A report from Statistics Canada shows the city of Port Alberni with the highest proportion of low income people in B.C.
One-fifth of the population is living in low-income status.
The city is also among B.C.’s lowest income increases, according to the 2016 census, with the median income dropping over a 10-year period.
The median total income of households in Port Alberni in 2015 was $50,823, a change of -1.4% from $51,560 in 2005. Only Quesnel saw a bigger drop in incomes B.C. wide, at -7.7%.
In 2015, 23.5% of the people living in the city of Port Alberni lived in low income. This is an increase from 2005, where 20.8% of the persons in Port Alberni lived in low income. This is also higher than the British Columbia average, which sits at 15.5%, and the Canadian average, at 14.2%.
Port Alberni Shelter Society executive director Wes Hewitt said that these statistics were not surprising to him, based on the work that he does in the community.
“We can see it in our demand for housing and shelter,” he said. “We’ve got a housing crisis in the community based on affordability.”
With a high cost of living and a low income rate, people are often left unable to afford basic necessities such as food or shelter, he added.
But Hewitt said it is not just a Port Alberni problem.
“That’s what we’re seeing on the Island as a whole,” he said.
Port Alberni mayor Mike Ruttan agreed that the statistics were not entirely surprising.
“It’s verification for what we already know about our community,” said Ruttan. He acknowledged that many people in Port Alberni are living in poverty, and with this comes a lot of problems.
“Housing is a major problem for us,” he said. “And as the cost of housing rises, it’s going to become increasingly so.”
He said that over the past two years, the city of Port Alberni has been working to increase the number of economic opportunities and increase the number of well-paying jobs in the city. “There are a lot of changes coming, but these changes don’t come overnight,” he added.
But the statistics in Port Alberni aren’t all doom-and-gloom.
“We obviously have a concern in almost every area with the exception of one,” said Ruttan. “Seniors have a higher average income here than elsewhere in B.C. If you’re a senior and you’re needing support, the place to consider living is Port Alberni.”
The low-income rate in the city of Port Alberni in 2015 for persons under 18 years of age was 33.5% compared to 23.2% for persons aged 18-64, and 15.8% for persons 65 and over in 2015.
Persons living in lone-parent families had a higher rate of low income, at 47.0%, while those living in couple families without children had a lower rate of low income, at 9.2%.
Numbers look slightly better if you include the census agglomeration area, which includes Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Sproat Lake, with 20.3% of people living in low income and a $55,131 median income.