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Vancouver dad on raising 5 free-range kids in city apartment

Adrian Crook lives with his five kids in a condo in downtown Vancouver. When he separated from his wife, he left the suburbs – bucking the pressure in North America that kids need a house and a backyard – and rented a 29th-floor penthouse in the very dense Yaletown district.

To maximize the two bedroom space, Crook uses transforming furniture. A murphy bed slash desk turns his bedroom into a home office (he’s a videogame designer). The bottom half of his girls’ bunk bed transforms into a table and desk. A carpenter friend turned two IKEA bunk beds into a triple bunk for his three boys.

Crook grew up in the suburbs, but became hooked on the vibrancy of city living as an adult. He gave up his car and he and the kids rely on bikes, public transit and their feet. Crook estimates they walk about 10 kilometers per day just going to and from school and activities.

He taught his kids to ride the bus alone, but – despite praise from fellow riders (one wrote Crook “praising the kids’ skills and behaviour”)- after an anonymous complaint from a concerned citizen, the British Columbia government weighed in and determined that kids under 10 can’t be alone (neither on the bus nor at home). Some Canadian media are calling it a debate between “helicopter” and “free-range” parenting or a battle against the “nanny state”. Crook has launched a legal battle.

Crook is also running for Vancouver city council and has founded two non-profits to advocate for both better transit and more housing choices (denser zoning options in Metro Vancouver).