I had a really interesting conversation with a manager at my workplace recently that inspired this post. There are about 5-6 full-time positions available right now in the association I work for. Employees only need high school and they make what I consider to be above average wages that work out to be about $34-$38K per year. Trouble is, the employer can't fill the jobs consistently. The association has about 60 FTE and 30 part-time positions and usually have a pool of employees of about 150, including casuals.
Lately that casual pool has dropped because people are leaving town. When I asked why she thought people were leaving, the manager stated that in exit interviews many people were telling her that they couldn't afford to live here anymore. Some were working two jobs and were single. Some were partnered and their households still had more than two jobs to finance their living costs. My assumption based on that conversation is this: if they wanted to get anywhere financially, these people felt they had to leave.
This industry isn't Victoria specific and jobs are available with similar pay across Canada. The "labour shortage" is by no stretch of the imagination isolated to Victoria. There are plenty of opportunities in cities larger and smaller than Victoria with cost of living being nowhere what it is here.
We figure we have a pretty good deal on rent. It is much more than I remember paying 10 years ago, but it isn't the most I've paid in this town or in other cities I've lived in.
A quick scan of Craig' s List and Used Victoria reveals a bewildering scenario: the rental pool is big and it's diverse. It is almost like the RE market in that its pricing makes very little sense. There are 1-bed suites ranging in prices from $600-$1000/month, there are 2-bed suites mixed in that range too and going up to $1300. You can't seem to find a house right now for less than $1500/month and many of those are just the major part of homes; many have additional suites that are already rented by the landlords.
The prices don't fit neighbourhood patterns either. I'd think Central Park or Sooke would be cheaper than say the University neighbourhoods. But not really when you do a quick scan of those sites I mentioned above. Sure there are suites that are "new", but everyone and their dog has gone to Home Depot and bought the laminate floor for $1.50/SF and "updated" their suites with modern paint colours. This can only mean there is competition for renters.
We looked at some dark, dingy places that were updated. We looked at some bright places that were above ground that still had their original 1975 shag carpeting and wood panelled walls. And guess what we found? The price had very little to do with the quality of the suite or the location. The price trends it seems, based only on my assumptions, are more to do with when the owner bought the house. If it was recent, expect a one-bed suite to be $800 plus.
I'll try to bring this back full circle now. If my employer is having trouble retaining people at good wages, how are other employers fairing? If you've been to the malls lately, you've likely seen the advertisements in the food courts. Low-pay low-skill jobs are always the first to suffer. But we don't hear the stories of $17/hour Tim's employees here like they do in Alberta. Coincidentally, that's about the average wage my employer pays. That works out to be around $800-$900 after deductions every two weeks.
I ask this in the hopes that people will contribute to a good discussion: is working for two weeks just to pay rent worth what Victoria has to offer? And if more and more people start deciding that it's not, what is going to happen to all these suites?
Do people really believe that the current stat of 0.5% is reflective of the true rental market pool; you know, the one that includes illegal suites? There are no methods of counting suites in homes, so that stat is basically meaningless.
UPDATE: Further to the discussion on inflation and CPI, check this out, I sure hope it's not true.