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BEYOND THE HEADLINES: A call to arms
The report is titled Vital Signs but it could also be easily referred to as Reality Check.
The Community Foundation of the North Okanagan has taken the pulse of Greater Vernon, and while there are a lot of good things going on, it’s obvious that not all is well on the home front.
Not surprisingly, the issue of affordable housing got an extremely low grade based on statistics from a variety of agencies.
Twenty-eight per cent of Vernon households spend 30 per cent or more of their total income on shelter while it soars to 52.8 per cent for those who rent. The average monthly shelter cost for owner households is $1,053, while $905 on average is spent on rent.
The median single-family house price in 2012 was $332,500, and while that is down 12 per cent from 2008, purchasing a home is still a dream many families simply can’t achieve.
And for anyone who is unemployed or under-employed, they won’t be shocked to learn that the report gave the topic of work two-and-a-half marks out of four.
“In Vernon, it’s hard to afford housing and food on minimum wage,” stated one of the survey respondents.
“Jobs that will encourage young families to move here,” added another.
The median employment income in Vernon is $47,354 for those working year-round, full-time, while 25 per cent are in the sales/service sector and 15 per cent of the workforce are in trades-related occupations. As many of you will know personally, both sales/service and trades have been rocked during the recession.
Twenty-five per cent of the workforce is part-time, and while some of that may be through personal choice, for others, it’s all they can find.
There was also an interesting focus on the gap between rich and poor, which the report says, “affects health, crime, housing and prosperity which impact us all.”
Fifteen per cent of households in 2010 were considered low-income with an after-tax income below $38,920 (19 per cent of children and 13 per cent of the elderly also live in low-income households).
According to the report, a so-called living wage is $17 to $18 an hour so a family of four with two parents working full-time can pay for necessities, support the healthy development of their children, be active in their community and escape financial stress. Minimum wage is $10.25.
The median 2010 after-tax family income in Vernon was $62,208, while it was $24,644 for a person living alone.
“The daily battles people in poverty face in regards to childcare, education and housing costs are very prominent in Vernon,” said one of the survey respondents.
The Community Foundation has been thorough in pulling together information and painting a picture of life in Greater Vernon — the good and the often very challenging.
But during the official launch, no elected officials were present and the only media was from this publication. That’s unfortunate as resolving these critical social issues must be a team effort.
Vital Signs is a call to arms to do better, to ensure that everyone feels like they are a contributing member of the community.
It is time for all levels of government, employers, labour unions, social agencies, service clubs, educational institutions and rank-and-file residents to do their part.
Let’s aim for top marks across the board in the next report.