The Nanaimo Foundation and partners have checked the community’s Vital Signs and find that statistics back up concerns around poverty, crime and housing affordability.
The foundation released its 2019 Nanaimo Vital Signs report Thursday, holding a publication release event at the Port Theatre lobby.
The report presents snapshot information about Nanaimo on a wide range of measurables, using 228 source documents, the foundation says. Vital Signs looks at population growth, census data, crime stats, employment and unemployment, health data, grad rates, university enrolment, housing costs, the homeless count, household water use and waste, transportation trends, and more.
“This gives us two data touch points in each six-year national census cycle,” said George Hanson, Nanaimo Foundation chairman. “We felt that doing a report every year, the data doesn’t change enough to warrant that kind of investment and activity, but every three years it gives us the ability to track change in sequence to the national census.”
Mayor Leonard Krog said an area of concern he noted in reviewing the report was that low-income rates for seniors were rising. Vital Signs reported 1,430 more seniors living in poverty in 2017 than in 2012.
“What that tells me is that senior Canadians in this community are seeing their incomes frozen but their expenses rising,” Krog said.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were 600 fewer children and youth living in poverty. Overall, Nanaimo’s low-income rate was 17.3 per cent, higher than in four comparison cities, Kamloops, 15.2 per cent, Kelowna, 15.0, Prince George, 15.5 and Victoria 14.0.
Nanaimo also showed a more acute housing crisis than those same comparison communities. The report noted that 47.4 per cent of renters in Nanaimo spend 30 per cent of their before-tax income on housing. However, that percentage was down from 48.2 per cent in 2006.
The 2018 homeless count identified 335 individuals, though City of Nanaimo staff estimate that number as closer to 600. As of earlier this year, the community had 103 emergency shelter beds and a social housing wait list of 444 applicant households.
Signy Madden, executive director of the United Way Central and Northern Vancouver Island, said her organization has 23,000 donors who are interested in this sort of data. She said “there is no way you can solve a lot of these issues in isolation” and said she’s grateful for the partnerships that exist considering the “significant work” that needs to be done.
“This group of data from Vital Signs is what drives the conversations that we’re going to come together and move the dial on…” Madden said. “Data drives so much of the asks and the logic that we have to go to other governments to get increased funding.”
Nanaimo’s crime rates was up 13.9 per cent from 2013-2018, with vehicle thefts up 28 per cent and juvenile violent crime up 21.5 per cent.
The population of the Nanaimo census area in 2016 was 104,936, with 8,265 aboriginal residents and 9,280 other visible minority residents.
Family median income was $80,390 in 2017, up 15.9 per cent over a five-year period. The top five employers as listed by the Vital Signs report are Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, 2,206, Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, 1,800, Woodgrove Centre, 1,550, Vancouver Island University, 1,030, and then B.C. Ferries, 701.
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According to the Nanaimo Foundation's Vital Signs report, Nanaimo's top 10 employers:
1. NRGH (2,206)
2. SD68 (1,800)
3. Woodgrove (1,550)
4. VIU (1,030)
5. B.C. Ferries (701)
6. City of Nanaimo (639)
7. Shaw (600)
8. CCCU (600)
9. Harmac (340)
10. Costco (332) pic.twitter.com/83oBBNmeQ1
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) November 8, 2019
Krog said he appreciates the Vital Signs report because so much of what he is told is opinion, with bias behind it, and it’s “so important” to have factual information.
“I can’t emphasize enough … how important it is in guiding what we do, what we think about and most importantly, what we give priority to in the decisions that we make,” he said.