The hourly wage it takes to live in Nelson has gone up nearly six per cent since 2019.
Parents need to each earn $19.56 per hour for at least 35 hours every week in order to support a family of four, according to a report published Tuesday, Nov. 2, by Living Wage for Families BC and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
That wage is up from $18.46 per hour in 2019. B.C.’s minimum hourly wage is $15.20.
Anastasia French, lead organizer with Living Wage for Families and a co-author of the report, said a rise in the demand for housing across the province has impacted the cost of living in Nelson, especially for people trying to move to the city from other parts of B.C.
“Over the past four to five years, the cost for people looking today has just shot up, whereas rent control and other measures have kept it kind of static for those people who have been there 10 years,” said French.
The report comes after July’s Together Nelson plan found over 2,100 people, or 19 per cent of the population, are living below the poverty line. The national average is 10.1 per cent, while B.C.’s average is 8.9.
The 13th annual Report Card on Homelessness, released in June, showed a 0.5 per cent overall vacancy rate in Nelson’s rental market.
The Living Wage report wasn’t published in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. French said a new methodology that reflects the importance of phone and internet usage to families during the pandemic, as well as the costs of those services, has been included in the report.
“I think we’ve understood that people need a data package with their cell phones, which I think two, three years ago, that wasn’t as much of a necessity, whereas now it’s a necessity in society and is recognized by the federal government.”
The living wage is calculated to cover basic expenses after taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies are included.
Expenses, as defined by the report, include parents’ ability to “feed, clothe and provide shelter for their family, ensure healthy child development, participate in activities that are an ordinary element of life in a community, and avoid the chronic stress of living in poverty.”
The wage, which French describes as a conservative estimate, does include an allowance for community activities such as going to the swimming pool or theatre.
“I think we’re allowing a bit of activity to function in society, but it’s certainly not international holidays, for example, or anything too big or grand. It’s just what people need to be able to get by slightly.”
Nelson was one of 14 communities included in the report.
The highest wage required by a city was Metro Vancouver at $20.52, followed by Greater Victoria ($20.46) and Nelson. The biggest increases in wages were in Columbia Valley, which went up 7.91 per cent to $17.18, and the Fraser Valley, which rose 7.79 per cent to $16.75.
Trail ($18.15) and Grand Forks ($17.21) also made the list.
B.C. has the highest minimum wage of any province in Canada, a fact touted by Premier John Horgan when it was raised to $15.20 on June 1.
The provincial Fair Wages Commission is studying how to close the gap between minimum and living wages, but French said that report is at least a year overdue.
Her own findings, meanwhile, show the minimum wage isn’t nearly enough for families trying to get by in Nelson and elsewhere in B.C.
“It definitely should be higher, and we would welcome it to be higher.”