The latest “Vital Signs” report from the Alberni Valley Community Foundation (AVCF) takes a look at the impact of COVID-19 on the Alberni Valley.
The biennial report is a “community check-in” that reports on trends in the community. The last one was released in 2018. Although most communities in B.C. decided not to participate in Vital Signs this year due to COVID-19, the AVCF still went ahead with its report.
“Our foundation thought it was important to document the communty’s response to the pandemic and to be able to measure the impact in two years’ time,” explained Jean McIntosh, a board member with AVCF, during a meeting of Port Alberni city council on Monday, Nov. 9.
The 2020 Vital Signs report measures the “key issue areas” of education, housing, food security and the environment.
In education, the high school completion rate in School District 70 has hit an “all-time high” at 83 percent, compared to 89 percent provincially. The Indigenous high school completion rate has also increased, from 56 percent in 2016-2017 to 70 percent in 2018-2019. This compares to 69 percent provincially.
The housing market in the Alberni Valley has seen a “huge increase” in multi-family housing starts, although this is mostly due to one project (the Portview Landing apartment complex located on Burde Street), said McIntosh. The cost to rent, the median value of a home and the benchmark home price in the Alberni Valley have all increased this year. McIntosh said it was “unfortunate” that this year’s homeless count had to be postponed, as all of these factors can impact housing security.
When it comes to the environment, air quality has increased, daily water consumption has decreased and household recycling has increased over the last year.
“However, these are areas where long-term comparisons will provide the most useful data,” McIntosh added.
The report also shows that COVID-19 has put “increased pressure” on local food programs to serve more people and in different ways. The AVCF so far has distributed $148,500 in pandemic-related funding in the Alberni Valley. More than half of this funding has gone towards food programs.
Consultant Maggie Hodge Kwan explained that the four key issues of the 2020 Vital Signs report were selected by the AVCF board.
“They wanted to track the things that are important in the Valley, and the things they have been funding,” said Hodge Kwan. “But we also wanted to look at where we could get insight into what’s happening because of COVID.”
The information in the report comes from a variety of provincial and federal sources, as well as conversations with local service providers, said Hodge Kwan.
The report is much smaller than previous years because of COVID-19. In previous years, the AVCF has relied on a community survey to gain most of its data.
“We felt like asking community members for their input, at a time when people’s lives were kind of upside down, wouldn’t have the best results,” said Hodge Kwan.
Hodge Kwan added that 2021 will be a census year, and the provincial and federal governments will also be releasing the results of their COVID-19 surveys.
“We’re hoping that in future years, combining these results with local information will give a really full picture,” she said.
The 2020 Vital Signs report can be read online at www.alberni foundation.ca. Hard copies will be available at city hall and the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District office. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.