Cost of living weighs heavily on Greater Victoria residents

Housing, homelessness and health care also remain as strong concerns, suggests Vital Signs report

The Capital Region’s annual check-up shows residents are most worried about the cost of living, while the great outdoors tops the best part of living on southern Vancouver Island.

The eighth annual Vital Signs, produced by the Victoria Foundation, is a comprehensive research and survey report on 12 key areas and emerging needs in Greater Victoria.

Nearly half of the 1,200 residents who completed this year’s online survey ranked the cost of living as the most pressing issue, while 20 per cent of respondents believe mental illness is a growing challenge.

Housing, homelessness and health care also remain strong concerns.

“We’re noticing with the grant applications that are coming in, mental illness is a big concern,” said Sandra Richardson, Victoria Foundation chief executive officer.

“When we first started Vital Signs, the issue of the day was homelessness. And that became an indication for us that if you’re going to produce a report like this, you have to be engaged with the community to do something about with proactive grants.”

The foundation distributed $10 million in grants last year to non-profit organizations locally and across Canada, while many other non-profits use Vital Signs to direct their own spending, Richardson said.

The Capital Region economy once again ranked poorly at C+, yet only 11 per cent of survey respondents said the economy is one of the most important challenges facing the region.

The Victoria Foundation has also produced the region’s first food strategy road map for Vancouver Island, a result of input from 43 non-profit organizations, Richardson said.

“This report has really become a catalyst for collaboration and change for the community,” she said. “We’re better together.”

Negative trends include a significant loss of urban tree cover, rising childcare costs and single-parent households rising to more than 15 per cent in Greater Victoria.

To view Vital Signs, visit victoriafoundation.bc.ca.

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Fun Facts:

• There are over 100 festivals every year in Greater Victoria, accounting for an estimated $177 million in spending in 2013

• Nearly half (47 per cent) of the region’s 78 municipal councillors are female

• Over 13 per cent of Capital Region residents are entrepreneurs

• There are 36 independent bookstores in Greater Victoria, including seven in Sidney