Abbotsford residents are big fans of the city’s fire and rescue service and think that housing affordability is a pressing issue.
They are also happy with their lot in life and trust their neighbours and businesses, even if many don’t have a strong sense of belonging in their community.
Those are some of the findings from the city’s first quality-of-life survey, results from which were released last week. The city will be conducting the survey each year to measure residents’ changing feelings.
Nearly 1,500 people took part in the survey last year, which asked for residents’ feelings about their life in Abbotsford, and the city’s programs and amenities.
Of those who responded, 85 per cent said they had at least a fair satisfaction with their quality of life, and more than two-thirds were optimistic about their future. Nearly four in five people said they had a strong sense of trust with neighbours and businesses; 45 per cent volunteered quarterly and more than half gave money to charity at least every few months.
The survey asked residents about how they felt about six areas of community-wide concern.
Eighty-seven per cent of respondents deemed housing affordability to be a serious issue. More than 80 per cent deemed homelessness to be a serious concern.
Gang violence, mental illness, illegal drugs and crime were all also deemed “serious” by a significant majority of respondents.
Respondents gave Abbotsford’s firefighters high marks, with 88 per cent approving the service’s performance. About 72 per cent of people were happy with the Abbotsford Police Department’s work, while 62 per cent said the City of Abbotsford was generally doing a good job delivering services.
Mayor Henry Braun said the survey sets an important baseline that will allow the city to figure out how it’s doing and how it can improve.
“We can see if we’re gaining, are we treading water, or are we falling behind?” he said.
Braun said he wasn’t surprised to see affordable housing considered such a serious issue, and said he is hoping to see more from the federal government to encourage more building of rental housing..
“I’m hoping we’ll see some programs come back that were very helpful in the ’70s and ’80s,” he said.
Although he was happy with the general positive tone of the survey results, he said they showed the city should look at what it can do to foster a deeper sense of community.
“When I see half of the people don’t have that strong sense of belonging, that’s a concern to me. There is an instance of where we, as a city, can do more to help people engage.”
Braun suggested the city look at creating more programs to encourage communities to hold small neighbourhood-scale events.
“I’d like to see a higher focus on adopt-a-street,” he said. “When you’re going out picking up garbage, people say, ‘What are you doing?’ ”
Just through that, people will start to make connections.
The city collected demographic information about length of residency, employee status and work location, and a press release asserted that although results were not weighted, the findings “fairly represent the population of Abbotsford.”
But it’s unclear how well the findings’ raw numbers reflect the broader Abbotsford community.
Broad demographic information – and breakdowns of each answer – were not released. The city told The News that a full version of all the survey results was not available.
Only demograhic information related to the age of respondents was released. It showed that people between the ages of 35 and 44 were over-sampled and seniors were under-represented.
The survey also did not ask questions that would allow the city to gauge whether the findings captured Abbotsford’s ethnic and linguistic diversity.