Vancouver is located on the northern banks of the Columbia River in Washington, across from Portland, Oregon, and is part of the Portland, Oregon metro area. Portland’s economy is strong, so It’s not uncommon for Vancouver residents to commute across the state line for work. But living in Vancouver, WA, comes with many perks. Zero income tax, a more affordable cost of living than Portland, and a laid back way of living are just some reasons why Vancouver offers a great lifestyle.
Although some say the winters are dark, damp, and dreary, locals advise you to embrace the climate and enjoy the natural beauty that surrounds you. Vancouver boasts a casual and relaxed community environment with plenty to do. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you’ll enjoy hiking, skiing, golfing, and fishing. Indoors enthusiasts can visit local wineries for tastings, meet friends for a craft espresso at a hip coffee house, or explore Downtown for plenty of trendy shopping. If you feel like dressing up for a fancy night out, a short jaunt to Portland offers black-tie events galore.
Living in Vancouver, WA: What to Know Before Moving to Vancouver
The fourth populous city in Washington, Vancouver, was established in 1825 as a fur-trading post. Today, Vancouver is home to about 183,000 residents. However, the greater Vancouver metro area has over 2,479,000 residents. Located on the Columbia River at the Washington/Oregon border, Vancouver has easy access to both wild, lush forests and hip urban excitement.
A few fun Vancouver facts:
- The city’s roots in agriculture run deep. Vancouver is home to the oldest apple tree in the state – some say in the west!
- Clark County was once known as the prune capital of the world.
- Home to a plethora of microbreweries and thrift shops, Vancouver was dubbed the “hippest” city in America by MoveHub.
- If you spot Bigfoot, leave him be. It’s illegal to harass Sasquatch within city limits.
- Are you planning to enter the city with criminal intent? Be sure to stop and call the Chief of Police before you enter the town. It’s the law.
Pros and Cons of Living in Vancouver
- Adventure awaits! With its proximity to the beach, mountains, river, city, and hiking trails, Vancouver is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with something to do every day of the year.
- Enjoy laidback small-town perks with big city proximity.
- There is no state income tax.
- Housing costs are significantly lower than in Portland.
- As an up-and-coming town, there’s a fun and trendy vibe.
- Over 30 microbreweries – there’s sure to be a beer for you!
- Vancouver hosts a Washington State University campus.
- Winters tend to be gray and rainy.
- Sales tax is 8.4%.
- Traffic to Portland can be frustrating.
- There’s an increasing homeless population.
- The cost of renting a home is above average.
- Property Tax: Coming in a bit below the national average, the property tax rate in Vancouver is 1.183%. With a median home price of $324,000, you can expect to pay just under $4,000 yearly.
- Sales Tax: Sales tax within the city of Vancouver is 8.4%.
- State Income Tax: The state of Washington has no income tax.
Vancouver’s proximity to Portland and its ever-increasing amenities have caused a strong upward trend in housing prices. The median home value is $326,000, but the median list price, as of October 2019, is $384,500. Real estate values rose 4.0 % in the past year and are expected to continue at a slightly slower rate of 2.8% in 2020. Homes considered “hot sales” have been known to sell for 1% above list price and in as few as six days.
Rentals make up 40% of Vancouver housing. With an average monthly rental price of $1,850, you’ll save around $100 per month over renting in the Portland Metro area. If you’re looking for affordability, check out the Ogden neighborhood.
Cost of Living
Based on the US cost of living index of 100, Vancouver has a cost of living of 114.3. Expenses that are higher than the US average include Grocery at 101.2, Housing at 137.2, and Transportation at 124.9. You’ll find Health at 88.6 and Utilities at 74.5 less expensive than the national average.
The median household income is $50,379, about $3000 less than the national average, but the median home cost is over $85,000 more than the US average. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, a family of four needs to bring in just under $90,000 annually to live comfortably in Vancouver.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Enjoy singing in the rain? Then Vancouver might be just the place for you. The winter months tend to be gray, overcast, and wet. What some call cold and dreary, others applaud as a means to an end to keep Vancouver lush and green.
The coldest months are December and January, with average high temps of 47 and lows hovering just above freezing. In July and August, you’ll switch your song to, “Here Comes the Sun!” Each month only averages one day of rain with temperate highs in the 80s.
Each month typically logs 15+ days of rainfall, contributing to the overall yearly average of 42”. If you want to blend in, leave your umbrella by the door. Locals ditch their umbrellas and endure the rain gracefully, using their hoodie only during the worst of downpours. Because of the temperate climate, very little snow touches the ground in Vancouver, with a possible span of a decade or more between major snow events of one foot or more.
Not many cities in the US can boast a disappearing mountain, but residents in Vancouver are well aware of Mother Nature’s power. In 1980, Mount St. Helens blew her top in a massive volcanic eruption, which has been followed by other much smaller eruptions. Besides volcanic activity, Vancouver experiences floods, forest fires, ice storms, and even an occasional hurricane. Be sure to bookmark Vancouver’s Disaster Preparedness website so that you can access it easily. While you’re in the process of settling in Vancouver, it’s a good idea to make sure you have the necessary supplies and knowledge to keep your family safe, especially in a new town.
Economy and Job Market
The unemployment rate in Vancouver is 4.9%, just 1% higher than the US average. With income per capita about $2,000 lower than the US average and the median household income at over $3,000 lower than the US average, the job market in Vancouver is fairly weak. Even though the job market in 2018-19 was sluggish at 0.9%, the projection is for 38.8% job growth over the next ten years. This rate is an optimistic number compared to the US average ten-year job growth projection of 33.5%
Because the job market is much stronger in Portland, new Vancouver residents need to choose whether they want to work in Washington or commute across the river to Portland. With no WA income tax, you could be money ahead to work in Vancouver. Being a small town has its limitations, though, and Vancouver is no exception. As 34% of the residents have discovered, many more job opportunities exist if you’re willing to bear the daily commute to Portland.
If you’re looking to work locally, healthcare, local government, retail, and manufacturing are the area’s top industries. A primary Vancouver employer is SouthWest Washington Medical Center. Although most positions are medical, they also employ janitorial staff, food service, and other blue-collar jobs. The local school districts and city and state government positions offer competitive pay, consistent employment, and excellent benefits. Safeway and Fred Meyer also have high employment numbers and excellent benefits packages.
To find work in Vancouver, the usual sites like Indeed and Zip Recruiter feature job opportunities. If you want to work with a Vancouver company, check out The Columbian. Locally owned, the Columbian is a great resource for employment specific to Clark County.
For residents who prefer to commute across the Columbia, Schnitzer Steel, Columbia Sportswear, and Intel are considered the top three Portland employers.
Traffic and Transportation
Getting around in Vancouver is relatively easy. C-TRAN is a great public transportation option that offers 27 routes around Vancouver and into Portland. Driving is pretty easy too, as traffic isn’t terrible and there’s ample parking. If you prefer to self-propel, riding your bike and walking are both good options. Vancouver has a walkability score of 41 and a bike score of 59.
The major throughways through town are I-5 and I-205 north-south. Hwy 14 parallels the Columbia River from I-5 toward eastern Washington.
If you’re hoping to commute to Portland, you’ll want to plan ahead and find some good listening material. Since 2017, the number of commuters has increased by over 300%, and more than 80,000 cars cross the Columbia daily. Congestion and occasional gridlock cause frustration and stress.
What To Do
Vancouver offers a great diversity of things to do, whether you have an hour, an afternoon, or a weekend. The history, beckoning outdoors, sporting events, and trendy shops are only a small part of all that Vancouver has to offer. Although Vancouver can’t compare to Seattle or Portland, it certainly rivals big cities in opportunity.
- History Buff? Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, the Clark County Historical Museum, and Mount St. Helens offer a variety of opportunities to dig into Vancouver’s past.
- Outdoor Enthusiast? Vancouver is your outdoor mecca. Beach bums can easily head to the coast for a day of sand and sea. Snow bunnies head to the slopes for a day or a weekend of frozen fun. Hiking and biking trails like Silver Star Mountain invite you outdoors to get your legs and heart pumping. A plethora of boating, fishing, and windsurfing is available for water lovers.
- Golf anyone? There are golf courses galore – what a way to spend a sunny day!
- Hipster? With over 30 microbreweries, you’ll be sure to enjoy the craft beer cornucopia. Also, consider taking a stroll through town to check out the 20+ hand-painted murals.
- Pet Lover? Bring your dog to one of the pet-friendly bars – just don’t let him slobber in your beer.
- Trendsetter? Head to Uptown Village and hang out at the trendy, unique shops and eateries. Or walk along the beautiful Vancouver Land Bridge for a beautiful sunset.
- Family-Friendly? Esther Short Park is beautiful and provides ample room for the kids to run. The connected Waterfront Renaissance Trail is complete with shops, river, and restaurants.
- Sports Enthusiast? Vancouver’s semi-pro teams keep residents in sports activities year-round. From Roller Derby (Storm City Roller Girls) to soccer (Washington Timbers First Team) to rugby (Clark County Chiefs) to football (PNW Cavaliers), you can always find a sporting event. Want to get in shape? Check out the YMCA.
No matter your lifestyle, Vancouver has something for everyone. Whether you’re a rugged outdoorsman, a college student, or a retired professional, you’re sure to find plenty of activities to fill your days.
Schools and Universities
The Vancouver Public Schools serve West Vancouver, and The Evergreen School District serves east Vancouver. Greatschools.org rates the majority of Vancouver schools in the average and above-average ranges. Fishers Landing Elementary School is the top-rated school at 9/10, and Alki Middle School rates 8/10.
If you’ll be looking for higher education, Vancouver has options that range from trade schools to a university. Washington State University Vancouver is a respected public research institution. Clark Community College and Gateway Seminary are additional options.
Vancouver reports a violent crime rate of 21.6, a bit under the national average of 22.7. However, the property crime rate is 46.6 compared to the US average of 35.4. The areas of highest crime include NW Lower River Rd/NW Old Lower River Rd and McLoughlin. The safest neighborhoods are Felida and Village at Fisher’s Landing.
- Gas Service: Northwest Natural Gas provides natural gas for Vancouver residents. To get started, follow their steps online.
- Electric Service: To start your electric service, you can sign up with Clark Public Utilities using their online web form service application.
- Water Service: To apply for residential service, fill out this form with The City of Vancouver Water Works, and someone will get back with you.
- Trash Pick-up/Recycling: Waste Connections will handle all of your weekly trash needs, including recycling.
- Internet/Cable Service: The easiest way to find the best service and pricing is to go to highspeedinternet.com. Enter your zip code, and they’ll list providers for your new neighborhood.
Best Neighborhoods in Vancouver, WA
The 61 neighborhoods in Vancouver, Washington, are as varied as the people who live in them. Whether you want to be close to amenities so you can walk everywhere or you want to be surrounded by trees, there’s a neighborhood that you’ll love to call home. We’ve listed six of the best.
Rated “A” for families and low crime rates, Felida is a prime Vancouver neighborhood. It’s located seven miles northwest of downtown and bordered by Vancouver Lake to the west, I-205 to the east, NW Bliss to the north, and NW 99th on the south.
With its distance from downtown, Felida has a rural feel. The median home value is $473,300, although if you’re looking for luxury, you can find $2 million estates. Of the 8000+ residents, 91% are homeowners. Homes in Felida tend to be larger, with a majority being 4-6 bedrooms.
Felida is an up-and-coming hot spot for locally sourced food and drinks. If you love the farm to table trend, this is your neighborhood. When it’s time for a bite, you might try Farrar’s Bistro or Mt. Tabor Brewing. You can pick up a few necessities at the little neighborhood stores, but you’ll have to head closer to town for major grocery shopping.
An educated neighborhood, over 70% of the adult residents in Felida attended college, which is significantly higher than the national average. The median household income is $115,000, over twice the national average.
Students are served by Felida Elementary School 7/10, Lake Shore Elementary School 5/10, Dwight D Eisenhower Elementary School 6/10, and Columbia River High School 6/10.
From young professionals to retirees, the 8000+ residents of Mount Vista enjoy above-average schools and low crime rates. The northernmost boundary of Mount Vista is NE 179th. To the south, the neighborhood extends to NE 149th, and to the west it follows the War Memorial Freeway and goes east to NE 72nd. Downtown is about seven miles south of Mount Vista.
Considered pet-friendly, residents feel their community is safe and friendly. Although primarily homeowners, one-third of the population rent their homes. The median home value is just above $425,000, and the median rental requires $2000+ per month. Homes range from townhomes, new builds, and vintage houses on large properties.
Mount Vista is very quiet and peaceful, primarily because of the majority of retired folks who live in the community. But the suburban feel and well-maintained homes also make this a popular neighborhood for families.
Mount Vista offers just about everything you need to run errands within the neighborhood. Featuring full-sized grocery stores, including Albertsons, Starbucks, yoga studios, ample restaurants, and doctor offices, everything is here for your convenience.
Students attend Salmon Creek Elementary School 5/10, Pleasant Valley Middle School 6/10, and Skyview High School 7/10.
Whether you’re looking for an apartment or single-family housing, Cascade Highlands has a home for you. The neighborhood of 3500 residents abutts Mill Plain Road on the north, SE Park Crest Avenue on the west, SE 164th on the east, and SE McGillivray Blvd on the south. Cascade Highlands sits about five miles east of downtown.
Homes have a median home value of $348,000, and rent is about $1900 per month. Depending on where you find your home, you could have a view of Mt. St. Helens or Mount Hood from your living room window.
Homestead Neighborhood Park is a popular gathering place for families who enjoy the walking paths, a playground, and barbecues. Cascade Highlands has easy access to grocery stores, restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and public transportation.
Students in Cascade Highlands attend Fircrest Elementary School 5/10, HeLa High School 5/10, or Mountain View High School 7/10
Fisher’s Creek is sprinkled with varied architecture, which makes it very appealing to its 5500 residents. Located about 20 minutes east of the heart of Vancouver, the neighborhood is bound by SE 34th on the north; WE 175th on the west; the Lewis and Clark Highway, AKA Hwy 14 on the south; and SE 198th Avenue to the east. Even farther east than Cascade Highlands, Fisher’s Creek is about a 20-minute drive from downtown.
The median list price is $405,000, and a rental will run approximately $2,000. Homes were built along circles, loops, and cul-de-sacs, adding to the privacy of the neighborhood. The 1.9-acre Fisher’s Creek Park forms the center of the community with a playground and spots to set up your picnic. Beautiful mature trees and timberline views are a feature of the neighborhood.
Fisher’s Creek students attend Mill Plain Elementary School 6/10, Fishers Landing Elementary School 9/10, and Mountain View High School 7/10.
Bella Vista’s claim to fame is the laid back lifestyle that the majority of the nearly 5,000 residents hold dear. Just southeast of downtown, the borders run along SE McGillivray to the north, SE 146th to the east, SE Cascade Park Drive on the south, and SE Talton Ave on the west. Residents have easy access to public transportation.
The median sales price is $414,000, and the monthly rent is $1,800. Although it’s close to downtown, the mature trees, wildlife, and birds give the neighborhood an almost rural feel. Even with the sense of nature at your front door, the streets are well-lit, residents enjoy the planned bike paths, and there’s a strong sense of community. The active homeowners association rallied for larger lots, so each property is significantly larger than others in the city.
Students attend Endeavour Elementary School 6/10, and Vancouver School of Arts and Academics 7/10.
Village at Fisher’s Landing
This neighborhood, located about ten miles southeast of downtown Vancouver, borders the Lewis and Clark Highway to the south, SE 34th to the north, SE 164th Avenue to the west, and SE 44th Loop to the east.
A higher-priced community, with a median home sales price of $525,000 and rent $2,000 per month, Village at Fisher’s Landing offers its 2500 residents a variety of home types. Apartments, townhomes, and single-family homes are available to rent or purchase.
The neighborhood is known for its low crime and ample amenities, and the Portland airport is conveniently located by driving a mile or so west to the I-205 bridge, then a few more miles west to the airport.
Village at Fisher’s Landing students attend Mill Plain Elementary School 6/10, Shahala Middle School 6/10, and Mountain View High School 7/10.
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