Black Press contributor
Victorians love the festival culture of the city, but are concerned about the affordability of rental housing and home ownership.
Those are some of the findings of the annual Vital Signs survey, conducted by the Victoria Foundation, a community foundation and charity that helps connect donors with charities and manages donations to create income-earning funds, which are then distributed to charities.
The foundation’s 11th annual checkup of the community was released Tuesday morning and shows a high level of community satisfaction in Victoria, although some areas of concern are also identified, as are suggestions for improvement.
The report is the end product of an extensive online survey, in which more than 1,300 Victoria residents were asked questions about a diverse set of topics, including housing, quality of life, happiness and connection to the community.
Residents took the time to offer more than 10,000 comments on the variety of issues.
The comments and ratings were then complied to assign an old fashioned grade score in each category.
So how did Victoria do?
The city got its best marks for arts and culture where residents acknowledged the vibrant arts and culture community and the diversity of artistic offerings it provides.
They noted the strong festival scene and the variety of high-quality organizations fostering the arts in Victoria. There was a feeling expressed, however, that the city needed to increase funding in support of arts.
In the area of environment and sustainability, the city saw its rating drop to a B- with the need to address sewage treatment topping the list of suggestions for improvement.
Another area of review, belonging and engagement, received a B- with calls for increased opportunities to get involved in the community and the need to increase the involvement of marginalized groups.
Transportation earned a low mark for the second year in a row, receiving a C+.
While cycling opportunities were acknowledged as was a good transit system, there was an overwhelming feeling that investment in light rail/rapid transit was needed.
As well, residents called for a higher level of regional coordination of new transportation and infrastructure projects and questioned the affordability of existing transit service.
The lowest marks were assigned when it came to housing.
Residents called for improvements in affordable housing and home ownership. There was also a call for alternative housing options such as co-op housing.
Homelessness was an issue within the category and it was noted that 30 per cent of those experiencing homelessness in the region have an indigenous background.
Other areas receiving grade points were the economy, getting started in Victoria, health and wellness, learning, safety, sports and recreation, and standard of living. Of the dozen graded areas, the report showed eight remaining constant and four declining slightly. Overall, the quality of life was awarded a B+.
The report goes beyond the simple assignment of grades to discuss a variety of issues such as a sense of belonging for community residents. It cites the 2014 Victoria Capital Region Community Wellbeing Survey that indicated 3.1 per cent of the population feels a very weak sense of belonging.
At the other end of that spectrum, 13.5 per cent show a very strong sense that they belong, with the strongest sense of belonging reported by people over 65 years of age. The least sense of belonging came from those under 35.
The report also details issues of belonging, citing challenges faced by new immigrants, First Nations people, youth and seniors, and providing profiles of each group while raising specific concerns they have expressed.
Full information on the report, as well as the results of past years report cards can be found at victoriafoundation.bc.ca/vital-signs/Victoria.