Ladysmith has an imbalance of available jobs and places to house potential employees. Search for a job on Google and you will be met with over 100 listings — search for a rental unit and you will be met with fewer than a dozen. To secure one of the few available rental suites on the market is like winning a lottery with the amount of competition. Something is backwards when instead of worrying about a competitive job market, a person has to worry about competition in securing shelter.
The living wage in the Cowichan valley was determined to be $19.13/hour last year — this is the bare minimum for two parents, each working full-time to support two children. The living wage calculates earnings needed for clothing, food, transportation and shelter. The problem is, there is nearly no shelter to be found for the average working-class family.
Families making well above the living wage would have a hard time settling in Ladysmith, unless they can afford to purchase a home. The average home price, according to Canadian Real Estate Magazine, is $424,950 and two-bedroom homes can be expected to go for near $300,000 — not a friendly market for young, working families.
Many of the abundant jobs listed do not include wage expectations. If employers are expecting to get full-time workers for the minimum wage at $15.20 an hour, they will have a hard time attracting anyone. It is often argued the minimum wage is meant for teenagers who do not need a living wage and if there were enough people in Ladysmith to fill the abundant jobs, this would be valid. But it is clear the people we need to fill vacant jobs are not here.
The cost of living on Vancouver Island is doing the opposite of what the island needs. It needs young, working families who will sustain its communities and create a vibrant economy. People need to be able to take jobs and know they will have a place to live.
Ladysmith is near other communities and workers have the option to commute — but housing availability and affordability are not unique to Ladysmith. If an employee can secure a home in Nanaimo or Duncan, they have to dish out money to commute. This is not a desirable option when gas costs over $1.60/litre.
With COVID-19 causing a worker shortage due to sick days, it is easy to point fingers at the virus as the source of all our woes, but when it subsides it will be clear there are many more issues in our daily lives that need to be addressed.
Homeownership should not be reserved for the rich or people with generational wealth to help with a downpayment and employees should not have to spend more than they can afford just to have a place to rest at the end of the day. Renting a home should not be a competition. The imbalance is not sustainable and something has to change to combat the ridiculous cost of living and lack of housing.