Rising housing costs are fuelling a jump in Greater Victoria’s cost of living and the region is becoming “simply unaffordable” for families raising children, says an annual report from the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria.
The council found that two parents would each need to earn a “living wage” of $20.50 an hour, working full time, to support a family of four, with children ages four and seven.
The living wage covers basic expenses, and is up from $20.01 an hour in 2017.
Basic expenses include food, clothing, transportation and child care.
“While it is more than a survival wage or minimum wage, it is not an affluent wage, and it is lower than what is needed to obtain much of what is considered normal in our community,” the report said.
The report’s estimated monthly living cost for its representative family is $6,062.89, with shelter (including phone, internet and insurance of contents) accounting for 31.6 per cent of the total.
Child care is listed at $1,267.50 or 20.9 per cent, followed by food at $900.37 or 14.9 per cent.
Median rent for a three-bedroom unit increased by four per cent or $65 a month from last year, the report found.
Planning council research manager Stefanie Hardman said the family expenses were calculated to reflect fundamental needs.
“It’s very bare bones,” she said. “It’s not at all extravagant. There’s no money for savings or being able to save to own a home or for vacation or anything like that.
“It’s just basically making ends meet.”
Citing Statistics Canada figures, the report said that about 27 per cent of two-parent, two-child families in Greater Victoria do not reach the living-wage threshold.
“That’s really demonstrating that people are living below these basic quality-of-life measures,” Hardman said.
The report acknowledged positive changes, such as a 50 per cent reduction of Medical Services Plan premiums and introduction of the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative — providing a savings of $900 per year.
“But even with that we’re still seeing an increase in the cost of living,” Hardman said.
She said the goal of the report is to bring about more change, such as an increase in the minimum wage and a willingness for people “to take the lead and become living-wage employers.”
Increasing the supply of affordable housing would also make a difference, Hardman said.
Pacifica Housing executive director Dean Fortin, whose organization provides affordable housing, said he pays close attention to the living-wage report.
“It is something both important to Pacifica Housing as an employer and something that’s important to us because of the impact on the clients or the residents we serve.”
Fortin said a living wage sends a message to employees “that you care about them and their families” and allows employers to keep good workers.
His organization is happy to help the situation with affordable housing, he said.
“That’s one of the ways that we, as a non-profit housing provider, and other non-profit housing providers can start to impact that living wage.”
LIVING WAGES IN B.C.
Here’s a sampling of 2018 living wages calculated for B.C. communities:
• Metro Vancouver — $20.91
• Greater Victoria — $20.50
• Revelstoke — $19.37
• Fraser Valley — $17.40
• Kamloops — $17.31
• Powell River — $17.15
• Parksville/Qualicum — $17.02
• Comox Valley — $16.59
• Prince George, Quesnel — $16.51