Locals have handed out a failing grade in Victoria’s Vital Signs report for the first time in its 17-year history, and insufficient housing is the recipient.
The Victoria Foundation’s annual report looked at 12 indicators about life on the south Island and was compiled using the more than 2,500 citizen responses to an online survey, along with other data sources. The central question guiding this year’s edition was ‘what does community mean to you?’
Residents got slightly happier with the community in 2021, giving overall quality of life in Greater Victoria a B+ compared to 2020’s B grade.
Housing and cost of living tied for respondents’ top issues facing Greater Victoria, with health care not far behind.
Seven in 10 respondents said the availability of home ownership options that would meet their needs is below average or poor, while 84 per cent said the same when it comes to affordable rentals.
The report found workers earning minimum wage would have to spend 43 per cent of their gross monthly income to rent a bachelor apartment in Greater Victoria last year – and those rents have jumped even higher in 2022. Those individuals would have to work 51 hours a week (again based on 2021 figures) just to keep their rental payment at 30 per cent of their income – a standard commonly used to determine “affordable housing.”
Finding suitable living arrangements in Greater Victoria also got harder in 2021 as, for all unit types, rent increased and the rental vacancy rate fell to one per cent. Single-family dwellings, townhomes and condos also saw prices shoot up in 2021, when the total number of local housing starts increased but the region saw a drop in completed units from 2020.
“This issue area is one we really need to focus on in our community and it’s really drawn attention from those in the community that took part in the survey,” Sandra Richardson, CEO of Victoria Foundation, said at a Tuesday launch event for the report.
“It means that we have to work as a community to find a path forward and this really is a community that likes to get together and solve complex problems.”
At $20.46 an hour, Greater Victoria has the second-highest living wage in the province, with only Vancouver residents needing to earn more to maintain an adequate quality of life.
During a panel discussion at the launch, Emilie de Rosenroll, CEO of the South Island Prosperity Partnership, said housing was already the local private sector’s number-one issue in terms of recruiting and attracting workers before the pandemic. The market has only gotten more expensive since, she added.
The 2022 Vital Signs’ 12 focus areas include arts and culture, belonging and engagement, economy, sports and recreation, getting started, health and wellness, housing, learning, safety, environmental sustainability, standard of living and transportation.