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- Inside Langley’s plan to swap park land for daycare spots
Inside Langley’s plan to swap park land for daycare spots
Langley Township wants to provide land for new daycare centres in order to get provincial funding for them.
Langley is considering trading park space for childcare spots.
Langley Township staff have compiled a list of 13 parks where daycares could be built to fill the community’s desperate childcare shortage. New daycare programs, starting with a pilot project in a single park, would be an important step to filling the gap in childcare options—but it’s not a perfect solution.
Childcare in Langley
Even as population climbs in Langley, the total number of daycare spaces has been dropping.
In January 2020, the township had nearly 4,000 spaces spread across almost 200 programs. As of October, there were 154 programs providing 3,387 spaces. Over the span of nearly four years, Langley Township added more than 1,000 kids aged two to 12, but lost more than 600 childcare spots.
Langley Township is already one of the fastest-growing communities in BC, and the town can expect even more new arrivals as provincial legislation promotes more home-building.
The township has promised to bolster childcare, but it has been unable to reverse the declining number of childcare spaces.
In 2021, the city committed to a Childcare Action Plan that aims to ensure each area had 70 childcare spaces for every 100 kids. The Township hopes to hit that target by 2030.
It’s a big task. As of 2021, Langley Township had just shy of 20 spots for every 100 kids. (The national average is 27 spots.)
Mary Tanielian, who oversees Langley Community Services Centre’s Childcare Resource and Referral program, says parents are waiting years and spending hundreds of dollars to try to get their kids into daycare. Tanielian says she sees couples who just got pregnant putting their names down for daycare centres. Some parents pay up to $300 to be on waitlists, some of which are up to two years long.
Availability is only part of the challenge. Affordability adds a whole new dimension to the problem.
“That’s where it becomes really difficult,” she said.
Daycares don’t have to strive to be affordable, and plenty of privately run centres don’t. Building more daycares—especially more affordable daycares—is certainly an important part of a solution.
“When you have more, you can choose,” Tanielian said. “When there's nothing left, you will take what you can.”
While federal and provincial governments committed to lowering daycare costs to the famous $10 dollars a day, families throughout the province still pay wildly varying amounts for more expensive spots when affordable, subsidized ones aren’t available.
Langley Township has its eye on a provincial program that provides funding to build non-profit, affordable daycare centres.
The municipality hopes it can secure funding by promising land for centres.
Township staff have identified 13 different potential places, all in underused spots of developed parks, for an initial pilot project. Each spot was picked based on its ability to house a potential 37-kid daycare with 6,500 square feet of space (including the building and outdoor play area), along with extra space for parking. The parks, staff say, are the least complicated option in terms of construction and infrastructure. (Some already have plenty of parking, others would require spots to be added.)
The 13 locations include two or three spots in each neighborhood:
Aldergrove: Aldergrove Athletic Park and Philip Jackman Park
Brookswood: Bell Park and the new fire hall site
Fort Langley: Fort Langley Park and Hudson Bay Park
Murrayville: Denny Ross Memorial Park, Porter Park, and Mcleod Athletic Park
Walnut Grove: McClughan Park and Topham Park
Willoughby: Yorkson Community Park and the Langley Events Centre
The next steps for the project are public engagement at each of the 13 parks and an impact study that would rank the potential spots for the best option to build the first new daycare on.
But using parks will only get the Township so far.
To meet its childcare coverage rate goal of 70% solely by converting parkland, the Township would need to carve a soccer field’s worth of land out of different Langley Township parks every year until 2030.
More daycare centres are important. But Tanielian also warns that the facilities are only a start to the solution.
“If people are willing to open up daycares, then the flip side is trying to find early childhood educators that are qualified to be in those centers, because those are really hard to find.”
Tanielian says one more new daycare centre—the likely near-future result of the township’s parkland–daycare pilot project—is moving in the right direction. Staffing them, though, could be the next challenge. But Tanielian hopes that the forces bringing more people into Langley would also, hopefully, bring more early childhood educators into the city, too.
“So when people, maybe, hopefully, if we have more centers opening up and more available positions we can attract more people. Hopefully.”