Port Moody needs more than 1,000 new licensed child care spaces by 2030, according to a report to be presented to city council on Tuesday (Jan. 11).
To help it get there, the city must develop a comprehensive child care policy that identifies space targets and makes a commitment that child care development is a top priority. As well, it should form a task force with other communities in the Tri-Cities to identify common areas of concerns as well as to share information, collect and evaluate data and lobby senior levels of government.
Those are some of the recommendations contained in a child care action plan which was prepared by the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC) in conjunction with the three communities — Port Moody, Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam — that comprise the Tri-Cities, lays out a map to address gaps in existing child care, including accessibility, affordability and quality.
According to the report, group care for infants, toddlers and school age kids “are only available for a small share of children.”
In fact, 74 per cent of operators have a waitlist.
Overall, the city has only 20.9 child care spaces for every 100 children from babies to 12 years old. By comparison, there’s 27.2 spots for every 100 kids in Canada, and 18.4 spaces available in British Columbia.
As well, the city has no child care facilities for families that need extended hours before 6 a.m. or after 7 p.m. which presents challenges for parents who work non-standard shifts or endure long commutes.
The report says while Port Moody already has several policies and practices in place to encourage the development of new child care spaces, including clear statements in its official community plan that encourage child care, density bonuses to developers in exchange for amenities like child care facilities and progressive zoning policies that accommodate child care, the city can still do more.
- prioritizing the creation of spaces for infants, toddlers and school age children
- creating new spaces in neighbourhoods that are currently underserved
- working to locate new spaces in civic facilities, parks and school properties, as well as in new developments and along transit hubs.
- linking child care to affordable housing strategies and the expansion of transit
As well, the report goes on, the city can dedicate staff with overall responsibility for child care, accelerate applications for not-for-profit child care spaces, identify locations that could be suitable for child care development as well as implement changes to its regulations to align better with Fraser Health licensing requirements.
To help make child care more affordable, the city can reduce application fees, create a grant program to help not-for-profit providers improve their facilities or extend their hours, provide municipal space to providers rent free or at a reduced rate and provide tax exemptions to not-for-profit providers.
Currently, the average monthly fees for group care in the city range from $950 for infants to $425 for school age children.
To ensure child care providers in Port Moody are giving quality care, the city can develop a set of principles and guidelines that address minimum and maximum sizes for facilities, design and operating expectations as well as terms and conditions for leases.
It can also designate a staff person to help providers find quality spaces that meet Fraser Health requirements.
But Port Moody doesn’t have to do all that work on its own.
The report recommends the city develop partnerships and collaborations with neighbouring communities as well as School District 43 (SD43) to focus on common goals and ensure child care spaces are a part of all new or renovated school projects.
“The city is uniquely positioned has many opportunities to work with its partners to increase the number of child care spaces and to improve the affordability and quality of care,” said the report.
“Doing so will greatly benefit children and families… and contribute to the economic development a well-being of the entire community.”
The study was funded by a $25,000 grant from the Union of B.C. Municipalities.