying they introduced themselves to a person who moved to their block. The Metro Vancouver average is 45 per cent. In Vancouver, the number drops to 36 per cent — just over a third of Vancouverites have welcomed a newcomer to their neighbourhood.

Another issue is exclusive to Vancouver: parking in residential areas. Two-in-five Vancouverites (40 per cent) say they saw someone illegally park in a zone designated “For Block Residents Only”. This is not an issue in Surrey, where no such regulation exists, but it does point to a problem in B.C.’s largest municipality, complete with empirical evidence of garages being used as storage boxes.

But just when Surrey starts to look like B.C.’s true city of brotherly love, other findings provide caution. Across Metro Vancouver, 11 per cent of residents say they had to call the police on account of a noisy party close to their home. In Surrey, that number is 28 per cent. Surrey residents know their neighbours — so much so that they are more willing to alert authorities if things get too noisy at night.

Aside from the differences between municipalities, the survey identified two problems that deal directly with our own behaviour and privileges: driving a car and owning a pet. More than two thirds of Metro Vancouver residents (72 per cent) say they saw someone speeding on the street where they live — including 70 per cent in Vancouver and a whopping 88 per cent in Surrey.

Equally dejecting is the fact that half of Metro Vancouverites (49 per cent) found pet waste on their yard or on their home’s sidewalk at one point in the past year. In the City of Vancouver, the numbers were close to the Metro average (47 per cent). In Surrey, the proportion jumped to 62 per cent.

Read more