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Victoria is the most expensive place to live in B.C., according to living wage report

For the first time since the living wage has been calculated in British Columbia, Victoria has outpaced Vancouver as the province’s most expensive city.

The annual report published by the Living Wage for Families Campaign, a non-profit organization advocating for policies that help families make ends meet, found that two parents in Metro Vancouver would each have to earn at least $24.02 an hour at a full-time job — or $43,826 annually — in order to meet the most basic costs of raising two children. 

In Victoria, the living wage for 2022 is $24.29, according to the report published in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The living wage in both cities rose by nearly $4 an hour since last year and far outpaces B.C.’s minimum wage of $15.65.

According to the report, living wages are rising faster than the rate of inflation, which has reached levels not seen in nearly four decades.

The campaign says the increase in the living wage is being driven by the cost of food and housing.

“Which incidentally are the two biggest essentials in a family’s budget,” said Anastasia French, provincial manager for Living Wage for Families B.C. “They’re the two things that you can’t really cut back on.”

Grocery bills drive costs

The report estimates the monthly grocery bill of a family living in Metro Vancouver has risen an average of $161 to $1,114, nearly 17 per cent more than last year.

Groceries have become even more expensive on Vancouver Island and in northern B.C., says French.

“It costs more to get food over to the island, which is why their living wages are now slightly higher than that of Vancouver,” French said.

The report estimates the monthly grocery bill of a family living in Metro Vancouver has gone up an average of $161 to $1,114, an increase of 17 per cent. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Food is now the second-highest cost for families in most communities, surpassing child care.

“That’s because of some of the large investments that have been put in for child care, which are fantastic,” said French.

Housing costs jump 17%

Housing costs also jumped by nearly 17 per cent, in part because the report now includes the costs of renters who have recently moved.

The cost of renting a three-bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver is estimated at $2,186.

Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says that estimate is conservative, as is the entire calculation for the living wage, which is based on the cost of essentials like food, rent, child care and transportation once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been taken into account.

“It’s still a budget that leaves a lot of extras that many of us take for granted,” she explained. “It doesn’t include the cost of caring for a sick or disabled family member or an elderly family member.”

The living wage does not include expenses like debt repayments, interest payments, entertainment, leisure and unpaid vacations. It also does not include the cost of saving for a home, retirement or sending a child to university.

French suggests the province could help rein in the living wage with stronger rent controls.

“What we want is government to make sure that rent control isn’t tied to the tenant, but actually tied to the unit,” French said. “So just because someone moves out doesn’t mean that you can then put the rent up by 10 to 20 per cent like we’ve seen in the past.”

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