The South Okanagan looks pretty good in the latest Vital Signs report, with lots of “A” and “B” grades in categories ranging from arts and culture to safety and the environment.
But when it comes to housing, employment or the income gap between poor and wealthy community members, the region gets a solid “D+.”
This is the third vital signs report produced by the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan gauging how citizens feel about their community, juxtaposed with statistics.
Aaron McRann, the CFSO’s executive director, said the reach of the report gets better with each year.
“There are over 1,500 responses. That’s double what we have had in the past, so that is a significant difference,” said McRann. More community feedback means the report is more helpful in emphasizing areas of need.
“We continue to have issues in the area of housing and the employment environment in our region, which is probably not a surprise,” said McRann. The grades given in the report are intended to give a sense of public opinion on a specific issue.
That public opinion is combined with statistical research to give a better analysis, like in housing, where both sides suggest housing is a difficult challenge, with low vacancy rates, high cost of home ownership and a low number of affordable housing units in each community.
There is also a critical shortage of emergency shelter options in the region for youth under 18 years of age.
Along with the stats, Vital Signs offers some insight into how CFSO and other groups are addressing the problem and, new this year, suggestions of three things community members can do to help. In this case, that includes helping a neighbour to make repairs, creating an affordable rental suite in your home, or volunteering to help build low income housing.
“What we are trying to suggest to citizens is they pick an issue that is a passion for them and encourage them to do something — maybe it is big, maybe it is small — that will move the needle on these areas,” said McRann. “If we can encourage the community to come together and do a little bit, I think that can make a very large difference.”
Motivating and encouraging people to engage and contribute is one of the roles of the Vital Signs report.
“These problems are large problems that can’t be solved by any one group. It takes a community to solve those things,” said McRann. “The Community Foundation is not going to solve it, politicians aren’t going to solve it. It is going to require everyone to do something.”
Copies of the report are available from the CFSO through their website at www.cfso.net.