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Opinion: Housing-related stress now tops financial worries for B.C. families

Poll finds 58 per cent of parents acknowledge experiencing housing stress, up five points since 2020.
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B.C. parents are becoming more worried about finding a place to live or being able to cover the cost of a mortgage or rent, a new poll suggests.

While British Columbians have gone through all sorts of emotions during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is safe to say that parents have endured a substantial amount of anxiety.

Some months of 2020 brought us online learning and kitchen tables masquerading as school desks. In 2021, concerns were primarily focused on minimizing the possibility of contagion in classrooms.

This year, practically every eligible child has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The province has started to lift some restrictions related to public gatherings. The “vaccine passport” system – a policy has been consistently backed by a majority of British Columbians for gyms, concerts and sporting events – will remain in place.

Two years ago, Research Co. and Glacier Media conducted a survey to gather feedback from a representative sample of parents of children aged zero to 18 in B.C. Our latest iteration of this unique “Family Day” poll shows some changes in the concerns of parents, but more hope about a future where visiting kids and grandkids will not entail long journeys due to housing inequalities.

A question designed to garner an initial assessment of the status quo shows no fluctuation compared with what we knew before the pandemic. We continue to see just under three in five parents in B.C. (58 per cent) saying it is currently “easy” to make ends meet while two in five (40 per cent) believe it is “difficult.”

One item that sees some dramatic shifts refers to the reasons that may be keeping us up at night. Across the province, 48 per cent of parents say they “frequently” or “occasionally” experience financial stress, down nine points since 2020.

Previous surveys have shown that the economic condition of households in B.C. is a bit better in 2022, even if our views about Canada’s finances are not as stellar.

We also see a drop in the proportion of parents in B.C. who “frequently” or “occasionally” experience family-related stress, from 53 per cent in 2020 to 47 per cent this month. Also, and in spite of the early pressures of the pandemic, most parents are having an easier time navigating the intricacies of working life. Only 37 per cent acknowledge experiencing work-related stress such as pressures or deadlines “frequently” or “occasionally,” down a striking 21 points since 2020.

The data outlines a province where the worries of parents are moving away from issues like money, education and unscrupulous bosses. They are being replaced in some cases by concerns about finding a place to live or being able to cover the cost of a mortgage or rent. This month, 58 per cent of parents acknowledge experiencing housing-related stress, up five points since 2020.

Earlier this month, we reported that housing, homelessness and poverty has significantly surpassed all other issues – including the economy and jobs, health care, the environment and the pandemic – as the most important challenge facing B.C. 

More than two in five parents in B.C. (42 per cent) say paying for day-to-day expenses, such as groceries or clothes, is “difficult” now, down two points since 2020. One-third (34 per cent, down five points) say it is hard to pay for transportation. Still, the biggest challenge continues to be saving money in a bank account, with almost three in five parents (59 per cent, up one point) saying this task is particularly challenging right now.

Even with nervousness about housing and the complexities of saving for a rainy day, the survey this year provides some reassurance about the future. Practically half of parents in the province (49 per cent) think their child (or one of their children) is likely to move away from the municipality where they live due to the high cost of living. While this represents a 16-point drop from the provincewide total we reported in 2020, there are two regions of B.C. where a majority of parents expect their children to move because of affordability: Metro Vancouver (56 per cent) and southern B.C. (52 per cent).

The pandemic appears to be affecting the way parents in B.C. are looking at the present and the future. Two years ago, those with children were more likely to cite work, money and family as issues that made them lose sleep. In 2022, housing-related stress is at the top of the list. •

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from February 7 to February 9 among 627 adult parents of children aged zero to 18 in Metro Vancouver. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.