Taking the region’s pulse: Vital Signs 2012

Social housing, daycare spots still in critical shortage in Greater Victoria

The Victoria Foundation released its annual report card on Tuesday, highlighting a greater need for social housing and daycare in the Capital Region, as well as inflated wait times for children needing surgery.

The Vital Signs report provides a sweeping overview of the Capital Region’s economy, environmental health, arts, safety, transportation and seven other indicators.

It combines a range of provincial and national statistics with citizen perception to highlight community successes and shortcomings.

“There are tremendous drives being made in homelessness (and) there’s an increase in daycare spaces,” said foundation executive director Sandra Richardson.

Although 300 more daycare spots were added in Greater Victoria last year, it’s still not nearly enough to meet demand, Richardson said.

“With 19,000 children needing daycare and just over 5,000 daycare spaces … it’s still perceived as not enough,” she said.

Another red flag is the province’s social housing waitlist.

The number of people in Greater Victoria in line for subsidized housing increased by 15 per cent in the past year to 1,681.

“It’s a reflection of the increase in rent. We still have very high rents for a community with our income level,” said Andrew Wynn-Williams, executive director of the Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness.

But there has been success tackling both homelessness and low-income housing in recent years, he said. Last year, 152 new units were completed and another five projects are planned throughout the Capital Region.

“Right now, the objective is to just get more built.”

Richardson hopes the report will create public awareness of the need to support non-profit services accessed by the region’s most vulnerable citizens. “If the public is aware of that, it perhaps causes them to be more mindful of places like the food bank and what they can do to give back,” she said. “Not everybody has the same opportunities.”

The Capital Region bodes better than the average Canadian city in both median family income ($77,000) and unemployment (5.3 per cent).

Other indicators include the Canadian Creativity Index, which ranks cities based on technology, talent and tolerance for creative industries.

Victoria ranks second, alongside Vancouver, as one of the best places in the country for creative industries. Toronto ranks seventh while Ottawa takes top spot.

Greater Victoria still lags in entrepreneurs, however, sitting 71st out of 100 Canadian cities on an index that measures the presence, growth and policy environment for small business ownership.

To view the report, visit victoriafoundation.com.

dpalmer@vicnews.com