How’s your quality of life?
Maybe you were one of the 602 chatty residents to answer that question in a city-commissioned “civic service satisfaction survey” conducted by Ipsos market research firm between May 1 and May 22.
Or maybe you were one of the 201 owners, managers or operators of a business who also provided an answer to the same question.
If you did respond, you were at least 18 years old and answered in English, Mandarin or Cantonese.
So what did everybody say?
Similar to responses in last year’s survey, you’re generally a happy lot, according to the results I read in a staff report that was to go before Vancouver city council today.
The survey findings are attached to a broader report on what the city’s finance staff is forecasting budget-wise from 2020 to 2024. Hint: expect more taxes.
The survey didn’t just ask about quality of life, but other stuff like what residents and businesses thought about the value of city services they receive or have access to.
I’ll get to some of that data at the end of this piece.
For now, let’s hear people’s responses to the quality of life question.
“Overall, 89 per cent of residents and 92 per cent of businesses say the quality of life in Vancouver today is ‘very good’ or ‘good,’” the survey findings said.
Which is great to hear.
Except there’s more to the story.
When asked how Vancouver’s quality of life had changed in the past three years, 48 per cent of residents said it stayed the same. Thirteen per cent said it improved, whereas 36 per cent said it worsened.
Among businesses, 50 per cent said it stayed the same, 14 per cent said it improved and 36 per cent said it worsened, which was 10 points down from last year.
Let’s explore this further…
The survey asked those who said quality of life had improved why it did.
The number one answer kind of surprised me.
That’s because I assumed quality of life gets better for most people when they earn a decent salary, find a comfortable place to live and can genuinely enjoy each day as it comes.
Apparently, I’m dead wrong, according to 57 people who provided reasons for their quality of life improving; I’m speculating those 57 folks already make or made good money, have a place to live and enjoy a good quality of life.
Because here’s their answer:
“Transportation and infrastructure are the leading open-ended reasons behind perceptions of an improved quality of life.”
Nearly one quarter of residents attributed “improved transportation options” as why their quality of life improved. Another 15 per cent mentioned “improved infrastructure/roads.”
Other frequently mentioned responses included “things are getting better/city is improving” (11 per cent) and “access to green space/more parks available” (10 per cent).
For the record, employment opportunities ranked sixth at nine per cent.
Which brings me to “reasons quality of life has worsened,” which had a significantly higher number of respondents—235—than the 57 people who were over the moon with improved transportation options.
Hands down, the reasons quality of life worsened for residents and businesses was “cost of living.”
Number two for residents was “housing/accommodations,” followed by “overcrowding/overpopulation/overdevelopment.” Then it was “poverty/homelessness” and “traffic congestion.”
Similar responses were given by businesses.
But get this: Low salaries and wages ranked seventh for residents and businesses, which kind of runs counter to cost of living being the number one reason for quality of life being worse.
This is why, dear readers, that stats stories boggle the mind without a detailed explanation from respondents. So take the data for what it’s worth.
Same goes for this quote from the report related to city services:
“Overall, 86 per cent of residents and 80 per cent of businesses say they are satisfied [combined ‘very/somewhat satisfied’ ratings] with the overall level and quality of services provided by the City of Vancouver.”
For residents, that means a big thumbs up to libraries, parks and green spaces, emergency services and recreation facilities and opportunities.
For business people, they were happy with many of the same services, especially online payment services, which received a 91 per cent approval rating.
Again, there’s more to the story, as residents pointed out.
“The single least satisfactory service is enabling affordable housing, with only 30 per cent of residents saying they are satisfied with the city’s performance in this area. Nearly seven in 10 say they are dissatisfied, including 28 per cent saying ‘not at all satisfied.’”
Translation: quality of life could be improved for a lot of people in this city.