Download the Vital Signs 2024 Report PDF Document by The Sunshine Coast Foundation

Vital Signs 2024 Report

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The Sunshine Coast Foundation proudly presents the Vital Signs 2024 Report, a detailed examination of the current state of the Sunshine Coast community. This report, the 10th edition since its inception in 2009, reflects the Foundation’s ongoing commitment to understanding and supporting the local community. It offers data-driven insights into key issues affecting residents and highlights stories and statistics to guide community leaders, organizations, and individuals in their decision-making processes.

Message from the Board Chair and Executive Director

Doug Allan (Board Chair) and Erin Storey (Executive Director) extend their gratitude to the community and stakeholders who contributed to this report. They emphasize the importance of collaboration and shared efforts in fostering a prosperous and inclusive future for the Sunshine Coast. The report aims to inspire actions such as volunteering, donating, and spreading awareness to create a positive impact.

Vital Signs Team and Acknowledgements

The Vital Signs 2024 report is the result of the hard work of the Vital Signs team, including:

  • Team Chair & Report Co-Manager: Don Basham
  • Report Co-Manager, Research & Writer: Catharine Esson
  • Board Liaison: Doug Allan
  • Research & Writer: Sean Eckford
  • Community Engagement: Vicki Dobbyn, Erin Storey
  • Communications: Emily Schach

The Sunshine Coast Foundation also acknowledges the contributions of over 40 community experts (PDF) who provided insights into local issues, achievements, and challenges.

Methodology

The report was meticulously prepared through consultations with community experts and analysis of data from national, provincial, and local sources. The methodology section explains the process of selecting indicators, reviewing past data, and incorporating new metrics to provide a comprehensive picture of life on the Sunshine Coast. The goal is to build community capacity by highlighting significant issues and fostering informed discussions.

Our Community

Population and Demographics

The Sunshine Coast’s population has been growing, with a notable increase among older age groups. According to the 2021 Census, the population was 32,170, and it grew to 34,039 by July 2023. The median age of residents is 56 years, significantly higher than the provincial average of 43 years.

Migration and Immigration

The Sunshine Coast experienced record high net total migration in 2021/22, with 726 people moving to the area. A higher proportion of residents are third-generation Canadians compared to the provincial average. The community is less diverse than the rest of BC, with 9.1% identifying as visible minorities.

Belonging and Discrimination

The BC Centre for Disease Control’s 2021 Survey on Population Experiences, Action, and Knowledge (SPEAK) found that 62% of Sunshine Coast respondents feel a strong sense of community belonging. However, 39% reported a weak sense of belonging, highlighting ongoing challenges.

Housing

Home Ownership and Housing Types

The Sunshine Coast remains dominated by single-family homes, with 80% of the housing stock being single detached homes. Home ownership rates are high, with 79.9% of residents owning their homes, compared to the provincial average of 66.8%.

Housing Affordability

Housing prices have seen significant increases. The average value of owned homes was $870,000 in 2021, and the MLS benchmark price for residential properties was $803,400 in February 2024. Rental costs have also risen, with the average rent for a studio at $1,344, a one-bedroom at $1,617, and a two-bedroom at $2,234.

Affordable Housing Initiatives

Efforts to increase affordable housing include projects by the Sunshine Coast Affordable Housing Society and BC Housing. Notable developments include the Building Together project by the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society, which will provide 34 units of affordable housing for women and children who have experienced violence.

Environment

Water Conservation and Drought

Water conservation remains a critical issue. In 2023, average daily water use per property was 609.25 litres, peaking at around 1,000 litres per day during summer months. The region experienced Level 5 drought conditions in 2022, the first since 2014.

Recycling and Waste Diversion

Recycling and waste diversion efforts are ongoing. In 2023, the SCRD’s curbside food waste program collected 609 tonnes of material. However, a 2022 Solid Waste Composition Study found that 23% of waste destined for the landfill was still organics.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse gas emissions on the Sunshine Coast have increased by 7.2% between 2007 and 2019, with significant rises in emissions from natural gas use in residential buildings.

Invasive Species and Climate Change

The Sunshine Coast faces challenges from invasive species such as Japanese knotweed and the European green crab. Climate change impacts include increased frequency of days above 30°C, more extreme weather events, and a predicted sea level rise of up to 1.0 metre by 2080.

Economic Health

Employment and Income

The Sunshine Coast has a unique economy characterized by a high proportion of small businesses and self-employed individuals. In 2021, 32% of the workforce was self-employed. The median after-tax household income is $67,000, below the provincial average of $76,000.

Childcare and COVID-19 Support

Childcare remains a critical need, with limited availability and high demand. Government COVID-19 supports included $4.3 million in loans to local businesses. The economic recovery is ongoing, with small businesses facing challenges in hiring and maintaining staff.

Health and Wellness

Access to Primary Care

The number of family physicians has declined from 40 in December 2022 to 31 in October 2023. As of March 2024, 4,068 patients were on the waitlist for a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Mental Health and Substance Use

Mental health remains a concern, with 56% of respondents reporting worsened mental health since the pandemic. Substance use among high school students has decreased, but there is an increase in the number of unregulated drug deaths and overdose calls.

Recreation and Wellbeing

Use of recreation facilities has increased, with 205,037 admissions to SCRD recreation facilities in 2023, up from 182,179 in 2022. Programs promoting physical activity and mental health are essential for community wellbeing.

Safety

Crime Rates and Public Safety

Overall crime rates are stable but certain categories like property crime have increased. The RCMP reported spikes in drug offenses, assaults, and traffic violations from 2021 to 2023. Volunteer organizations play a crucial role in public safety, with significant contributions from the Sunshine Coast Search and Rescue and Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue.

Fire Services and Emergency Response

The Sunshine Coast is served by four volunteer fire departments under the SCRD and two independent departments. The number of calls has increased, with the Sechelt Fire Department responding to a record 549 calls in 2023.

Learning

School Enrollment and Education Support

Enrollment in School District 46 has increased, with 3,448 students in 2023/24, including 746 Indigenous students and 835 students with diverse abilities. High school completion rates have improved, particularly for Indigenous students.

Public Libraries and Capilano University

Public libraries remain essential community resources, with increasing virtual visits and program participation. Capilano University’s kálax-ay campus in Sechelt offers various programs, including those focused on shíshálh Nation language and culture.

Low Income

Poverty and Income Assistance

The 2021 Census reported an 8.2% poverty rate on the Sunshine Coast, down from 16% in 2016. However, many residents continue to face financial challenges, with significant food bank usage and a high living wage of $25.61 in 2023.

Homelessness

The 2023 Homeless Count identified 97 people experiencing homelessness in Sechelt or Gibsons. Major reasons for housing loss include insufficient income, conflicts with landlords, and substance use issues.

Arts and Culture

Cultural Employment and Events

The Sunshine Coast boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene, with a high concentration of professional artists. Key events include the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Heritage Playhouse performances, and the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl.

Support for Arts and Culture

Local, provincial, and federal governments provide significant support to the arts community. Programs like the Celebration of Authors, Books, and Community (CABC) bring Canadian authors into classrooms, fostering a love for literature and creative expression among students.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Vital Signs 2024 report is an essential resource for understanding the Sunshine Coast community. It provides a comprehensive overview of the area’s demographic, economic, environmental, and cultural landscape. The Sunshine Coast Foundation invites readers to download the full report to explore the detailed findings and insights.

Download the Full Report

To gain a deeper understanding of the issues and opportunities on the Sunshine Coast, download the Vital Signs 2024 report here.

By staying informed and getting involved, we can all contribute to making the Sunshine Coast a better place to live, work, and thrive.

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