The Lower Mainland of British Columbia is also often referred to as the Greater Vancouver Area, with Vancouver the star of the show. Vancouver is well-known as a diverse city with beautiful natural surroundings. What most people don’t know, though, is that the population of Vancouver is only slightly more than its neighbor, Surrey.
Surrey, British Columbia is a large city south of Vancouver that has a population of over 520,000 people (second to Vancouver at 631,000+). It spans a large geographical area of 316.4 square kilometers and encompasses six different communities.
Surrey is so large that it is difficult to make generalizations and should be considered by its different neighborhoods when looking at the pros and cons. Overall, though, Surrey is a good city for diverse neighborhoods, cost of living, and community resources. Some of the cons of living in Surrey include significant traffic and a reputation for crime. Let’s look a little further in-depth at some of the pros and cons of living in Surrey, BC.
Pros of Living in Surrey
1. Diverse neighborhoods
Surrey is a very diverse city, with many cultures represented. In particular, there is a large South Asian community that makes up 57.76% of the community. The same recent data shows that there is a large Chinese and Filipino community as well.
The diverse make-up of Surrey is a pro because it is a welcoming environment to newcomers in Canada and adds interesting cultural events, activities, restaurants, and services to the city. Canada is known as a multicultural country that is welcoming to immigrants, and Surrey is a great example of this important Canadian value.
2. Low(er) cost of living
While the Lower Mainland, in general, is a very expensive place to live – Vancouver is the most expensive city in Canada and #93 internationally according to a recent survey – Surrey is cheaper than some of the surrounding municipalities.
This cost-of-living comparison tool shows that Surrey is significantly cheaper in all categories than Vancouver. Rent, in particular, is a full 19.81% cheaper than in Vancouver. The cost of purchasing a house is also lower, and many first-time homeowners are going to Surrey to find affordable options.
3. Excellent community resources
Because Surrey is a large city with six different communities, which include Cloverdale, Fleetwood, Guildford, Newton, South Surrey, and Whalley, there are many different community services and resources. Surrey has multiple community centers, shopping malls, hospitals, non-profit organizations, and public parks and facilities in each neighborhood. The population of Surrey is growing quickly and there are significant development projects to accommodate its growing number of people. Large investments are being made into community facilities and resources.
4. Access to nature and outdoor recreation
Again, Surrey is a large city, so it’s impossible to generalize. Some areas of Surrey do not have much access to nature, while others have a lot. Surrey in general has hundreds of public parks, some of which are very large, like Tynehead Park (260 hectares!).
South Surrey is also home to some amazing beaches along the coast, including Crescent Beach, Centennial Beach, and White Rock Beach. These are popular for swimming, beachcombing, and just relaxing. They have large, sandy beaches and amenities like concession stands, cafes, and children-friendly activities.
5. Development and city improvements
As mentioned, Surrey is a growing city and there has been significant investment into building new homes and resources for the growing population. There are currently 61 new home developments in Surrey, which means there are some great new options to find accommodations!
And with new housing developments come investment into the other community resources. Some neighborhoods that previously had a negative reputation (i.e., Surrey Central) are now be revitalized through gentrification efforts and building developments.
Surrey has become a hub for higher education institutions. Though many of the main campuses are located elsewhere, Surrey has branches of institutions such as Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Career College, and Sprott Shaw College. This, among others, make higher education accessible to people living in Surrey without having to commute far into Vancouver to attend classes.
Cons of Living in Surrey
1. Higher drug and gang-related activity
Unfortunately, Surrey has a bit of a negative reputation, evidenced by Google search suggestions of “Is Surrey safe?” and “Is surrey dangerous?” when you type in “Is Surrey…” This study of people’s perceptions of Surrey also shows that many people are worried about crime and danger in the city.
While Surrey is diverse with some very low-crime areas, there are still higher instances of crimes and gang-related activities than other parts of the Lower Mainland, although it has decreased in 2021. Newton and Guildford have higher rates of crime than other parts of the city, as well as large homeless populations. Like any large city, there are areas to be more aware of and take extra precautions in.
2. Low income and unattractive neighborhoods
Some neighborhoods in Surrey, such as around Surrey Central and Gateway SkyTrain systems are fairly unattractive or dirty and host large, semi-permanent homeless camps. Though the people who live here are not generally disruptive, it is not a very aesthetically appealing area to live or visit. The city is investing significantly in housing and community improvements, as well as increasing the resources for homeless individuals.
Surrey is a very busy city and traveling by car can be frustrating and time-consuming due to the large volume of traffic. Although Highway 1 goes through Surrey, most travel within the city is on smaller roads and streets that have frequent stops and heavy congestion, particularly during rush hour.
4. Poor rapid transit network
Coupled with the traffic issue is the lack of public transit options. While there are four SkyTrain stops in Surrey, they only reach the northern neighborhoods, leaving the rest of the city to rely on buses. It is true that there are a lot of buses and most services are very accessible by public transit, buses can be very slow.
Particularly for those looking to travel further distances (i.e., to Vancouver for work), will commute long hours on a bus to get to the SkyTrain, which is much faster. Luckily, there are preliminary plans to build an extended SkyTrain to meet the rapid transit needs of the community.
Surrey, BC is a large and diverse city with many pros and cons for people considering moving there. Overall, it is a good place to live for a lower cost of living, community resources, and a diverse population.
Some major cons of living in Surrey include the high volume of traffic and the existence of some higher-crime neighborhoods. Overall, though, many people love their home in Surrey, and it is definitely a city that should be considered as a place to live in the Lower Mainland!