Tax-free week? Every week is tax-free week … Death and taxes are supposed to be the two givens in life, but not for all. A major benefit of living in Washington is that if you live and work in-state, you don’t have to pay state income taxes. In Oregon, meanwhile (7 measly miles away), you don’t have to pay sales taxes. Bottom line: Work in Washington. Shop in Portland. Beat the system.
Easy access to the mother ship … Living in Vancouver and playing in Portland is a plausible option for ‘Couverites. Residents can hop on I-5 or I-205 and be in downtown Portland in 10-15 minutes. Even during heavy rush hour periods, the commute rarely takes longer 25-30 minutes. Traffic and parking within Vancouver are rarely problems, either.
The more the merrier … Portland certainly has its charms, but all-inclusiveness sure ain’t one of them. The city adheres to a strict Urban Growth Boundary, which prevents the city’s businesses and population from growing at anything quicker than a snail’s pace. Vancouver, au contraire, has more than tripled its population in the past 20 years (160,000-plus now call the ‘Couv home) and continues to sprawl. Portland may turn you away, but Vancouver is ready to welcome you with open arms.
The Cons of the ‘Couv
Now, the part we always hate: Bursting your bubble (or at least mildly prodding it). Vancouver’s benefits certainly outweigh its drawbacks, but don’t go getting the idea that you’re moving into a new age Shangri-La. As a Vancouver resident, here are a few less-than-Utopian facts of life you’ll face:
No respect from the mother ship … Don’t expect your neighbors on the Oregon side of the Columbia River (except for business owners, that is) to thank you for cruising into town, buying up their tax-free consumer goods, then disappearing back to your bigger, cheaper apartment across state lines (where you can get good a good night’s sleep before going to your non-income-taxed job). So be prepared for the inevitable snub of the nose from many Portlanders.
Not a hoot for the night owls … City officials have pumped a lot of dough into the revitalization of downtown Vancouver, but the area is still a ghost town by the time the sun goes down. If you want to be part of the nightlife scene in Vancouver, here’s the first step: Start it yourself.
They paved paradise and put up a … another Starbucks? … The widespread growth of Vancouver has come at a price for nature purists: The Northwest wilderness has given way to strip malls, row houses, and Super Wal-Marts. All is not lost, though: you can still take in the sterling views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and the Columbia River, and enjoy a variety of child-friendly parks and bike paths. Just be aware that there are a lot fewer trees in the area than there used to be (and a lot more Dollar Trees).
Finding a Primo Pad in the Right ‘Hood
They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. They should also say that if you can’t find an apartment in Vancouver, you can’t find one anywhere. Whether you’re looking to settle down in the western lands like Fruit Valley or Carter Park, the eastern ‘hoods like Bennington or Fisher’s Landing, or any of the dozens of quality neighborhoods in between them, you’ll find plenty of rental options available. A few tips for hopeful renters:
Vancouver is both a buyer’s market and a renter’s market (we’ll just call it a resident’s market). The population has skyrocketed in the past couple decades, but so have the numbers of new houses and high rises. Even with the population boom, 6 percent of the city’s residential lodgings remain unoccupied, and construction of new units continues. So you can afford to be picky.
Leasers pay an average of about a thousand bucks a month in rent, but tons of decent digs can be found in the $600-$700 range. And remember to bring your bargaining chips to the table. Especially in the recently renovated downtown area (which features a surplus of stylish lofts and condos for rent), landlords are often willing to bargain with prospective tenants.
As always: When submitting a leasing application, don’t forget to bring along your identification, copies of paycheck stubs, banking info, and proof of renter’s history.
If you’re tired of hauling that massive sofa-bed from pad to pad, here’s a suggestion: leave it behind. Many Vancouver apartments, including corporate housing units and studios in the $600-range, already come furnished (so maybe it’s time to say goodbye that coffee-and-beer-stained Barcalounger from 1972, huh?).
How to Get Around … And What to Avoid
Compared to most American suburbs, Vancouver has a surprisingly effective public transportation system (the C-Train operates 135 buses and also runs express routes to downtown Portland). So, technically, yes, you might be able to survive in Vancouver, Washington without a car of your own. Just as technically, yes, you might be able to survive in Vancouver, British Columbia in the middle of January without winter gloves. But we don’t recommend it. Vancouver is so spread out, consisting of more than 60 sprawling neighborhoods, that to shop, work, and socialize conveniently, you’re going to need your own set of wheels.
Finally, we should note that even though Vancouver is generally a safe place to live, there are certain nooks and crannies that anyone with common sense should avoid. Word to the wise: If you find yourself in a neighborhood that looks like it’s where dudes in cut-off tee-shirts and mesh hats go to buy bootleg fireworks and meth, keep digging. Trust us, there’s a perfect pad for you somewhere else in the ‘Couv!
Best of luck, and happy hunting!
-By Kera Zacuto