SIMON NATTRASS: Families unable to make ends meet

Guess what? We’re still poor.

Guess what? We’re still poor.

Two weeks ago, local researchers at the Community Social Planning Council pegged this year’s living wage at $18.73 per hour, up from $18.07 last year.

The living wage calculation is an estimate of how much each parent in a family of four would have to make in order to live in The Capital without having to choose between paying the bills and buying groceries. $18.73/hr means a combined family income of almost $70,000 per year, a point that half of the region’s two parent families and few of the region’s single parent families have managed to reach.

As usual, the main cause for this year’s increase is the region’s ever-climbing housing prices. While it’s no surprise that families unable to afford a new luxury condo are stuck competing for The Capital’s dwindling rental stock, it’s always useful to remind ourselves who occupies all those new gleaming towers.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this news, either. For the past seven years, the CSPC has announced increases to the region’s living wage far outstripping the rate of inflation. In fact, the cost of living in The City of Gardens has increased by almost 20 per cent since 2006, and while each year’s report offers a plethora of options for officials and employers to help alleviate this stress, the numbers seem destined only to rise.

“I think it comes down to political will and the priorities that our decision makers have,” explained researcher Marika Albert when I asked how families all across BC had found themselves unable to make ends meet year after year.

While results may be forever on the horizon, there seems to be no shortage of promises from our region’s political class. According to the CSPC, the second biggest cost to families is childcare, accounting for a staggering 21.5 per cent of monthly expenses. In 2008, I listened to a parade of local pols declare a new era of affordable childcare, a prediction that has since been repeated both by “Families First” BC Liberals and the NDP opposition at least once every few months.

Every year, the Community Social Planning Council reminds those who would represent us in government that the people who make this city function increasingly cannot afford to live in it. Perhaps this year someone will listen. M

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