Homelessness tops the list of issues facing Abbotsford today, followed by affordable housing and crime, according to participants in the 2019 online Vital Signs survey.
In contrast, when participants were asked about the best things about living in Abbotsford, they listed friends and family and natural environment as their top two choices, followed by climate and parks/green spaces tied for third.
The Vital Signs survey was the fourth such one – the first was in 2013 – conducted by the Abbotsford Community Foundation (ACF) as part of a national program coordinated by the Community Foundations of Canada.
Residents were asked to take the short online survey last June, with a focus on four main areas – income, housing, safety and work/economy. The survey was anonymous and consisted of 30 questions.
A report detailing the results was released this week.
The report revealed that nearly one in five local children and one in seven local seniors live in poverty.
Of the 3,000 people who use the Abbotsford food bank each month, 37 per cent are children, compared to the provincial average of 30.8 per cent, the report states.
But ACF chair Lorna Hart said in a press release that those numbers, as well as the overall poverty rate, have decreased slightly in the last few years.
Almost all respondents agreed that the income gap between the rich and the poor in Abbotsford has either stayed the same or increased in the last five years, with less than one-third feeling confident in their ability to increase their economic situation.
The median after-tax income of couples with children is listed as $92,507 in Abbotsford, compared to $96,176 in B.C. and $96,608 in Canada.
Meanwhile, affordable housing also continues to be an issue, with 18.8 per cent of homeowners and 38.5 per cent of renters spending at least 30 per cent of their income on housing.
The Vital Signs report lists the median monthly shelter cost for an Abbotsford homeowner as $1,251, compared to $879 for a renter.
“We know that affordable housing for all members of our community has become more challenging as rent vacancy rates have decreased and the value of homes has increased,” Hart said.
Survey respondents were also concerned about crime, with about 60 per cent listing gang violence as the biggest issue and about half saying that crime has increased in the last five years.
“Interestingly, crime has demonstrably decreased in Abbotsford in the last couple of decades, while public perception – as evidenced by our survey responses – indicates that residents remain concerned about crime and safety,” the report states.
When it comes to the economy, the report indicates that more than half of respondents believe that Abbotsford is doing better than it was five years ago.
Just over 68 per cent say that their work benefits the local economy, while slightly less than 40 per cent believe their work is beneficial to the environment.
Hart said the purpose of the Vital Signs report is to “examine and raise awareness of the strengths and challenges facing Abbotsford.”
“Having an understanding of what’s happening at the community level helps the Abbotsford Community Foundation to make effective granting decisions, and helps our local charitable, service and government agencies to do the same,” she said.
The report will be formally launched at the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce lunch on Thursday, Jan. 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Quality Hotel and Conference Centre.
The full report can be viewed online at abbotsfordcf.org/community-events/vital-signs. Free copies will also be available at city hall, the Chamber of Commerce and the ACF offices.