COQUITLAM, BC, Dec. 7, 2021 – Coquitlam is moving forward with a new strategy to improve child care, including measures to encourage new developments to add to the supply.
Last night, Council directed staff to finalize a new Child Care Partnership Strategy that will use incentives and other means to increase child care access, affordability and quality in the city. The approach borrows some of the successful tools in Coquitlam’s Housing Affordability Strategy, which has significantly increased rental units through development incentives and requirements.
Formerly called the Child Care Strategy, the name has been updated to include the word “partnership” to reflect the need for coordination and support from all levels of government, and the private and non-profit sectors to improve child care.
Lack of Child Care a Growing Problem
Access to affordable, quality child care enables more parents to work and is closely associated with community livability and affordability.
Coquitlam currently has an estimated 24.6 licensed child care spaces for every 100 children ages 0 to 12. The number of spaces varies, with less availability for children under age three or ages 5 to 12. For their part, child care operators face significant challenges finding affordable quality facilities and qualified staff with flexible availability.
The issues are compounded by Coquitlam’s fast-growing child population, which rose by eight per cent from 2011 and 2016 and is projected to grow another 13 per cent by 2031.
While senior levels of government are primarily responsible for child care systems in Canada, Coquitlam’s strategy focuses on what the City can do to improve child care within its scope of influence.
Strategy Aligned with Community Feedback
The new partnership strategy primarily focuses on licensed group child care – the type of child care that cities can influence the most. The document was developed over a two-year process that included a Child Care Needs Assessment, completed with grant funding through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, along with multiple rounds of engagement with Council, parents, child care providers, developers and other stakeholders.
Feedback to the draft strategy earlier this year resulted in a number of changes intended to strengthen its efficacy. This includes new policies clarifying that incentives are to be offered to developers to create child care spaces, and requiring new rezoning proposals that include housing to estimate the child care need their project will create and address the gap in some way.
This could include contributing to a new development-funded Child Care Reserve Fund to be used to support child care improvements, in much the same way the City’s development-funded Affordable Housing Reserve Fund supports new affordable housing projects.
As a result of recent feedback, the strategy also has a stronger focus on equity in child care, targeting underserved populations including people with lower incomes, children with extra needs, Indigenous families, young parents and families from different cultural backgrounds. The need for more flexible child care hours has also been emphasized.
With Council’s go-ahead, City staff will now begin the associated policy development and bring back a framework for the new Child Care Reserve Fund to Council for discussion in early 2022.
For more information or to review the strategy, visit www.coquitlam.ca/childcare.
To sign up for updates, visit www.coquitlam.ca/notifyme and subscribe to the Child Care Partnership Strategy list.
Director, Community Planning